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Center for Public Policy Research

OCTOBER ‘06
MIND
TEXT
MINDTEXT OCTOBER ‘06
Volume-1
Issue-6

CPPR is not responsible for the


views expressed in this journal.
Authors own responsibility for their articles

Editor : Hariprasad R.C.


Layout & Design : T.V.Vinu

SEARCH
RE
Y
LI C
L IC P O
PUB
R

O
CENTRE F

Centre for Public Policy Research


Vaikom Road, Cochin
Kerala, India - 682 301
www.cpprindia.org
E-mail : program@cpprindia.org
Contents 3

Editorial 4

Reality Check 5
- WHO ARE TRADITIONAL FISHERMEN?
- OCTOBER AN ODD ODYSSEY
(The North Korean Crisis)

Wake up!!! 9
- Well done Rose Mary…

Wake Up!!!
- EARTH IS ROUND! 12

JAM 13

Public Eye 14

LSS Review 17

Tea-Time Chat 18
In tune with VIKRAM HAZRA

RTI Corner 19

Upcoming Events 22
Seminars, Discussions & more..

Reverberations 23

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
Editorial 4

IDEALISM
-Seek Within
Friends,

October seems to be an ideal month to ponder over idealism. Reason for it


being that it has the birthday of one of the greatest sons of Mother India,
who dared to live for the ideal that he chose for himself M K Gandhi alias
Mahatmaji. So what was it that transformed a very ordinary barrister
somewhere in South Africa into one of the greatest personalities the world
had ever seen? Think!

The moment Gandhiji dared to live his ideal he was transformed into
dynamic force capable of leading the masses. Similar is the case with any
other great person in the world. It is good to respect and acknowledge
their greatness. But what is even more important is to realize the fact
that they too were ordinary persons like you and me at one point of time.
And it is their sheer love for their ideal that made them great. This
realization should dawn in the minds of each one of us. That is the need
of the hour.

Just imagine the situation wherein we are able to express all the creative
potential within us. The world is in need of great people. The demand is
indeed very high. Let us realize this tremendous opportunity and awaken
the greatness in each one of us. And for that we need an ideal to lead us.
Ideal is the magic potion that can transform any ordinary person into a
man of excellence. It kindles the infinite potential in an individual to help
him make a mark in this world.

Take a moment to introspect.

Seek within for that ideal which can fire your imagination, kindle your
creativity and enlighten your life.

Wishing you all the greatness that you deserve in life,

Editor

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
Reality Check 5

WHO ARE THE


TRADITIONAL FISHERMEN
OF KERALA?
- D.Dhanuraj -

The God's own country is known for her ravishing beauty and hospitality nature. The traditional
art forms like Kathakali, Mohiniyattam along with lakes and lagoons add to the beauty of the
land. Kerala is famous for its fish menu. Out of 6000 km sea coast of India, Kerala has a
coastal line of 589.5 km, which is about 10% of India's cost. It signifies the importance of the
fishery sector in the economy of the state. 0.54% of the total population are related with the
sector. They are being indebted to the cultural, social and economical aspects of the life to the
sea and its surroundings. There are 222 marine villages in Kerala. Life in the costal village
revolves around the fishing seasons.

Of the late, the fisheries economy of Kerala has witnessed the clashes between the traditional
and the mechanised fishermen. The scenario presents a characteristic mix of ancient and
modern in theoretical aspects. It is very difficult to separate the traditional sector from the
modern sector. All the agencies including the Government have tried to define the two sectors;
but the demarcation does not hold right in the sea where the implementation of the rule has to
take place. It is also not possible to identify the sector with anyone of the community in Kerala.
The Mukkuvas (Hindu) and the Mappillas (Muslims) are the leading fish workers of Southern coast
while Velana and Arayana (Hindu) in the Cochin area. The members of Latin Catholic
community are seen at different parts of the state. The productive relation is concerned with
relation of owners and workers in fishing operations.

