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MINDTEXT is published by CENTRE FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH Nadakavu Post, Vaikom Road, Cochin Kerala, India - 682 307 Editor : Athira A. Nair Design/Layout : T.V.Vinu MINDTEXT is published each month and distributed free of cost. For subscription, written requests should be addressed to email@example.com Articles or extracts from the CPPR material may be freely used elsewhere provided acknowledgment of their source is made. For other articles appearing in the journal, permission to re-publish other than for the use of review must be sought from the author. Views expressed in any signed aricle appearing in the MINDTEXT do not necessarily represent those of the Centre for Public Policy Research and CPPR accept no responsibility for them. Authors own responsibilty for their articles.
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2 EditorialTHE NATION!!! SALUTE
The Taj is back into the list of Seven Wonders. Athira A. Nair salutes the nation.
3 RAW GODS MUST BE CRAZY! THE
The religious indifference among the people. T.V.Vinu blames the Gods.
3 SPIRITUALITY SELF TRANSFORMATION 4 RAW PURSUIT OF AN ICON IN THE
Orkut', Abhishek Bachan, Rang De Basanti, Cell phones and YOU…are the finalist for MTV Youth Icon. Jithin Jayakrishnan takes alook at each of them.
CENTRE F O
5 RAW TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO
Abhayan V asks the question based on
what Shakespeare put forward ever so elegantly.
6 Movie Review IS BACK! POTTER MANIA
Next Potter movie is about to be released and Athira A.Nair is all so excited.
7 RTI Corner articles which appeared in A collection of
the media collected by Jithin Paul Varghese.
10 Upcoming Events
SALUTE THE NATION!!!
Taj Mahal is one among the 7 wonders of the world, at last!! After months of predictions and elections through internet and mobile phones, we have succeeded in winning the crown! As an event to be remembered in this century, the new 7 Wonders of the World were selected by votes from people all over the world. The world-wide election conducted by the Swiss-based New Open World Cooperation (NOWC) had wide participation from Indians too, which finally resulted in finding a place for the most famous monument of the country in the list of 7 wonders of the world. The election, thought not approved by UNESCO, was conducted by online voting and sending sms from mobile phones. Yet, we didn't fail to get our well-deserved place in the world tourism map. For that wonderful achievement, I give a big salute to the millions of my fellow country-men, for showing our strength and unity at the right time!!! Though NOWC claims that more than 100million votes were cast, there has been many criticisms about the new method. The election method reflected only the views of those who had access to the internet or telephones and included multiple votes that could be bought from NOWC by any individual, organization or government. Giving no information about any of the excluded votes didn't help either. But this helped many countries, including India, tout their finalist and try to get more votes cast for it, while others downplayed and criticized the contest. But we have no cause to complain. Taj Mahal, which was already listed as a world heritage site in 1983, described as a "universally admired masterpiece of world's heritage", has saved its neck in the election too. But, yes there is a 'but' again, as every coin's other side, while Taj topped the 7 wonders' list, there still remains the painful truth that India's most famous monument flanks a stinking, garbage-infested river, and is almost always enveloped by dust and smog from belching smokestacks and vehicles. Environmental pollution spurred by industry and automobiles has long been observed to be progressively destroying the Taj Mahal's white marble surface. Petitions of Indian environmentalists have led to a series of court challenges in the Indian Supreme Court and lower courts. The conflict has often pitted business and labour interests against environmentalists and preservationists as well as India's need to protect its cultural heritage versus its need to provide jobs for its citizens. Though the authorities have made several attempts to keep the area around the Taj Mahal pollution free, many blame the Government for the current mess. In Agra, homes, businesses and factories are left without electricity for hours every day, forcing many to depend on kerosene-operated generator sets, which number 40,000, for their power needs. Environmentalists and historians, worried that the soot and fumes will eventually turn the gleaming white Taj Mahal black, have raised an alarm for saving the monument. Even if one complains about all this fuss over Taj on one matter or the other, one can't simply ignore the fact that even the sex workers from Bihar and some rural places have campaigned for the inclusion of Taj Mahal in the "new seven wonders of the world list" by asking people to cast their vote for the monument of love. Not just that minority, even the music maestro of the country, A R Rahman, has given his bit to promote the 17th century monument. He has made a 'Taj Mahal Anthem' which is a beautiful one, to cheer Taj up in the Seven Wonders of the World. Sung by Rahman himself, accompanied by Karthik and Naresh Iyer, the song has already created a box-office record. Aishwarya Rai, former Miss World and Bolywod star, has made several campaigns for Taj even before months. I hope these sincere efforts won't go unnoticed by the authorities; I hope that though we can't bring back the beauty that Taj has already lost, at least the "Save the Taj Campaigns" will make us aware of the present situation and save our source of pride from an early death. So, with a cry to save the heritage of our country, which is a monument of eternal love, to save Mumtaz and Shahjahan's love story for the coming generations, let me make my step in the process… Salute the nation and Save Taj! - Athira A. Nair, Editor
MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007 2
THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY!
