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  1. As reported in expressbuzz.com on 20 June 2009: Jails in state overcrowded, says report Jails in state overcrowded, says report KOCHI: In a clear indication that the jails in the state need modernisation, a report has been out stating that most of these jails are overcrowded surpassing the permitted capacity of prisoners by 53.82 percentage. The report prepared by the Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam, based on the information provided by the Jail Headquarters under the RTI Act, revealed that there were 6,628 prisoners in 41 jails in the state against the permitted capacity of 4,309. According to the information, the three central prisons, two open prisons, one women’s prison, three district jails and five special sub jails and 27 sub jails in the state can together accommodate 3844 men prisoners and 465 women prisoners. However as of May 12, 2009, there are 6425 men prisoners and 203 women prisoners in these 41 jails. While the authorised capacity of prisoners in Thiruvananthapuram Central Prison is only 727 with 709 males and 18 females, currently there are 1,453 prisoners with 1,428 males and 25 females. Out of this 1,037 are convicted and 416 are under trial. Similarly the authorised capacity at Central Prison Viyyur is only 376. However currently there are 553 prisoners with 399 convicted and 154 under trial. Same is the case of Kannur Central Prison. Against the authorised capacity of 1,086, the jail has currently 1,206 prisoners with 967 convicted. The number of prisoners at Thiruvananthapuram District Jail, Kollam District jail, Palakkad Special Sub Jail, Thalassery Special Sub Jail, Kottarakkara Sub Jail, Pathanamthitta Sub Jail, Aluva Sub Jail, Ernakulam Sub Jail and many others are more than the permitted capacity, the report said. Further, it can be found that about 57 percentage (3,743) of the total prisoners are under trial. The report indicates the need for having urgent measures for modernisation of jails, pointed out the experts. The crowded inmates in the jails may cause problems among them, they said. “Our organisation is planning to take up the issue of crowded jails. We have decided to conduct further studies into the issue. Then we’ll decide the next course of action,” said Advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, convener, Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam.
  2. As reported by S. Anandan at hindu.com on July 19, 2009 Kochi: Should you seek information from the Centre through a Right to Information (RTI) petition, you better be conversant in all Indian languages. Even so, chances are you may still not get what you have asked for. M.K. Haridas of The Proper Channel petitioned the Election Commission of India (ECI) for information on the sum accrued by the government by way of forfeited security deposits of candidates in the 2004 and 2009 general elections. For want of nation-wide data on the same, the ECI promptly forwarded the request, as per Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, to election commissions in all States and Union Territories. They, in turn, forwarded it to district administrations from where it was dutifully passed on to tehsil headquarters. Each office took religious care to acknowledge Mr. Haridas’ application and he has received over 150 such missives from various States to date, many of them in unfamiliar lingo. The money so far spent by these offices on postal stamp: Rs. 3,500. A few of them contained local-level data, but he couldn’t decipher them as even the figures were in vernacular. Postmen at the local post office here, too, had a horrid time sorting the communiqués for delivery as more often than not the address on the envelope, scrawled in Oriya, Gujarati and the like, wouldn’t make any sense to them. Surprises just didn’t stop there. While a letter from Himachal Pradesh demanded that Mr. Haridas remit Rs. 2 at the Shimla Treasury for the required information (they spent Rs. 35 on postal stamp to intimate him), a message from the Cabinet (Election) Department of Jharkhand was even more perplexing. It asked him to pay Rs. 1,680 per man hour together put in by the 14 Returning Officers in the State for compiling the requisite data. “One man day includes one full working day for an office staff bearing Pay Band-II (Rs. 9,300-Rs. 34,800) + Grade Pay (Rs. 4200) + DA-22%. Mean one day pay of 26 working days would be Rs. 940 per day or Rs. 120 per man hour of 8 hours working day. You may deposit the above estimated amount by demand draft,” read the letter in awful English. This defeats the rationale of the RTI Act, argues Mr. Haridas. Source: The Hindu : National : Bureaucrats send RTI petition for a jaunt
  3. Atul Patankar

    IMA House to serve firewater too!

