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  1. Reported by Scroll.in on March 11, 2017 Floating small parties seems to be a big business in Uttar Pradesh As India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of assembly seats in the country – 404 – and one-fourth of all unrecognised political parties (1,786) in the country (a party can be registered but unrecognised). Among its 474 unrecognised political parties are sundry small outfits vying for seats against the bigwigs – the Bharatiya Janata Party, Samajwadi Party, Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party. Who are the people behind these parties and what drives them to fight Leviathan battles they are certain to lose? An analysis of political parties’ annual returns and IndiaSpend’s interviews with party founders and government officials in Uttar Pradesh, shows a lucrative political economy revolving around elections, with sundry small parties using elections to evade taxes, reroute black money and make quick bucks by coercing serious candidates to pay them for withdrawing their candidates to avoid splitting the vote bank. Playing spoiler Jostling for votes in this year’s high-stakes election is a motley array of players with intriguing names such as the Anjaan Aadmi Party (Unknown Man’s Party) and Apni Zindgi Apna Dal (Our Life Our Party). In the last three assembly elections, such wee players barely made a dent – small parties collectively bagged 12% of the votes cast in 2002, and 10% in 2012 – while their candidates’ numbers fell from 29 to eight in the same period. At the same time, most of the 289 parties that took part secured less than 0.5% of votes. Yet, their number continues to grow. Although they attract few votes, small parties’ vote share is often enough for them to play spoiler. Since the difference between the winner and the runner-up in closely-fought battles can be as small as 3%-8%, any candidate polling more than 5% of votes becomes a factor in the winning (or losing) equation. In the 2012 assembly polls, candidates of a small party, Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, secured the third or fourth position in many constituencies. In the Rudrapur constituency, the winner won by a 5% margin while the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party candidate drew 5.6% votes. The Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party was clearly in a make-or-break position. Another example was the Bithari Chainpur constituency in the 2012 assembly elections. Here, the first and third positions went to candidates from the Muslim community. The Ittehad-E-Millait Council’s candidate, who came third, polled 14% votes, and may have diverted the vote share of the winning candidate – also a Muslim, who won by just 1% margin – since communal identity is a significant factor in how people vote in Uttar Pradesh. An analysis of the total vote share data shows that parties that have been able to secure a minimum of 5% votes have gone on to fight subsequent elections. Shakti Dal, Apna Dal and Ittehad-E-Millait Council are some such parties – all of them secured more than 5% votes in all the three elections they contested. Their narrow focus – on the sub-region, or a particular caste or community – often bolsters their chances among the electorate. The Apna Dal finds support mainly among the OBC communities of the Varanasi-Mirzapur region; the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party appeals to the Rajbhar community in eastern Uttar Pradesh, which constitutes about 18% of the population. “Appealing to a particular caste or community always helps as Uttar Pradesh is [about] caste-based voting,” Lucknow-based political commentator Atul Chandra said. By appealing to their respective communities, these parties manage to split the vote bank and earn the leverage to negotiate a price for withdrawal, he said. Motives and ambitions To register as a state-level or national political party in India, an outfit must meet certain criteria, most important of which are a certain percentage of votes polled or winning a specified percentage of seats contested. All other parties are termed “unrecognised”. Uttar Pradesh had 75 unrecognised parties in the fray during the 2002 elections. This number rose to 204 in the 2012 polls and now stands at 474. The number of candidates from such parties went from 1,332 in 2002 to 2,700 in 2012. Their names often indicate their professed focus: All India Ravidas Samta Party (All India Ravidas Parity Party), Ambedkar Kranti Dal (Ambedkar Revolutionary Dal), Fauji Janta Party (Military People’s Party), Rashtriya Vyapari Party (National Traders’ Party), Nasha Mukt Bharat Party (Drug-free India Party), Sikshit Berozgar Sena (Educated Unemployed Army), Bhartiya Imaandar Party (Bhartiya Honest Party), and so on. Then there are the more colourfully named Hitech Party, Best Class Party and Action Party. The founders of many of these unrecognised parties said their endeavour is to end corruption. Luqman Uddin, who claims to have been a social worker for 16 years, said he formed Bhartiya Imaandar Party with a single-point focus of eradicating corruption. His year-old party has fielded candidates in four constituencies this time. Anjaan Aadmi Party professes the same mission. Its national president, Ashutosh Mishra, said their focus is on development too. His party is contesting the election in seven constituencies. Another such outfit, Apni Zindgi Apna Dal, is contesting an election for the first time this year and has fielded four candidates. Party founder Sarjeet Singh Khandsaal said they would contest in all the seats in UP in the next assembly elections in 2019. Chandra said it is also common for social workers to float a party. “You do social service, you get published in a few local newspapers and then you think you are as popular as the chief minister or the prime minister,” he said. Former Congress leader and three-time MLA from Rae Bareilly’s Sadar seat, Akhilesh Singh, recalls that during his early days in politics, a man from his village formed a political outfit and announced he would contest elections against Singh. “Eventually, he visited my father and said he would withdraw his candidature if given Rs 5 lakh,” Singh said, claiming his father had refused and the challenger had lost the elections. Business of politics The Income Tax Act, 1961, exempts from tax any income donated to political parties. The recipient party also does not have to pay any income tax. Further, amounts less than Rs 2,000 can be donated anonymously. Donations to political parties are widely known to be a common method of converting black money into white. In December, the Election Commission of India delisted 200-odd parties that had never contested an election since 2005 and were suspected to be fronts for money laundering. The Election Commission had also suggested that the Central Board of Direct Taxes scrutinise their accounts. 101Reporters analysed the annual tax returns filed by some of these parties in the last six years. Lucknow-based Adarsh Rashtriya Vikas Party received Rs 88 lakh as donation in the fiscal year ending March 2012. The party spent Rs 84 lakh – Rs 25 lakh on advertising and Rs 27 lakh on stationery. In the 2012 assembly polls, the party contested 68 seats and all of its candidates lost their security deposit, meaning they failed to secure one-sixth of valid votes cast in their respective constituencies, so their security deposit was forfeited. The same year, a Kanpur-based political party, Akhil Bhartiya Nagrik Seva Sangh, received a donation of Rs 8 lakh, and had a bank balance of Rs 18 lakh. The Election Commission does not have any record of it participating in any election. Like the Akhil Bhartiya Nagrik Seva Sangh, many parties do not contest elections. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 69% of registered parties did not contest, Factly.in, a data-journalism portal, reported in March 2015. In 2014, 27% of all parties contested. Tax and Election Commission officials, as well as some politicians, agree that at least some of these fringe parties are formed for monetary gains alone. They indulge in tax evasion, rerouting of black money, and extortion from more serious candidates for withdrawing their candidature to avoid splitting the vote bank. Since the Election Commission has neither the remit nor the resources to investigate such receipts, these parties get away easily. The government defended its decision to demonetise the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes by saying it was necessary to weed out corruption and black money, but it has kept electoral funding out of the ambit of anti-corruption actions and the Right to Information Act. This sends a perverse signal and enables dodgy parties to thrive. Politics in Uttar Pradesh, as elsewhere in India, will benefit from greater transparency and stricter regulation of money flowing into political parties.