Religion is the reason, world is breaking down into pieces. Come back as Jesus, comeback and save the world. Come back as Rama, forgive us for what we have done. Come back as Allah, comeback as any one....* Gods must be crazy by now. That which is happening between earthlings is much shameful. In the international scenario one is being honoured for his literary work, which is blasphemous according to a religious community. They have set a prize money for his head (Its quite a fortune!). In India, another fine artist is on a painting spree, hurting the religious sentiments of another community. They are ready to kill him and have already burned him in effigy. And in the God's own country, the government is really messing up the things. Putting their dirty head into the affairs religious institutions and questioning the age old practices. The Constitution of India provides religious freedom for all individuals equally. All individuals can enjoy the freedom so far as they do not encroach upon another's freedom. But the interesting thing is that a religion is not individual, it is collective. A matter relating to a religion affect not one, but many. So the politicians are, most of the time, very cautious while handling religious matters. And most politicians encourage religious differences between the subjects. After all, the numbers count. Though all religious texts forbid violence, they are so interpreted or rather mis-interpreted as to instigate maximum rift between followers of other religions. The people who follow the Song of the Divine, fail to understand the concept of dharma. The people who hold the Quran as supreme, misinterpret jihad. And those who quote the Bible, fail to love thy neighbours as they love themselves. One has to note that those who are trying to protect their religion from others by killing one another, are destroying the sanctity of their religion and themselves. Religions, as far as I believe, is meant to make us more human. To make us disciplined. To make us love. To make us passionate. To make us forgive. To make us kind. To make us learn. To make us think. To make us...what we ought to be. Where did we err? They (the Gods) came to teach one thing, but what we learned from them is something else. I neither know the reason why everything is going haywire, neither do I know the solution to stop it all. The Gods themselves must be crazy by now, for they started it all....as Jesus, as Rama and as Allah. Time is the hero, time moves on, time never waits for anyone, Tell me when you'll be back, For that'll take some time, ...'am waiting....'am waiting yeah, i am waiting.....
*From the song “Krishna nee begane baaro” by Colonial Cousins The writer is a law student and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007
Spirituality quest (Sadhana) involves getting more and more attached to God and in the process; the seeker will disengage from the world of materialistic pursuits. The Supreme Being is within every being and hence one has to direct the search within. So eternal joy and peace can be discovered only within. While teaching the truth in the Bhagavata Gita, Lord Krishna pointed out to Arjuna that spiritual knowledge (Vijnana) He was imparting him would bring about a social transformation, "I shall unfold to you in its entirety this wisdom (knowledge of God in His absolute formless aspect) along with the knowledge of the qualified aspect of God (both with form and without form) having known which nothing else remains to be known." In his discourse, Swami Mitrananda once said spiritual knowledge transformed the seeker totally. The preceptor (Guru) is keen in his disciple's spiritual evolution and does not hold back anything from him. Partial instruction is possible while imparting other disciplines but not in spiritual knowledge for the Guru' love is selfless. This can be sent from the fact that the preceptor is revered as God Himself. On the part of the student, total surrender to his teacher is essential. This can be seen from Arjuna's words when he surrendered to Krishna saying,"Tell me that which is decidedly good; I am Your disciple. Pray instruct me, who have put myself into Your hands." That the Guru is gracious does not mean that a seeker can receive wisdom without any effort on his part. Though liberation is the birthright of every human being, the desire to pursue the spiritual path is intense only in a very few individuals. The seeker must be eager to find a Guru and to study under him. The Lord told Arjuna that He imparted the ancient wisdom to him because he was His devotee and friend, and that it was the supreme secret. A seeker must make himself worthy of receiving this supreme science (Self-knowledge) by his conviction in the scriptural goal and above all, service to his preceptor. The relationship between the Guru and disciple is unique.