The introduction of mechanised boats and advanced nets changed the fishery sector by 60's.
Till then, the overall picture in Kerala fisheries was one of abundant fish availability in the inshore
waters, easily accessible to the large numbers of traditional fishermen. There seemed little
scope for the improvements in their craft and gear so as to increase the catches with the
increased demand of the fish in the international market. Overall analysis of the last fourty years
show that, the coastal line which was once known for the traditional gears and crafts used for
the fisheries has been given way to larger vessels and mechanised trawlers.

Over the years, by and large the traditional fishermen also stepped into the threshold of
mechanisation. This has been necessitated by various reasons;
1) The lack of fishing activities along the coastal line since the fish wealth there being over
exploited. This compels the fishermen to go for the deep-sea fishing.
2) Unparallel or mismatch among the fishermen with respect to the mechanisation. Trawlers and
large fishing vessels go for deep-sea fishing, which compels the ordinary fisherman also to strive
for the same.
3) Fluctuating “price” mechanism prevailing everywhere. The middlemen decide the price of
the fish once the fishermen land up after a heavy toll in the sea.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
6
4) Mismatch in the market price of fish in relation with the increase of fuel price.
But it does not permit the traditional fishermen to revert to the old style of fishing as it might only
head to the poverty.
5) Increased activity of trade union at the harbours and markets. Earlier, if the
community people did all the works related with fisheries, today the trade union has a claim under
the labour regulations. Eventually the money has been taken out of the poor fisherman's pocket.
The increased trade union activities in Kerala have attracted the people from outside the
fishermen community to embrace this job at large. Though the fishermen are also a part of the
trade unions, there is a growing trend of outsiders to dominate this segment in the recent times.

There are inland areas in Kerala where the fishermen use the
THE traditional methods for catching the fish. Barring this segment, all
the major fishing harbours are not free from the frequent
QUESTION confrontation between the traditional and mechanised fishermen.
The conflicts between the trawler crews and the kattumaram
OF fishermen have grown in intensity over the time. Many incidents
DEFINING have been reported on the fighting between traditional fishermen vs
boat crew away in the sea. If trawling is carried out in the same area
THE as kattumaram fishing there is great risk of damage to the latter
fishermen's gear as well as to their lives. . Even though there is a law
TRADITIONAL stipulating twenty-two kilometres depth of sea only for traditional
fishermen, the trawlers never kept the rule. No agency could
FISHERMEN implement this law since the criteria to separate the both the
sections are at stake.
It raises the question of defining the traditional fishermen. Customarily speaking, the
traditional fisher folk are all those men, women and children who earn a livelihood by involving in
harvesting, handling, processing and marketing of fish and fish products. Therefore traditional
fishermen folk include 1) Artisan fishermen, working on non mechanised and motorised crafts in
coastal waters, 2) Fishermen working on mechanised boats in coastal waters, 3) Workers at fish
landing centres involved in unloading, sorting and icing, 4) Workers involved in traditional
methods of fish curing and drying, 5) Workers involved in prawn peeling sheds 6) Workers in fish
processing firms 7) Workers involved in marketing of fish inside the state. They include men,
women and children. They need not belong to the fishing castes as well. But over the time, this
has undergone tremendous change in the sector. The growth of science and technology and its
cheaper availability caused the change.

The solution to all types of acrimony in the fisheries sector is largely involved in the
definition of the different types of fishermen working in the sector mainly traditional and the
mechanised. The fisheries sector feeds families along the Kerala coast. It is the nature of the
human being that he will be forced to explore hitherto unknown when his livelihood is at the
stakes. So the uneven reach of the natural wealth within the fishing community itself is the reason
behind the rivalry between two sections of the workers in this segment. This is the prime reason
behind the increased tension during the time of trawl ban along the Kerala coast. On the one side,
peace and calm is lost while in the other, natural wealth has been depleted forever. It is high time
to seek the solution for this issue. It can be reached only by taking into consideration of all the
people concerned by taking into account of the location, geography, economic back grounds,
history and so on. This would not only contribute to the much relieved Kerala cost but also to the
protection and preservation of the fish wealth. MINDTEXT

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
Reality Check 7

October an
ODD ODYSSEY
-Anil Rohit -

Marshal, the word has got a meaning as shepherd or leader. In


the present context it reminds the onlookers a supremo fearing only
his self pride and ego. The reference here is made about none other
than Marshal Kim Jong Il, the President of DPR Korea (Democratic
Peoples Republic). The mettle of this short mongoloid Korean has
catapulted his country to the status of a member in the elite council
of nuclear war faring by this October.

