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  1. Shankar Singh: From a tout to an activist by Dr Sandeep Pandey CNS Shankar Singh was a tout at the Road Transport Office earlier and used to get people's work done by paying bribes to the officials and take his own cut. Today he is a right to information activist working with a team in Kanpur to check corruption not just at the road transport office but also at other offices. Born to a family of JK Jute Mill worker, his early days were tough. His father met with an accident and had to leave the job. He became an associate of communist leader S.N. Banerji and started a restaurant named Raja Tea Stall which was managed by eight of the twelve children who survived in the family. As Shankar grew up he managed to get a job with the Roshan Transport Company. He was paid Rs. 2000 a month to be stationed at the RTO to take care of the company's work there. He used to get the roads and goods tax deposited. He used to take care of license, fitness, permit and registration of new vehicles. In 2006 he was unknowingly involved in the illegal sale of a Maruti van which was bought with loan from a company. When the new owner sought loan from another company, the first company objected as its payments were still pending and a complaint was filed. Shankar Singh was beaten by a clerk on the directions of the officer. This provoked his conscience. He decided to take on the system. He lodged complaints with the Chief Minister and the Commissioner about irregularities in the RTO. The Commissioner and the officer at RTO worked out a compromise for him and the clerk was made to apologize to him. That is how his file was closed. But now he did not want to go back to the rotten system. He saw news about right to information campaign in the newspapers. He was attracted by it. He decided to go to the camp. Before he realized, he became a volunteer with the right to information campaign in Kanpur city. At the RTO where a learning license which costs Rs. 60 but is made for Rs. 200 and the regular license which costs Rs. 140 but is made for Rs. 350, when Shankar and his friends decided to organize a RTI camp, the licenses were made for the actual fees. His role was reversed. He was no longer facilitating corruption. He was there to check it. The staff of the office was terrorized by his presence. Shankar now finds himself in a piquant situation. 1200 of his old colleagues, who prefer to call themselves as 'transport advisors' and are formally registered as 'Parivahan Salahkar Samiti' since 1982 as a society, want their profession to be legitimized. They claim that if their role is officially recognized and they are authorized to charge a legitimate fees for the service they render, they would stop facilitating corruption at the RTO. They have told Shankar that if he wants a corruption free system then he must lead the struggle for their livelihood rights. On the other hand Shankar has vowed that he would not allow any corruption to take place at the RTO even if it means going against his own former colleagues. Shankar Singh joined the first RTI camp in Kanpur city on 15th November, 2006, the conclusion of which was attended by Central Government Minister Shriprakash Jaiswal, also the MP from Kanpur . Since then over the last two years Shankar Singh must have been present as a volunteer in hundreds of camps. There are about ten camps organized every month with two to three averaging per week. Anywhere from 50 to 200 applications are prepared in these camps which are filed in different government offices. Most of the applications are concerned with Kanpur Development Authority, Nagar Nigam, Kanpur Electricity Supply Corporation, Water Board, Police, RTO, Social Welfare Department, District Supply Office, Basic Shiksha Adhikari, Kanpur University , Awas-Vikas, Banks, Passport, District Magistrate's office, etc. Recently after results for the High School were announced there was a huge number of students wanting to know whether they could see their answer books. The Kanpur Right to Information Campaign Committee, of which Shanker Singh is now a permanent and important part, immediately organized a six day camp in which 1200 students filed applications seeking photocopies of their answer books for various subjects. They suspect that they have not been fairly evaluated and would like to verify this. The RTI campaign has generated an empowering awareness among people as a result of which people feel that they can ask legitimate questions as their democratic right. In May 2008 Shankar Singh also participated in a social audit of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the Miyaganj Block of neighbouring Unnao District. He now feels that his responsibility as a concerned citizen are not just limited to Kanpur city. As his horizon of understanding broadens he feels a growing commitment within him for other social issues too. He spent nine days in rural areas of Unnao trying to understand the way the village panchayats and the Block Development Office functions and how the vested interests are responsible for siphoning off huge sums of money from government schemes and how the papers are fudged. He proved to be an important member of his social audit team too which visited various villagers and interacted with ordinary village labourers and interviewed them to find deficiencies in the implementation of NREGS. Shankar Singh's life has taken an about turn. From slipping into the ever deadly world of corruption and crime he has dragged himself out with some effort and placed himself in a position from where he is rising everyday as a shining star. He has become synonymous for hope for many a people who have been victimized in some way. And Shankar is full of optimism. He always encourages people to stand up and fight for their rights. His exuberance inspires confidence in others. Shankar Singh's dream is now to serve the people from even bigger platforms. He wishes to contest an election some day. He has realized that the small battles that he is now fighting every day would become a little bit easier if he acquires a legitimate constitutional position. He wishes to serve more people and at a faster rate. Dr Sandeep Pandey (The author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) for emergent leadership, heads the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley in control theory which is applicable in missile technology. He taught at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur before devoting his life to strengthening people's movements in early 1990s. He can be contacted at: ashaashram [at] yahoo.com, www.ashaparivar.org http://www.citizen-news.org/2009/01/shankar-singh-from-tout-to-activist.html