  2. Secretary J&K RTI Movement Dr Fayaz Lone pointed out that corruption primarily occurred through government institutions. He said that the RTI was an effective tool in the hands of the people of J&K to expose corruption. Read more at: http://kashmirreader.com/2017/03/01/transparency-international-campaign-whistleblowers-act-jk/
  3. New Delhi, Apr 17 (PTI) The Central Information Commission has pulled up Bar Council of India for not following mandatory proactive disclosure clause of the RTI Act in connection with information related to inspection of law colleges of India. "... It is noticed that the Bar Council of India (BCI) has not satisfactorily complied with the section 4(1)(b) requirements. It is a major breach of RTI by prestigious organisation called BCI. "It is also surprising that they are repeatedly taking a plea that, though they have such information in computer, they have not posted it on website. They have already exhausted 10 years of time in fulfilling this obligation," Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.Read more at; CIC pulls up BCI for not following mandatory RTI clause : PTI feed, News - India Today
  4. Reported by Timesofindia.indiatimes.com on Jan 26, 2017 Transparency International: Netas talk big, but India gets just 40/100 for transparency | India News - Times of India India has nothing much to cheer about, when it comes to its rating in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI), 2016, released on Wednesday at Berlin. The country's rank has moved down from 76 to 79. However, as the organisation points out, this is not the best judging matrix as 176 countries were assessed in the 2016 survey, as against 168 in the previous year's index and ranks can change depending on the number of countries covered. It is the points scored which matter more. Here, with a score of 40, a slight improvement over 38 scored in last year's index, India's performance is not promising. If it is any consolation, India shares this rank and score with its BRIC counterparts, Brazil and China. Russia, at rank 131 and a score of 29 , trails behind keeping company with India's neighbour Nepal. Among the Asia-Pacific countries, Singapore leads by standing at seventh position globally. In a communique to TOI, Transparency International's South Asia expert says: "Despite strong rhetoric by politicians on tackling corruption, India continues to stagnate in CPI with a poor score of 40 out of 100. Key legislations enabling anti-corruption infrastructure such as the Lokpal Act too often remain on the backburner of the government's agenda when it comes to implementation. "In cases where anti-corruption activists have achieved strong momentum, such as enacting the Whistleblowers Act, we see the government backtracking on its pledges for transparency using exemptions for other anti-corruption laws such as the Right to Information Law. In 2016, we saw the Lokpal Act being watered down through removing enabling provisions for asset declaration, a key preventative measure for any country." "It is too early to tell if demonetisation will bring about a dramatic reduction in corruption as envisaged. However, widespread public support for such aggressive anti-corruption measures show that the Indian public is eager to tackle the scourge of corruption," he adds. CPI-2016 indicates that none of the 176 countries assessed get a perfect score, with 69% (120 countries) scoring below 50 points, on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). This year, more countries declined in the index than improved, showing the need for urgent action, says the anti-corruption global organisation. CPI ranks countries based on how corrupt its public sector is perceived to be. It is a composite index, which is a combination of surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions over the previous 24 months. India shares its rank (79) with its BRICS counterparts, Brazil and China. At a rank of 131, Russia trails behind.
  5. In the Indian Transparency Competition, 2017, which is open to anyone including lawyers, law students, RTI activists and all citizens, you have to file an RTI with a government department of your choice. The RTI can be about any issue you are passionate about. After getting the response from the department, a 1500 word article needs to be written about the response you have received, analyzing or explaining the data you have received. The article will be published in your name. On the basis of the article, RTI application and response received, and the impact of the same the winner will get a prize worth INR 15,000. Read more at: Indian Transparency Competition, 2017, RTI competition: Win prizes by making a difference to governance in India | Live Law
  6. Right to information is not to be seen necessarily from the standpoint of pillorying the Government. Its important manifestation is that of strengthening the democratic system and infusing confidence in a voter that he is empowered to seek information that would convince him he is on the right track. Read more at: Scuttling transparency regime
  7. Civil society activists and journalists will be roped in to suggest ways for improving transparency and accountability in governance through effective implementation of the Right to Information Act. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), nodal authority for implementation of the RTI Act, has decided to give short-term fellowship to researchers from the field of media, journalism and civil society organisations associated with the transparency law to assess voluntary disclosures by various central government ministries. Read more at Bad Request