2006 October brought one of the most significant news of 21st


century. North Korea has tested and hence proved its nuclear
fertility at its northern highlands of Korean peninsula. This was amid
the huge and tremendous threats from US and its allied forces. The
conformation of news was ascertained by none other than DPR
Korea's arch rival, the South Korea. Pyongyang ,the headquarters of
North Korea before testing it's nuclear arsenal's strike capabilities
informed its one and only ally, china just fifteen minutes prior to its
testing. From first week of October itself UN under US pressure was
forcing Pyongyang to disengage from Uranium enrichment process,
which North Koreans have been doing since 2000, when they quit
from Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). On reading the recent
THE missile tests including Taepodong series (capable of carrying out
NORTH KOREAN nuclear attack with a range up to 24000 km i.e. even at Alaska), the

CRISIS picture clearly speaks volumes on ambitious Marshal's demeanor.

What will happen if another Asian country becomes capable


of having nuclear arms? If Pakistan has, India possesses and China
enjoys this, then why can't North Korea and Iran? This query does
make some reverberations in our minds. Hasn't every nation have
the capability or rather right to be armed nuclear? Of course every
one can join this club. The mettle and merit is at stakes. “No first
use” tags can be curtailed since none demand for remaining a
'responsible nuclear power'. No need for spending years of research
and sweat for this goal as it can now be bought from black market
with A Q Khan as the mafia don.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
8

A little bit of story to be unfolded here ahead of rolling on


to Korean crisis's dimensions. From 2001, Pakistan has been
consistently testing their ballistic batteries aiming of grading
themselves above India. They had test fired Ghori, Ghazni, Shaheen
and Shaheed series of IRBMs (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles)
almost on serial basis. All these make use of high end technology of ReV
ballistics (Re entry Vehicles) which none can have unless they have
either US or Russian side possessions. Pakistan managed it by having
brought missile parts directly from North Korea when the Father of Pak
nuclear science, Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan shuttled between Pyongyang
and Islamabad. Dr. Khan on his trips ferried centrifuges for Uranium
enrichment processes on his flights and returned with missile
components. This deal violated the NPT principles right under the
scanning eyes of the US.

South Korea, a time tested ally of US is currently under the


threat of being attacked by North Korea as it now prohibited all North
Koreans from entering the South. Actually North Korea being a war torn
and deprived country, the only economic lifeline is by its trade links.
The new ban to be imposed on it by UN Security Council may make
situations quite wild there. Marshal's never say die spirit can only spice
up the scene.

The only mate of DPR is China, and for them it is a difficult


situation. They are using North Korea as a shield to the Western forces
at South East Asia and they cannot just abandon them. Seoul is now
thinking of setting up a plot to curtail all the global aids to Pyongyang.
But for US, the Iranian crisis gets aggravated by the Korean move which
poses a great head ache. Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejads are proclaiming
THE
NORTH KOREAN of their resumption of nuclear enrichment programme by the third
week of October. Thus October surfaces up again with profound news
CRISIS data that could shake the avid listeners across the globe. MINDTEXT

-Anil Rohit is pursuing B Tech Mechanical Engineering at SCMS College of Engineering

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
Wake Up 9

Well Done
ROSE MARY!
Rose Mary Abrham, ranked 1st in Indian Economic Service Examination 2005. She has
been very helpful and supportive to CPPR activities all the time. She is a good friend
to many of us in the organisation for many years. Her entry into the prestigious civil
service is the most exciting event among our friends in the recent times. We believe
she represents the unconventional thoughts the country is looking forward to. She can
definitely bring dynamism and transparency to the system. It is sure many more
laurels are awaiting her in the years to come…….

We wish you all the best, Rose Mary……………….