  2. Congress member arrested in Uttar Pradesh By Sindh Today | Sep 26th, 2008 Lucknow, Sep 26 (IANS) A senior Congress functionary in Uttar Pradesh who has been filing Right To Information (RTI) applications on projects initiated by the Mayawati government was arrested here early Friday. Shailendra Singh, chairperson of the party’s Uttar Pradesh Right To Information Task Force, was taken into custody at 1.30 a.m. Friday. The move prompted the Congress to allege that the police machinery was being used to settle political scores. The party has threatened to launch a state-wide agitation if he is not released immediately. A delegation of the senior state party leaders also met Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi at the Lucknow airport Friday morning to apprise her of the issue. On Friday Gandhi was on her way to her Lok Sabha constituency Rae Bareli for a two-day visit. Singh was arrested from his house for allegedly misbehaving with the senior officials of the State Information Commission and damaging government property together with his supporters. He was a provincial police service officer before he resigned as deputy superintendent of police in 2004 to join the Congress party. ‘Singh played an important role in the effective implementation of the RTI Act in the state and exposed the government’s tendency to conceal information related to public interest,’ state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi said at a press conference Friday. Singh went to meet the acting chief information commissioner (CIC) Gyanendra Sharma Thursday afternoon. ‘He and his associates only demanded from the CIC to keep the RTI website updated and ensure effective implementation of the act in the state,’ she added. But he has been framed and jailed under false charges, the Congress party alleged. Besides various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Public Property Damage Act, Singh has been booked under Section 7 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and a case registered in the Hazratganj police station. ‘The FIR was registered on a complaint by a senior official of the CIC office and we arrested him,’ Inspector A.S. Chauhan of Hazratganj police station said. Singh was shifted to the Lucknow district jail Friday afternoon after the district court rejected his bail application. ‘The criminal law amendment act was invoked against him to ensure he did not get bail,’ Joshi alleged. She said the government wanted to prevent Singh from filing a counter-affidavit in the Supreme Court in connection with a public interest litigation (PIL) he had filed on expenses involved in the reconstruction of the Ambedkar Park in Gomti Nagar. Ambedkar Park is a memorial to Dalit icon Dr B.R. Ambedkar as well as Kanshi Ram, the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and mentor of Chief Minister Mayawati. The chief minister had ordered reconstruction of concrete structures in the park, which she had erected in her earlier tenures. Singh had challenged this in the high court, which had stayed the reconstruction and the government had moved the apex court against the verdict. The case is in progress and Singh is to file a counter-affidavit in the Supreme Court Sep 29. The state Congress president alleged: ‘Besides this case, Singh had been filing a number of RTI applications to expose the government’s wrongdoings.’ ‘We are going to organise a statewide agitation and we demand immediate release of Singh and withdrawal of the wrong case against him,’ Joshi said. A delegation of senior state congress leaders also met Gandhi at the Amausi airport in Lucknow Friday morning. ‘Sonia Gandhi has assured us of all possible help,’ she added. Gandhi returns to Delhi Saturday evening. Congress member arrested in Uttar Pradesh | Sindh Today
  3. RTI fails to bail out hapless applicant as reported by Neha Shukla, TNN | Times of India, 11 Dec 2008 LUCKNOW: The Right to Information (RTI) Act has a long way to go before it becomes a potent tool for the common man in the state. There is scant regard for the orders passed by the State Information Commission (SIC) and the case of one Dev Dutt Sharma can be a befitting example of the same. Sharma's case after landing up at the commission in 2006 has been heard by five different commissioners and has seen 14 hearings. Yet another hearing is marked for December 18. Interestingly, all the commissioners have issued showcause notices to the opposite party, in this case -- director, higher education and finance controller, higher education, asking them why should not they be penalised for not releasing the information under RTI to Sharma. Despite this, the applicant has not received the complete information that he had sought under RTI. Sharma's wife was a lecturer in Shri Narayan Girls Degree College, Unnao. It was after she expired in 1998 that he had asked the college authorities to release her arrears to him. But, despite several letters shot off to director, higher education, the arrears were not released. "I had then given an affidavit requesting the authorities to handover the funds to my minor children under my guardianship,'' said Sharma. But, authorities rather fixed the money till 2011 under the guardianship of the school principal, Kamla Singh. Not ready to take the high-handedness of the authorities and after being made to run from pillar to post, the man presented his case to Lokayukta in the year 2000 but even that did not help. In the meantime, on November 27, 2006, he had also sought information under RTI from the director, higher education on 16-points regarding the arrears of his late wife. But, after he got no reply he reached the commission. "I had also filed a single line prayer in the high court requesting the authorities to release the money to me or to my children,'' he said. And, it was after the court's order that the authorities released him the arrears, but out of the net amount payable that is Rs 1 lakh 55 thousand, he got only Rs 1 lakh 40 thousand. "I questioned the authorities about the remaining Rs 15,000 but they did not give any reply,'' shared Sharma. Even five of the commissioners who had heard his case could not help him in knowing about the remaining amount. The only respite for the man is Rs 25,000 penalty that was imposed on the opposite party on October 30. The next hearing, however, has invited an argument from the opposite party against the penalty. RTI fails to bail out hapless applicant-Lucknow-Cities-The Times of India