  8. Sajib Nandi

    Mexico is No. 1 in transparency ranking

    Read the related news article at: Mexico is No. 1 in international transparency ranking
  9. The Department of Personnel and Training #DoPT , nodal authority for implementation of the RTI Act, has decided to give #internship to students pursuing law courses to assess voluntary disclosures by various #centralgovernment ministries. Read more at: Law students to assess govt departments' transparency - News & Updates
  10. For an institution that has consistently pulled up the Executive for corruption and lack of transparency, the Supreme Court's perceived reluctance to comprehensively place itself under the Right to Information Act appears to be a serious paradox. Read more at: To demonstrate its support of transparency, the Supreme Court should embrace RTI
  11. The study, published in Delhi Citizen's Handbook 2016, audited the websites against predefined parameters of Section 4 of Right to Information (RTI) Act that sets guidelines for proactive disclosure of information by government agencies without the public having filed RTI queries. Nine out of the 10 websites could not even meet 60% of the compliance points, said the study, conducted by Centre for Civil Society. Read more at: Govt sites fail to clear transparency test - Times of India
  12. Addressing a function after the inauguration of a new building of UP Information Commission in Lucknow on Monday, Naik said, "The RTI Act has helped in curbing corruption and increased transparency and accountability of public servants and governance. Read more at: RTI Act helps in bringing transparency: Naik
  13. NEW DELHI: From securing water connections to passports, better roads to ration cards, the Right to Information has been a powerful tool in the hands of citizens to make governments accountable. The landmark transparency law was the result of almost two decades of toil by campaigners including Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, starting in Rajasthan which culminated into the formation of a national law. Till recently that lesson was taught to school children in Rajasthan, but that's not going to happen anymore. As part of an overhaul of school text books, the state education department has decided to scrap the chapter on Right to Information or RTI, a move that has several RTI campaigners seeing red. In a strongly worded letter to the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, India's first Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has asked for the chapter to be reinstated.Read more at; No More Lessons On Transparency In Rajasthan As Government Drops Chapter On RTI
  14. The Commissionerate of Higher Education, all fired up to bring in greater transparency in the system, has gone ahead and released salary details of 8,000 teaching and nonteaching staff of grant-in-aid colleges in Gujarat on its website. Read more at: Education dept aims for transparency, leaves nothing to imagination - Ahmedabad Mirror
  15. The Right To Information (RTI) Act has helped in bringing transparency and accountability in Government departments in the state since its implementation in 2009, the Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission (JKSIC) said in a report today. Read more at: RTI Act helped in bringing transparency, accountability in Govt deptts: SIC
  16. That Right to Information is older than the RTI Act 2005 has been discussed before. Here, at the cost of being a bit off track, I want to share an interesting Information with all about our tradition – from my research work on Mahābhārata. It is said that after Kurukṣetra War, Yudhiṣṭhira established Dharma-Rājya. What type of Dharma-Rājya was it? Vyāsa says: Yudhiṣṭhira’s cabinet consisted of eight ministers and the ‘minutes’ of cabinet meeting were published - tataḥ saṃpreṣayed rāṣṭre rāṣṭrāyātha ca darśayet (12.86.10c-11a). Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation is as follows: Bhīṣma tells Yudhiṣṭhira/Pāṇḍavas - “The king should consult with those eight ministers and hold the lead among them. He should then publish in his kingdom, for the information of his subjects, the results of such deliberation. Thou shouldst always, adopting such a conduct, watch over thy people.” Imagine! Yudhiṣṭhira used to publish the Minutes of Proceedings of his Cabinet meetings. Isn’t it the Mother of transparency? No doubt, Yudhiṣṭhira’s subjects did not need RTI Act. While our “Little Bhārata” still struggles with Right to Information, our tradition – “The Great Bhārata” (Mahābhārata) points where we should next aim at … While our Political Lords seek a so-called Rāma-Rājya (without understanding its actual significance), I would prefer an India where Minutes of Proceedings of Cabinet Meetings are open to public … unedited … Regards Indrajit
  17. In May 2005, Rajya Sabha established “register of interest” for its members. In it, an MP of the Upper House has to list all his/her financial interests in a prescribed format. All this is done in the interest of transparency, among others, for MPs. Nearly 11 years on, Lok Sabha is yet to form any such register. When asked for details in a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by The Indian Express, both Houses gave diametrically opposite replies. On February 26, the Lok Sabha secretariat responded: “The matter of ‘maintenance of register of interests of members of Lok Sabha and declaration of interests in the House or a committee thereof’ is presently under the consideration of Committee on Ethics. No information can be disclosed at this stage as it is exempted.” - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/rajya-sabha-lok-sabha-members-financial-transparency-express-rti-2766353/#sthash.4LHnnP5Y.dpuf