D.Dhanuraj
For
Team CPPR

We are publishing two emails (unedited) sent by Rose Mary in relation to IES exams. The first one was sent on
September 25, 2006 just after her interview and the second one is the mail regarding her result on October 17,
2006.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
September 25, 2006

Hi all,
I am sharing my experience for IES interview with all so that it can be a ref point to many
[something which I lacked] jus tnow I came back after my interview … took 30 min I think… 5
members in the board. Four people were interviewed in the morning session…one did not appear

For me it was stress interview… but it was not so for others except one more girl from Orissa [who
is in state civils]… there was the daughter of additional sec in dept of eco affairs and statistics… a
cool wake… took just fifteen min… asking about home news and less economics… for the fresh
graduate from the JNU he said it was a very comfortable interview… [grilling is less for the fresh
graduates .. this is what we have understood..]
Mine started not even with the usual questions like have you come to delhi before or………… not
even about my workplace… not even a single question like that… did not ask me anything about
my job…. They must have thought of course what is there to ask about in lectureship… the
impression I had got was that since the written is already over, they usually don't ask much of eco,
but it is going to be a personality test [as it is written in the call letter]… for me it was only eco..

Questions as I remember in the order


1. as a member of the kerala planning board what are your priorities since kerala model has come
to a lot of criticism
2. what about infrastructural development in the state? [ I had said power sector needs some
attention there]
3. you had moved to andhra after graduation right? APSEB has been running profitably before the
trifurcation but Kerala is in losses why?
4. why not many private players are coming in to the power sector
5. due to migration kerala's cost of living index is very high..
6. what is dutch disease with respect to kerala's development [I don't remember it exactly now…
dutch disease is mentioned in soderstien's book…. This was what all I could say]
7. stock exchange indices have been said to be the barometers of eco performance… but is it so
now [I mentioned about volatility caused by FII and how BSE sensex moves with FII.. said sensex
being the most attractive blue chips index definitely that is where FII would flock in.. BSE mid cap
many not show that much fluctuation]
8. has mutual funds succeeded in containing the volatility in the market
9. what is the percentage of investment by mutual funds in the stock market.
10. what is the role of speculators in the stock market
11. what is the conclusion of your M.Phil thesis
12. cochi has a stock exchange [ I said CSE… ] something more is there… [multi commodity
exchange I said.. it is only a commodity exchange]
13. what is being done in a commodity exchange
14. what is dealt in commodity exchange of cochin [ I did not answer.. I forgot ,.. it was pepper]
15. so pepper is traded in MCX and in commodity exchange of Cochi.. what is the difference
between them…
16. What is the controversy regarding wheat inflation and forward rates in wheat? [I still don't know
clearly what it is… speculative fixation of forward rates leads to inflation… but I thought reduction
in production was the reason for wheat price hike]
17. why don't we import wheat from Australia given that there is a high price in domestic market..
[ I said political un wise.. then they asked my viewpoint as an economist.. but still I said for the
time being it is not much advisable]
18. how the punbjab farmers will be affected if you import wheat in Kerala [ I did not answer it
clearly… what they were saying is anyway FCI will be purchasing it from them.. so Punjab will not
be affected… so why don't you import it.. ]

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
19. why did not join for Phd?
20. what is your preference? [ said research.. I thought it was between research and teaching]
21. I asked which one would you choose IES or research?
22. what is the controversy between FM and Planning commission regarding the FRBM targets
23. what is your view point on that?
24. if FM crosses the FRBM targets what is the legal procedure needed?[ I did not know.. I could
have guessed it… like what is done in parliament usually.. table it in the parliament showing the
reasons and get it sanctioned]
25. why do you want to come to IES when the lectureship has the same payscale

Perhaps because the way I was responding the UPSC chairman in the board abruptly said Yes it si
over…thank you…so all these 25 ques within 30 minutes.. how is it???? [this is the min list of
questions i remember.... perhaps it must be more... ]

Except for a man none of those 5 men had a smiling face… once outside the interview room I was
like oh my goodness it was proper grilling… did not even feel happy about it.. half of the things
unanswered of half answered…. It was disappointing…

Anyway I have put it up mainly for those of you who are preparing for it… esp muneera and sreeja..