  4. Society to hold RTI gun to government’s head as reported by Alka Pande Indian Express Nov 02, 2008 Lucknow, November 1 : Members of the civil society are all set to pull the governments — both central and the states — for not spending enough money to publicise the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, thereby limiting the use of this powerful tool. The issue will be raised in a two-day annual convention on “RTI and its ramifications for good governance”, to be organised by the Central Information Commission in New Delhi on November 3 and 4. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the inaugural session, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is likely to deliver the concluding speech. Besides State Information Commissioners, the event will see the participation of civil society, activists and media persons - not only from India but also from SAARC nations. During the convention, experts will deliberate on a variety of topics like RTI in South Asia, role of media and civil society to promote RTI, poverty alleviation and RTI, protection of privacy and RTI, transparent governance and RTI. The focus would be on the need to formulate a different strategy for the implementation of RTI in rural areas. “RTI applications filed in rural areas are extremely probing and sometimes put governments in difficult position. Violence and harassment related to the RTI queries in rural areas are rampant, therefore we need to formulate strategies to ensure sufficient protection to rural folks,” said Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangthan, also one of the panelists at the event. Dey said the masses are using the Act but the Government is reluctant to address the RTI queries. “Though not enough publicity has been done to make the Act reach the common man, yet people, even in rural areas, are using it,” he added. During the event, Information Commissions of almost all the states will stress on their usual demand for financial autonomy and improved infrastructure. “Lack of proper infrastructure is a universal complaint of all the states - which was raised in the last two conventions also,” said Uttar Pradesh State Information Commissioner Gyanendra Sharma. Even the Central Information Commission is facing the infrastructure problem, as it operates from two different places in Delhi, he added. Society to hold RTI gun to government’s head
  5. Uttar Pradesh chief secretary slammed for not implementing RTI as reported in ThaiIndian by IANS - August 19th, 2008 New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh's RTI commission has come down heavily on the state's chief secretary for not implementing the Right to Information Act in its true spirit even three years after its enactment. This happened after a petitioner filed a plea before the Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission (UPSIC) complaining that information he had sought from the chief secretary's office (CSO) had not been provided to him. Petitioner Paras Nath Verma had sought to know from the CSO why he was not appointed as an assistant teacher and what action had been taken on various applications he had filed at various levels. At a hearing on this before the UPSIC in Lucknow July 18, the CSO had contended that the chief secretary was the controlling officer of the state secretariat but his office did not come under the definition of public authority - and was thus not bound to provide information under the RTI Act. The UPSIC had initially reserved judgement on this. In an order on Aug 4, the commission's acting chief, Gyanendra Sharma, declared that the CSO was a public authority and directed it to name its Public Information Officer (PIO) and first appellate authority within 15 days of receiving the order. The CSO was also directed to make public the name, address and telephone numbers of the PIO and the appellate authority. Sharma also directed the chief secretary to trace out a letter that had been sent from his office along with Verma's query to the state's basic education secretary and to inform him when this had reached the officer concerned. Sharma also asked the chief secretary to explain why Verma was not informed about his letter being transferred from one officer to another. The chief secretary was also asked to respond to these two issues within one month. The commission also termed as "laughable" the chief secretary's contention that his office did not have a website of his own to respond to queries from the public as the UPSIC's chief also did not have one. "The reasons given by chief secretary are not only irrelevant but unnecessary too. The submission that because (the UPSIC chief) doesn't have its own website for supporting his argument of not having his own website is laughable," the commission said. "Does he have to be told that the country's prime minister and cabinet secretary of the central government also have own websites," the commission added. "The central government's cabinet secretariat, which is the nodal agency for coordination amongst various ministries has its own website. Thus, is it not important for the office of the chief secretary, the controlling officer of the state government's secretariat, to have its own website, appoint a PIO and disclose information under various sections of RTI Act?" the commission asked. Speaking to IANS about his order, acting commission chief Sharma said: "The sole purpose and intent was to hold someone responsible in the chief secretary's office under the RTI Act. "I have only asked them to appoint a PIO and an appellate authority and make their details public, which should have been a suo motu disclosure under the act. "As far as the website is concerned, I have left this decision to the chief secretary." Uttar Pradesh chief secretary slammed for not implementing RTI