    As reported at expressbuzz.com on 19 July, 2009 KOCHI: The IMA House of the Indian Medical Association(IMA) in Kochi might soon offer an array of alcoholic drinks to its members. The State Government has sanctioned the FL4-A club licence to the Cochin Charitable Society of the IMA for serving liquor. The licence sanction was given on the basis of an application filed by officials of the organisation to the Excise Department. An information received under the Right To Information Act from the Excise Division Office, Ernakulam, indicates that four clubs had applied for the FL4-A club licence since January 2009. The applicants for the licence include the secretary of the Cochin Gymkhana Club, vice-president of the Indian Medical Association for the Cochin Charitable Club, secretary of the Kothamangalam Club and president of the Muvattupuzha Club. The information received by M K Haridas, president of `The Proper Channel' from the public information officer of the Excise division office, Ernakulam, states that around Rs 8 lakh each was collected from the applicants of FL4-A club licences, while the fee for bar licence was Rs 22 lakh. "The FL4-A club licence is being issued to establishments registered as charitable societies. The fee is less compared to that of bar licence. The FL4-A licence allows the clubs to purchase and serve liquor to its members. However, the sale of liquor can be done only at the specific location for which the sanction is given," said an Excise official. It was reported earlier that as many as 21 clubs registered under the Charitable Societies Act across the State had applied for the FL4-A club licence. "The issue is not a club obtaining licence to serve liquor. The issue is organisations registered as charitable societies going for such licences. Worse, the medicos have applied for sanction to serve liquor. Source: http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=IMA+House+to+serve+firewater+too!&artid=1gqrvgUc40s=
  4. Atul Patankar

    Fuel price rise uncalled for?

    As reported by S. Anandan at thehindu.com on Saturday, Jul 04, 2009 Kochi: Even as a debate on whether the latest petrol and diesel price hike was warranted, a city-based non-governmental organisation, armed with evidence to the contrary, attributes the rising debt of oil public sector units (PSUs) to factors other than the retail price of petrol and diesel. As per the information obtained by ‘The Proper Channel’ through Right to Information (RTI) petitions, domestic production of crude oil in 2008 was 34.133 MMT (million metric tonne). In other words, the country last year produced 2,68,343 barrels of crude oil. Data available with the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas shows that over 1.43 crore kgs of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas); 40 lakh litres of petrol; 22 lakh litres of kerosene; and about 1.5 crore litres of diesel have been distilled, besides by-products such as oil and lubricant, from that much crude oil. The import of crude oil last year was 83.5 MMT. “Rationally, a barrel of crude oil yields 65 litres of petrol, 85 litres of diesel, 26 litres of aviation spirit and 32 litres of kerosene. If the average price of crude oil per barrel is pegged at $50, the products thereof together fetch $320,” says M.K. Haridas of The Proper Channel. The loss incurred by oil PSUs ostensibly due to non-revision of petroleum product prices in December last year was over Rs. 1.06 lakh crore. Mr. Haridas attributes the humungous loss to mismanagement of the public companies and irrational pay and perks of the employees. “The government has subsidised LPG by Rs 97.11 per cylinder. But over half of the State’s 50 lakh LPG consumers do not require such subsidy,” he says. “Diesel rates were kept low during the Nehruvian era as it was the common man’s fuel. It was primarily used in public transport. Now even high-end luxury cars running on diesel enjoy the concession. Kerosene subsidy and import tax concession are also being misused by unscrupulous bus and lorry operators. However, exorbitant taxes should singularly take the blame for giving rise to the current scenario. While a litre of petrol only has a production cost of Rs.14, various Central and State taxes place a huge burden on the consumers. If excise tax on petrol is reduced and unified, international crude oil price fluctuation wouldn’t affect the retail price of petroleum products, thereby easing the burden on the common man,” says Mr. Haridas. Source: The Hindu : Kerala / Kochi News : Fuel price rise uncalled for?
  5. Atul Patankar

    Govt has little control

    As reported at www.expressbuzz.com on 30 April 2009 KOCHI: Here’s an open confession from the State Health Department. The government has no control over the functioning of private medical laboratories in the state. Nor is there any system in practice to take action against erring laboratories. The information furnished by the Directorate of Health Department in a RTI application has brought out some shocking facts on private medical laboratories in Kerala. As of now, the Govt has no control over these laboratories. A reply received by M K Haridas of ‘The Proper Channel’ reveals that currently there is no specific act to sanction private medical laboratories in the state. The private medical laboratories are functioning after getting permission only from the local self- government institutions. Currently, there are no specific standards for setting up a private medical laboratory. What’s more shocking is the fact that only two private medical laboratories - Doctors Diagnostic Research Centre Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam and Ernakulam and Devi Scans Private Limited, Thiruvananthapuram - have approval of the state Govt. “There are almost one lakh private medical laboratories operating in Kerala. Of these, only two have been inspected by the Health Department and given approval by the Govt. And the government openly admits that there is no system in place to take action against these laboratories. What could be more shocking?’’ asked Haridas.He pointed out that there is a huge disparity in the price rate for tests in these laboratories. While there is a fixed rate for each test as per the ‘Recommendations of the Resources Commission - Revision of rate of various hospital charges’ published by the State Health Services, private laboratories charge according to their wish. Similar is the result of the tests. Results of tests of same samples done in two different laboratories at the same time, shows huge disparity. The customers are left with no choice but to undergo repeated tests in different laboratories. Source: Govt has little control=
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