Rose Mary Abraham

October 17, 2006

u won't believe… I came first in IES examination…. I myself took a bit of time to realise it… lunch
time I checked the site and saw the link.. my heart was pounding… here comes the last nail on my
coffin… the moment of depression is soon to arrive… though I did a bad job, I was not ready to
reconcile with that depression.. thankfully… I saw my name in the first… I was really overwhelmed
with joy…. I don't know.. god gave me this.. when he made me pass the written, I was like “please u
made me come this much.. why don't; you do the rest for me.”…when I saw the result I told my
parents.. they were too surprised.. they checked it again in the net just make it sure and informed all
my relatives… so once I returned from the college I was busy attending the calls… it was really nice
to see that there are many people around to share my joy….

the mark list is not yet out… then I will know my relative performance.. now a medical check up is
left… final confirmation comes after that… then will get two months to join for training at Mussorie..
then at Institute of Economic Growth New Delhi, RBI and Planning commission.. that will last for one
and a half year… then postings.. first as the joint director of some institute then director, then junior
economic advisor, sr. eco advisor etc…

Thanks a lot for your good wishes and prayers….

Rose Mary

We hope these mails inspire Team CPPR…

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
Wake Up 12

EARTH
IS ROUND!
- Hariprasad R C -
Real progress can be achieved by taking inspiration from the past and acting wisely in the
present to create a dynamic future. This column is intended to awaken the proud Indian in
each of us by unveiling the many facets of our great culture.

We declared:

Earth is Round!!!

“As the earth is round every person considers himself at the top of the earth where
he or she is standing. So downward direction is towards the center of the earth for
everyone.”

- (Bhugoladhyaya, Surya Siddhanta)

“The globe of earth stands suspended in space at the center of a circular frame that
is at the center of a Bhagola surrounded by the orbits of the planets; it is made of
water, soil, fire, and air and is circular on all sides that are spherical.”

- (Aryabhatiya Chapter 4, verse 6)

Earth is not flat but spherical in shape. This was discussed in the ancient Indian
astronomical text, Surya Siddhanta. Aryabhatta was the first to deduce that earth is
round. It must be mentioned that western science accepted that earth is spherical
only in the 14th century. Also it was Aryabhatta who first postulated that it is the
earth that rotates and the stars are stationary. This was about a 1000 years before
Copernicus. MINDTEXT
Courtesy: Awakening Indians to India

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
JAM 13

Qm2.
Name the Indian scholar who calculated
the speed of light accurately in 14th
century.

Send in your answers to:


edit@cpprindia.org

Answer to QM1. Sufi Amba Prasad

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
Public Eye 14

Agony
Dreams, gone past;
Like a train, so fast
On thy, will it ever cast;
Dreams, dreams gone past.

The day, I remember;


Out for a walk, I wondered,
The snow-covered peaks of the
Himalayas,
Outstretched endlessly.

So beautiful, a marvel;
Thou scenic beauty around.
God's creation ,spreads
Prayers,
Throughout Kashmir.

Then suddenly, I saw the thou


Atrocity;
A blast of the school bus,
Moved past me a few seconds
Before,
There was dead silence.

All was shocking,


The burnt corpses of the
Innocents,
The cries of the loved ones,
The intense pain lurking in every mind.

Dreams, gone past;


Like a train, so fast.
On thy, will it ever cast;
Dreams, dreams gone past.

-Haripriya Menon

Haripriya Menon is presently studying in 11th Std at St. Joseph's Convent, Tripunithura.
She is a member of Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK), the global youth wing of Chinmaya Mission. She writes poems,
stories, acts well and has very good oratorical skills too. Her prizes in the All Kerala Chinmaya Oratorical Competition
and Inter-School Shakespearean Drama Competition are testimonials of her excellence.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
15

The Message
of the Creator
Within the blink of an eyelid,
Within the twinkle of a star,
A life sprouts up and another dies out.

When the world is at a fast pace,


Where time and waves seems to hurry,
To know the meaning of life ,
To know the worth of life,
Just watch those beings!