  6. Bureaucracy in UP shaken over SIC directive as appeared in NewKerala.Com, Lucknow, Oct 16 2008 The beauracracy in Uttar Pradesh finds itself in a spot over an order of the State Information Commission (SIC) under the Right To Information (RTI) which directed the Mayawati government to make public the income and assets of all the IAS and IPS officials within next six weeks. ''It will be a good move in order to ensure transparency in the governance and the state government is studying the modalities in this regard,'' an official spokesman told UNI here this morning. The decision, however, has shaken a section of officers as from time to time charges were being levelled against certain bureaucrats for amassing assets disproportionate to their income. The SIC order was passed by acting chief information commissioner Gyenendra Sharma yesterday on an application of one Brijesh Mishra, seeking details of the movable and immovable assets of nine IAS officials under RTI. Significantly, the senior officials against whom the RTI application was moved included chief secretary Atul Kumar Gupta, secretary (Home) Mahesh Gupta and senior IAS officers Dev Dutt, Lalit Srivastava, Rajan Shukla and Chandra Prakash. The acting chief information commissioner has asked the state appointments department to publish property details of all the officials made available to it from 2005-06 onwards within six weeks. The applicant moved the application under the RTI when the UP government refused to give him the details sought on the assets of these officials. The commission in his order said that under section 4 of the RTI Act, it is obligatory on the Public Information Officer to make these information public.'' When MPs, MLas, could give details of their assets, why cannot the IAS and IPS'', he observed. In the recent past, UP had earned a bad name on the disproportionate assets case when several officials including two ex-chief secretaries-- Akhand Pratap Singh and Neera Yadav- were chargesheeted by the CBI in similar cases. --- UNI Bureaucracy in UP shaken over SIC directive .:. NewKerala - India's Top Online Newspaper
  7. As reported by Neha Shukla of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 12 August 2008: It takes RTI Act to trace missing files-Lucknow-Cities-The Times of India It takes RTI Act to trace missing files LUCKNOW: It might be all gone with the 'missing’ files. The details about allotment of a three 'bigha' of gram sabha land, worth approximately Rs 10 crore in present times, to an institute called 'dastkari haat samiti' in village Ganeshpur Rahmanpur (Chinhat), tehsil-Sadar, Lucknow, might not be known. The information about the so-called missing files has now been disclosed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A letter dated December 31, 2007, addressed by the then district magistrate of Lucknow to the State Information Commission (SIC) had mentioned that files related to the reclamation of land in village Ganeshpur Rahmanpur in favour of lekhpal training school and dastkari haat samiti were sent to the office of Lok Ayukta but they had not been returned yet. DM had also stated that a letter had been sent to secretary, Lok Ayukta, UP government. However, in a missive shot off as a response to DM's letter, secretary, Lok Ayukta, had mentioned that file nos A-120 and A-121 had been returned. The said files, however, are still to be traced. The gram sabha records of 1993 show that the land was allotted to the above mentioned institute - dastkari haat samiti - which carried a New Delhi address. "I pursued gram sabha records and came across this information but district administration has not shown the file regarding this allotment,” said Izhar Ansari, who had filed an application with land management section under the RTI Act on May 22, 2005, seeking inspection of the file concerned. The case was disposed off by SIC. It has been more than two years now but the applicant is yet to see the files. In an application filed with the opposite party, applicant had sought inspection of two files related to land reclamation. The said files included file no 105/A/DLRC/93-94 and those related to the allotment of land to dastkari haat samiti in Chinhat locality of Lucknow. The 'opposite party', in this case, comprised Yogesh Kumar Shukla, public information officer (PIO) and additional district magistrate (ADM), Alka Verma, additional SDM and in charge, land management section and district magistrate/appellate authority, Lucknow. While he was shown file no 105/A/DLRC/93-94, the file related to the samiti was not shown to Ansari. The reason extended by PIO was that the said file was not with him but with the Lok Ayukta office. The appellant then filed his appeal with the first appellate authority on July 4, 2006 which was disposed of on August 22, 2006 by the then district magistrate/appellate authority, Lucknow, Ramendra Tripathi. The order by the first appeal authority contained reference to the letter of officer incharge (land management) dated August 7, 2006, which stated that the said file was pending with the Lok Ayukta office. The order upheld the letter and also mentioned that the appellant had been informed about the same. The applicant in his appeal had sought penalising of the PIO and officer incharge land management section, besides disciplinary action against them. However, in one of the first speaking orders issued by SIC on July 24 this year, the copy of which was handed over to the applicant in the matter, on Monday, SIC has directed the opposite party to show the file to the applicant as and when it is traced. "The order does not fix any time limit for searching and producing the file and if all PIOs cite similar reasons where will the Act go,” said the applicant.