  18. Pune based Maple Group’s 'housing for all' scandal lacked mandatory disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act. The Act mandates voluntary disclosure of information about the scheme on government websites, which are primary public domains for transparency Read more at: Maple scam and PM Awas Yojana: Where is the transparency? - Moneylife
  19. New Delhi: Pulling up the environment ministry for its lack of transparency on trials of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the ministry to make public all information, including bio-safety data, related to the field trials of the GM mustard crop before 30 April. The CIC also directed the ministry to put in the public domain bio-safety data pertaining to all other GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the pipeline. The GM mustard in question—DMH11—has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants of Delhi University. If it gets the go-ahead from the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), it will be the first GM food crop to be commercially cultivated in India. Right now only GM cotton is allowed. Read more at; GM crop trials: CIC pulls up environment ministry over lack of transparency - Livemint

    Activists bat for transparency

    Pune: Better coordination among civic departments and timely completion of projects will go a long way in reducing inconvenience caused to citizens, say activists. Some have also questioned the sudden rush of work in the last quarter of every financial year. The PMC takes up most works in January and tend to speed up by March-end to finish it any how before monsoon. The sudden, incessant digging of roads, usually done multiple times in a short span of time, is a sign of poor planning and complete apathy towards people's needs, activists say. Qaneez Sukhrani, secretary of Nagrik Chetna Manch, said, "The department should maintain a schedule/record in conjunction with other departments detailing the type of surfacing done on each road and the defect-liability period of the contractor. Till that time, the road should not be tampered with at all."Read more at; Activists bat for transparency - Times of India
  21. Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh state information commission has directed the panchayati raj and rural development director of the state to adopt evidence-based criteria for selecting families to be categorized as below the poverty line (BPL) to ensure transparency and accountability. The commission's direction came on Saturday, after it was found that families were being selected as BPL without any verification, and the process lacked transparency. The direction was issued under Section 19 (8) of the RTI Act, which empowers the commission direct a public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of the RTI Act. Earlier, on March 21, Himachal Pradesh chief information commissioner Bhim Sen had awarded three public information officer (PIO) - the superintendent of Bhoranj block development office and panchayat secretaries of the gram panchayats of Mundkhar and Jahu - with a maximum penalty of Rs 25000 for willfully delaying information sought under the RTI Act in connection with the selection criteria for BPL families. Read more at; Transparency lacking in BPL selection process: HP info panel - Times of India
  22. During debate on Right to Information Act, 2005, Mr Ram Jethmalani, MP and renowned Advocate said: simple philosophy of article 19 of the Constitution is that no servant can tell his master, “I have a secret to keep from you”. If the people of India are the ultimate masters, no servant has a right to tell even a single master, “I will not give you this information; I will keep it as a secret”. Read more at: Ministers should take oath of transparency, not of ‘secrecy' | Live Law
  23. During debate on Right to Information Act, 2005, Mr Ram Jethmalani, MP and renowned Advocate said: simple philosophy of article 19 of the Constitution is that no servant can tell his master, “I have a secret to keep from you”. If the people of India are the ultimate masters, no servant has a right to tell even a single master, “I will not give you this information; I will keep it as a secret”. Read more at: Ministers should take oath of transparency, not of ‘secrecy' | Live Law
  24. Last year, a committee of experts headed by former chief information commissioner A.N. Tiwari had made a very simple recommendation to improve the effectiveness of the implementation of India's Right To Information (RTI) Act. The committee suggested that all public authorities must make suo-motu disclosures of the most common information that is sought by the applicants on their website.Read more at; Long wait for suo motu transparency- Business News
  25. A just-released study, “Public Affairs Index: Governance in the States of India”, has once again highlighted that a state which achieves good level of economic development by inviting industrial investment as compared to other states, such as Gujarat, does not automatically claim to have achieved better levels of social sector indices. The study has been carried out by Dr CK Mathew, Athreya Mukunthan and Vivek Divekar for the Public Affairs Centre, Bangalore, the study.Read more at; COUNTERVIEW: Gujarat No 1 in economic freedom, but No 14 in transparency, No 12 in social protection: Study
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