A tiny body is all they possess,


And the two wings they shed,
As the only remains of a life,
Shorter than the short.

They come with rain,


All fresh and good,
And go with rain,
But never to return.

But still, if you notice,


They LIVE their life,
Arising from oblivion,
And returning to it.

Yet, making their presence felt!


Isn't this the beauty of life?
The message of the creator,
To the ones that complain?
-Ramya Krishnan

Ramya Krishnan is studying in 11th std. at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Tripunithura, Cochin.


She is associated with Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK), the global youth wing of Chinmaya Mission.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
16

The street named


“Life”
Walking down the street,
I see the bitter sweet.

Different races,
Different faces.

Some in them,
Some in others.

Some so bright,
Some so dim.

Some in hope,
Some in despair.

I see the bitter sweet,


Walking down the street…

- Vinu

T.V.Vinu is a final Year student of Govt. Law College, Ernakulam.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
Review 17

LSS Cochin - Review by Hariprasad R C -


Liberty & Society Seminar (LSS) is a four days workshop for college students conducted by
Centre for Civil Society (CCS). A number of LSSs are organized in different parts of India every year.
An LSS was organized at Cochin by Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) for CCS from Sept 21-24.
Forty students from different colleges within and outside Kerala actively took part in it. The
participants had a truly amazing experience at the Seminar. They were exposed to a whole new lot
of ideas concerning liberalism, public policy and civil society.
Given below is the experience of one of the LSS Grads:

LSS really was a completely new experience for me. Previously, I was interested in
these issues, but I quickly found out I knew next to nothing about them. The seminars were all
fascinating for me, as I felt my horizons expanding tremendously. On the first day, I was blown
away so much that all the ideas thrown about resulted in a bit of indigestion, literally! In spite
of all that, I certainly walked out of Ashirbhavan with a bit more stuff in my head than when I
had walked in.

I've learnt to look at things from an entirely new perspective. The field research
experience was brilliant and I'd never attempted anything remotely like it in my entire life.
And I was really impressed by the dedication of the CCS guys.

The seminars aside, what surprised me most was myself. Previously, I'd have a nervous
breakdown when confronted with any occasion of public speaking. But now, I'm so confident. I
look forward eagerly to every opportunity. I'm still mystified as to how this change came about
in just 4 days. MINDTEXT

Nityanand Rao
II DC Physics, S H College, Thevara.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
Tea-time Chat 18

In tune with
VIKRAM HAZRA
- Harishankar K.S. -

Vikram Hazra was born in Culcutta, but he never


lived there. Hazra lives in Mumbai and is a graduate in
Physics from IIT Mumbai. Later, he completed Post-
Graduation in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Interestingly he was a key player in the team which
introduced FM Radio in India, in the early 90`s. Hazra
turned to music only after becoming part of The Art Of
Vikram Hazra during Bhajan Sandhya Living movement. This self-taught musician now has 6
at Rama Varma Club, Cochin audio and 4 video spiritual albums to his credit.
The CPPR team met Hazra while he was in Cochin for an AOL program named “Bhajan
Sandhya”. A wide range of queries came from the CPPR friends, ranging from physics to
spirituality and music. He was passionate in answering them. He opined that physics helps one,
to have a sharp mind to analyze things. Some of the CPPR friends were skeptical in mixing
Western Rock with Spiritual Bhajans, but Hazra denied the ‘allegation’ and pointed out that it
was a misunderstanding. He said that all he did was to use an electric guitar while singing
bhajans. Hazra uses electric guitar in bhajans without taking the classical touch out from
them. In fact, Hazra has a fan club, the numbers running into thousands.

Hazra is a teacher of the AOL courses and was positive that the teachings of AOL were
simple for every person to absorb and enjoy. He shared some of his experiences with his
spiritual master H. H. Sri Sri Ravishankar.