  8. As reported by Neha Shukla of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 3 August 2008: SIC to introduce new regulations-Lucknow-Cities-The Times of India SIC to introduce new regulations LUCKNOW: The provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act have to be more strictly followed in issuing summons and slapping penalties on the erring Public Information Officers (PIOs). This was among the many suggestions made by RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal towards strengthening the Right to Information (RTI) Act in the state. Kejriwal met UP's Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Gyanendra Sharma on Friday. State Information Commission (SIC) has evolved a set of regulations with a purpose to expedite the functioning of the commission and dispose cases as soon as possible. "We discussed the regulations and he made some suggestions," said Sharma. The new regulations specify that applicants will have to be more restrained in voicing their complaints as the SIC will only consider appeals written in dignified language. Besides, the complaints/appeals will have to complete in all respects. The name and address of the complainant/applicant, name and address of the Public Information Officer (PIO) and the first appellate authority against whom appeal has been filed will have to be mentioned therein along with the reason behind the complaint/appeal. The new set of regulations have been posted on the official website of the UPSIC and recommendations have started pouring in. The regulations have been devised by the commission as deciding the functioning of the body is entirely its internal matter. "These regulations are defined in the Act but we wish to regularise these provisions", added the CIC. The commission will start following these new regulations shortly. Once these regulations come into force, even the old cases marked for further hearings will be dealt with in accordance with the new guidelines. The regulations have taken into consideration the common complaint that lot of applicants could not make to the hearing as they are not informed on time by the commission. With new regulations being implemented, applicants will have to be informed seven days in advance of the date of hearing. However, applicants wishing not to appear for the hearing will have to mention it clearly in their appeals/complaints. This will not defer the hearing and case will be disposed off on time. To give the commission a proper view into the matter, the applicant/complainant will have to attach self-attested copies of the applications submitted to the PIO along with the receipt of the fee deposited and of the order, if any, passed by the PIO on that application. A similar set of documents (concerning the first appellate authority) will have to be submitted if the appeal is against this official. Besides, all the complaints/appeals will have to contain a proper indexing of all the documents submitted to the commission. It is this regulation which is seeing maximum opposition and even Kejriwal did not favour it arguing that indexing will make the job difficult for the common man. The complainant/applicant will have to make it clear if he/she has not filed any prior appeal or complaint on the matter taken up by him/her in the commission along with documents which form the basis of his/her appeal or complaint. It will also be required of the applicant/complaint to submit the copy of appeal/complaint to the PIO against whom it is addressed and even this regulation has not won points with the people. However, the SIC will implement the new regulations only after people have a chance to study them and provide feedback.
  9. karira

    HC ruling on CM fund

    As reported on in.news.yahoo.com on 3 July 2008: HC ruling on CM fund - Yahoo! India News HC ruling on CM fund In a significant verdict, the Lucknow Bench of the high court here has held that queries regarding disbursement and utilisation of Chief Minister's Discretionary Fund can be made under the Right to Information Act (RTI) by any member of the public on lawful demand. The bench, comprising Justices Pradeep Kant and S.N. Shukla, passed the above orders while dismissing a writ petition filed by the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the state challenging three different orders of the State Information Commission (SIC) directing him (PIO) to answer queries in this regard. While upholding the orders of the SIC, the bench observed that the CM's Discretionary Fund being a public fund was very much amenable to the jurisdiction under the RTI Act. It was contended on behalf of the petitioner that under section 8 of the RTI Act, the PIO had a right to refuse to divulge information regarding the beneficiaries of the CM's Discretionary Fund since it was violative of beneficiaries' right of privacy. The writ petition was accordingly dismissed by the bench being devoid of merits.
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