Team CPPR in tea-time chat with Vikram Hazra

The most astonishing part of this tea-time chat came in the evening, when the team
was about to wind-up an hour long chat. Hazra recollected the name of each CPPR team
member who was present there and shook hands to say good-bye. It is to be noted that Hazra
had asked their names only once when the chat had begun. That was an amazing experience to
all the members of the team. Hazra invited the team CPPR to World Youth Conference to be
held in Bangalore, organized by International Association for Human Values (an association
promoted by the AOL). MINDTEXT
MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
RTI Corner 19

RTI
US,
UK AND
AUSTRALIA
- Aravind Menon -

For a democracy, freedom is 'oxygen' and for freedom information is


'lifeblood'. If democracy is to flourish, citizens must be passably informed.
Freedom of information is a human right. Several countries have given this
human right legislative protection. India, by passing Right to Information
Act, 2005, joined the ranks of selected countries who have adopted some
sort of legislation guaranteeing its citizens, 'freedom of information'.
Since, Right to Information Act have been subjected to detailed discussion
it will be irrelevant on my part to go into that. So, I will confine my
discussion to the position in US, UK and Australia, with respect to freedom
of information.

1.Freedom of Information Act, 2000, United Kingdom

The Freedom of Information Act, was approved on November 2000


after nearly 20 years of campaigning. This act gives its citizens, a general
right to access information held by a broad array of public authorities. In
United Kingdom, public authorities need to furnish information within 20
days from the date of receipt. Here an information can be withheld,
beyond 20days only when the public interest in maintaining the class or
prejudice exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Part II of
this act provides for two types of exemptions:

· Class Exemptions includes ministerial communications,


investigations, proceedings etc.

· Prejudice Exemptions like defense, international relations,


economy etc.

Like in India, where there is a provision for the appointment of a


Information Commissioner, Freedom of Information Act, 2000, provides for
a Information Commissioner. Since, British government has announced that
the implementation of this act will be on phases, the pace at which its
implementation ought to have taken placed has slowed down. So an open
code, 1994, “ Code of Practice on Access to Government Information”,
provides access to some government records subject to exceptions.
Besides, ' The Local Government ( Access to Information) Act 1985,
provided the public with information about local authorities, have been
extended to some other public bodies.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
20

1.Freedom of Information Act, 1966- United States of America

United States, who hails itself as the leader of the so called


'free world', was one of the first leading democratic countries to
have enacted a Freedom of Information Act, in 1966. The Act allows
any person or organization, regardless of citizenship or the country
of origin, to ask for records held by federal agencies. Freedom of
Information Act has been amended several times, most recently by
the Electronic Freedom of Information Act, which provides access to
records in electronic form, made on or before, November 1,
1996.The act make it mandatory for federal agencies to furnish
information within 20 working days. The act also provides nine
categories of exemptions, including national security, internal
agency, personal privacy etc. This act had an overwhelming public
response, to the effect that in 2000, there were nearly 2,235,201,
requests made to federal agencies.

But then came the worst terrorist attack on US soil on


September 11, 2001. This coupled with President Bush's policies
were serious setbacks for this act. Especially Andrew card's memo,
that there should be an immediate reexamination of current
measures for identifying and protecting the weapons of mass
destruction , so that this information won't be misused in future, and
the then US Attorney General John Ashcroft memo replacing the
'foreseeable harm' principle can be seen as serious setbacks to this
act. The creation of Department of Homeland Security, by The
Homeland Security Act. 2002, further restricted the scope of
information act.

Freedom of Information Act's glory reached its glory during


the time of 'The Watergate Scandal'. But several acts by the US
government in the pretext of ' War against Terror', ' National Security'
have severely undermined Information Act. The Pentagon's refusal
to reveal the identity of detainees in Guantanamo Prisons in Cuba,
led to a federal law suit to be filed by Associated Press. Now there are
reports that Federal government is trying to put restrictions on state
laws on freedom of information law, has made us to think, ' Has
Freedom of Information Act Lost its Power?'.

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
21
1.The Federal Freedom of Information Act, 1982- Australia

This act provides for access to documents held by commonwealth


agencies.This act mandates that information requests should be
furnished within 30 days. The act also provides for exemptions including
documents relating to national security, defence or relation with foreign
states. Documents regarding cabinet deliberation etc are also
exempted. Federal Information Act, provides for an 'internal review
process', which is handled by The Commonwealth Ombudsman. While
merit review, ie, appeals of adverse decisions is provided by the
Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Appeals on points of law is referred to
the Federal Court.

Comparison With Right to Information Act, 2005, India

Right to Information Act, 2005, is one of the youngest and


contemporary among the Freedom of Information legislations. The act
also manifests true spirit of 'freedom of speech and expression', and
'Right to life and personal liberty' guaranteed by Indian constitution.
Having hailed as 'hallmark of democracy' when it passed, it surely
incorporates all the important features, like Information even the
electronic information, Information Commissioner Etc. The act also
mirrors the socio-economic drawbacks which has been haunting our
population, and provides that only reasonable fees must be charged,
and in the case of people below the poverty line no fees will be charged.
But like most of other Freedom of Information Act's, RTI Act 2005 also
provides for some exemptions. But unlike other FOIA's who have become
the victim of 'War of Terrorism' , the effect of Right to Information Act,
2005 has been nominal.

Conclusion

A Right to Information Act will certainly be regarded as 'jewel in


the crown of a nation's constitutional reforms'. One of the prerequisites
of good governance is giving full cognizance to citizens' right to
information. In fact, right to information is central to all other rights.
Unless the right to access to information is guaranteed, other rights like
freedom of speech and expression will be rendered in fructuous. So
restricting a citizens right to know is the curtailment of his basic right,
what ever the excuse may be.MINDTEXT

Aravind Menon is a student of NUALS

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
UPCOMING
EVENTS
DEECEE YOUNG READERS FORUM
in association with
CENTRE FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH
Organises An Interactive session On
“ISLAM AND LITERATURE”
Time: At 3 pm On sunday, october 29, 2006
>>
Venue : Deecee Books Knowledge Leisure, Opp. YMCA, Chittoor road, Ernakulam
Panel :
Dr. Ummer Tharamel
(Renowned Author and Reader, School of Letters, Mahatma Gandhi University),
Vaikom Murali
(Well Known Writer and Critic)

CHAVARA CULTURAL CENTER and CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH


invite you to a seminar on
RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT AND KERALA SOCIETY
on November 1, 2006
This program is organised in connection with 50 th year of formation of Kerala

Program
5.10 pm: Welcome - Fr Robi Kannanchira CMI ( Director, Chavara Cultural Center, Kochi)
5.15 pm : Presidential Address - Retd. Justice M R Hariharan Nair ( High Court of Kerala)
5.25 pm : Talk on Right To Information Act and Kerala Society -
Mr P Faziludin (State Information Commissioner, Kerala)
6.10 pm : Submission of 50 RTI applications ( Reform Kerala through RTI)
6.15 pm : Discussion
7.00 pm : Vote of Thanks

ERNAKULAM PUBLIC LIBRARY in association with CENTRE FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH
conducts a discussion on
ONE YEAR OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT
Program Venue: : Public Library Hall, Ernakulam
Time : 5 pm Date : November 3, 2006

Program
5.10 pm - Welcome - Adv Ashok M Cherian ( Secretary, Ernakulam Public Library)
5.15 pm - Presidential Address - Adv Krishnanasan ( President, Ernakulam Library)
5.25 pm - Introducing One Year of RTI - Mr Jithin Paul Varghese ( Centre for Public Policy Research)
5.30 pm - Talk on One Year of RTI - Mr V V Giri ( Information Commissioner, Kerala)
6.15 pm - Discussion
6.45 pm - Conclusion

Enquiry: 9249784945, 9249755468, 9446666339

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06
REVERBERATIONS

Mind Text has a very attractive layout and is an engagingly


produced journal! It gives a very clear picture of the activities of
CPPR and its impact. It is great to see that you were part of the
large number of activists who opposed the amendment to the RTI
Act.
I would be remiss if I didn't pick on something for critical analysis.
I found that the tone of the various writings in the journal to be
too conventional, parroting the mainstream or often the left
perspective on issues without deliberate questioning of the
conventional wisdom from alternative points of views.

Parth J Shah
President, Centre for Civil Society

-End of Document-

MINDTEXT
OCTOBER ‘06