Courtesy: THE HINDU, Kochi. Thursday, June 7, 2007. 3
RAW IN THE PURSUIT OF AN
By Jithin Jayakrishnan
Well, it's that time of the year again! What time? The time to get on your mobile phones or on to the internet and vote for who you think is India's youth icon. This is the fifth year running for the much hyped event that 'Pepsi' and Mtv have put together. Although, this year the contestants are a bit different than those of the yesteryears. On previous occasions, the contestants had always been living, breathing humans. This year though there is only one such contestant that has those attributes. For this year, the five finalists are 'Orkut', Abhishek Bachan, Rang De Basanti, Cell phones and YOU…confused?! Don't worry, so is everybody else. And also, this year around, each contestant will have one of Mtv's own vj's cheering them on. Apparently, this year, much thought was put into the selection of the final five. Mtv along with a private company, Third Eye Research, took a sample group of 15-24 years olds and tried to find out what interested them and what occupied them the most. With those parameters, one can clearly see how the finalists made it so far. Let's take contestant no.1, Orkut. If you don't know what it is and never heard about it before, you probably live up in the mountains or in the middle of a desert or somewhere as equally, remote, where the internet still hasn't penetrated. Orkut Bouykotten pioneered way back in the late 90's as a means of keeping in touch with friends. Well, that's exactly what you can do with Orkut. Find old friends, keep in touch and even make new ones. Although it must be sid that offensive content and terrorism-related communities are a dark scar on the face of such enterprises. Barring that, Orkut is a pleasant experience that one can savour. Skyrocketing membership is testimonial to this fact. Although other online communities like hi5, hikut or more desi ones like yaari.com have cropped up, Orkut is till the uno-numero. VJ Nikhil Chinappa who hosts such programs as super select perhaps gets the easiest job of rooting for his contest. Contestant no.2 is Rang De Basanti. This inspiring film is perhaps itched into the memory of every Indian who saw it. Starring Aamir Khan and Soha Ali Khan, this flick about a group of friends who avenge their friends death and their alter-egos from the past who are part of the Indian freedom struggle. Although the movie has a tragic finale, it has a capacity to inspire beyond measure. In fact, it was apparently so appealing, that it had the honour of competing against the world's best at the Oscars . Vj Cyrus Sahuke in charge for this one. The third contestant, the only living being in our countdown, is Bollywood's young prince Abhishek Bachan. You can't miss him! Every newspaper, every magazine, every tv show refers to him one in a while, whether it be his marriage to glam queen Aishwarya Rai or the success of movies such as guru, seems that he is in the news every other day. Perhaps this is the year that he has finally found it I himself to step out of the shadows of the magnanimous big b. hence, it is probably apt that has found himself on this list. Well, no second guessing who the ladies are going to vote for! Watch out, competition!!! Vj Sophie trying to win more hearts and more votes for AB junior. No.4 on the list is cell phone. These days you hardly find a living soul without one. Here in India, cell phone penetration has been deep and fast. With the 5 major operators, BSNL, Airtel, Hutch, Reliance and Idea, pulling out all the stops to get ahead of each other, one can hardly exist. The mobile phone today has moved past just the instrument that you use to make and recieve calls. It also doubles a music player, camera and what not!! It is the ultimate gadget. A prized possession. The manufacturers of mobile phones, in sync with the network operators, are not getting off each others backs. A new price range, a new feature, the competition keeps on growing. The result is that the mobile phone has become such an essential part of the culture; that it has come to symbolify even social status. Especially to the youth, mobile phones are indispensable part of their life. For them, life without mobile phones is probably like being cast way. VJ Anusha Dandekar is canvassing for the tiny handhelds. To wrap up the list, we have to look a contestant no.5. Why, or on what basis this contestant was selected as a finalist is a mystery of galactic proportions. Well, just for argument's sake, lets just say that you think you deserve to be the youth icon, people everywhere should look up to, go ahead get online and vote! Vj Ran Vijay in charge of this one tough luck, dude! Tough luck!
MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007 4
The change from 'personality-led' to anything has drawn much scorn from critics across the country. Describing the list with such colourful words such as dumb, crazy and insane they have not gone easy on the organisers.Speaking to the press during the launch of the launch of the hunt in Mumbai, Mr. Ashish Patel, the vice president of Mtv India defended the finalists by saying. "This is one property that recognizes what's hooking the Indian youth's imagination today." Whatever you say Mr.Patil! Well, have you started thinking about who you are going to vote for? Already have an idea? Then, don't jus sit there. Get online, go o mtvindia.com and vote! You can also vote through your mobile phones. Lucky winners may even win a Ford Icon. All the more incentive, Just make sure your votes are in before 29th June, on which date the competition will close. One thing is that this year's nominees have caused a flurry of interest in India's youth. It's up to them now as to who they choose as their icon. With previous winners such a Rahul Dravid, M.S.Dhoni and SRK, will Abhishek Bachan sweep it this time? Or will one of the others manage to pull off an amazing victory? As for me, I have made my mind up. Have you?
TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE
By Abhayan V
It is human nature to believe. We believe blindly without reason, we believe that we don't believe in anything. We believe with reason and contemplation and we all believe to believe. We believe in too many things than we can possibly account or stand up for. We believe in love, life, all the subtle emotions that fall in between and also in God and in a religion. Having said that we don't know why we believe in a religion. God can be explained by saying that there is always a higher power that we choose to call God and so we believe. But why religion? Some say it's the gateway to that higher power, some say it is permanent and cannot be questioned and even further some say that it is what guides us. Does it really guide us? Does it guide us along the path written down in the holy books of whatever religion we follow? Or does it make a way for us to follow whatever way we want and then lay the guides along that way? I am not going to talk about that more and take an unnecessary moralistic high stand considering that's not what the topic is all about. Now saying that you believe in a religion is okay. But the truth is, most of us do not know why we believe in what we believe. We follow what has been passed on to us from our previous generations. So we are blindly following what has been imposed on us through generations of belief that no one knows why or how it came to be so. Once a child is born, he/she is given a name that his/her parents follow and from that moment onwards, he/she is a "follower" of that religion. So, ask yourself, what would you have been had you no parents to name you and no one to guide you and show you a religion. Would you not believe at all? Or would you have found a way to understand your beliefs and question them and then know what and why you believe? It is not mandatory to question your beliefs or everything that you do, but it would serve a greater purpose if you knew why you believe. So are we following a mundane path with no way to self-righteous glorification? Considering what religion has become today and considering what it makes people do today to assert that their religion is greater than all other, a reason for your beliefs and deep understanding of why religions even exist can make a difference. But again, who would want to question your religion or your beliefs and then come to know that what we have believed for all this while was a defunct? Who would want to find a reason for something that is deeply imprinted in the hearts of men and risk the wrath of men who won't take reason to heart? Who would want to know that, we keep turning to something in our most desperate time of need looking for comfort and protection only to find ourselves staring at the mired reflection of what we've created, eating away the world ever so slowly?
MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007 5 3
How many people believe, and rightly so, that religion is a conviction or absolute belief that doesn't change with time or any other metamorphic changes in our life? A belief far above what we have made it out to be today. Today religion is following what the elders or the authorities of a group say even if that doesn't coincide with the teachings or the written down principles of what they consider to make their group coherent. Today religion is an excuse to hide behind for every government, for every corporation and for each and every one of us when something that's beyond the boundaries of human tolerance happen. It isn't a belief anymore. It is the perception of belief that makes it absolute and beyond everybody. Very few people hold on to it for its virtue and too many hold on to it for personal gratification. If God has told us to live peacefully the same religion gives us a reason to fight for supremacy of that God. So does that mean we shouldn't believe anymore? And that's the time, aptly, to ask that question based on what Shakespeare put forward ever so elegantly. The answer depends on a person's willingness to accept reality and to know that there is more to some beliefs than we can contemplate and that believing blindly is not the answer. To believe or not to believe is the question!
By Athira A. Nair
Harry Potter is flicking his magic wand again! With the release of the fifth movie in the series, "Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix" on July 11th, and the seventh and final book on the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" which is due to release on July 21st, the fans of 'Harry Potter' are more than excited at the moment. The announcement of the release of the final book has sent millions of fans across the map into a frenzy of excitement and anxiety about the end of the series. Joanne Katherine Rowling aka JK Rowling, author of this fantastic children's classic said recently that she has 'killed' two very important characters in the 7th book. This statement has given even the adult fans of 'Harry Potter' something to wonder about,"Will Harry be murdered?" It has been a decade since the first Harry Potter book hit the stores, as just another children's book written by the little-known author, J K Rowling. But the readers gave Potter a chance. Joanne Katherine Rowling had created history by the story of the wizard kid. Jo, who was trying hard to adjust with her poor financial condition at that time, is the richest woman writer in the world today…richer even than the queen!! Even the publishers of HP ('Bloomsbury' in UK and 'Scholastic' in US) have admitted that they have gained trillion dollars from the story of the Potter boy. Jo admits that if it wasn't for Barry Cunningham, who was then working for 'Bloomsbury', Harry Potter might still be languishing in his cupboard under the stairs. Though the struggling young writer was warned that she was unlikely to make any money from her tale of the teenage wizard, Potter sagas have been sold more than 325 million copies worldwide, and made Rowling, the first billion dollar writer in the world! Most of the fans round the globe confess that they have read each book in the series more than three times. What is it that holds the readers so close to this tale about the wizards? Kids who are crazy about 'Harry Potter' say they are ready to do anything to go to a school like Hogwarts and learn those spells and wand movements to do magic. But the adult fans take a different angle; they say that more than just the magical spells and events, Rowling has also written the importance of bravery, friendship, and above all, love, in our life. In the story, Harry is protected from the dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, by the powerful bond of protection given to him by his mother. She died to save Harry and that bond of love helps him survive. Harry's best friends, Ron and Hermione, are always with him in his quest to destroy Voldemort and save the whole wizarding population from the hands of this dark wizard, by risking even their lives. 'Harry Potter' has thus given a space to signify the maintaining the values in our lives. Readers are keener about reading the new book than about the movie; obviously because the former is the final piece of 'magic' from Rowling. Still, the movie is bound to score another record, with its well-trained actors and creative direction. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson who play Harry, Ron and Hermione respectively, have grown up from the 10-year-old kids in the first movie to brave, challenging teenagers in the fifth movie. Even the adult fans of 'Harry Potter' admit that these actors have been their heart throbs right from the first movie itself. Watson, who topped the list of top25 celebrities in 2005, Radcliffe, who is the richest teenager in UK and Grint, who has won many awards for his performance as Ronald Weasley, has turned out to be the sweethearts of millions of 'Harry Potter' fans round the globe.
MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007 6
It will not be incorrect to say that Rowling's pen has created not just a series of books, but a global phenomenon. 'Harry Potter' has succeeded in spurring renewed interest in children's literature among the adults, by providing a convenient entry point by which to go back to reading children's literature. The effect of "Harry Potter" is so profound that, today, it is tougher to get a children's book publish than a main-stream adult novel; because the competition in the children's fiction segment has shot up to an unbelievably high extent. One will probably never know what end Rowling has intended for her characters. Still it will be fun to read if the final book would end in a big death or something as shocking. Jo, who has found her place among the most entertaining writers of the century, says it will be an entirely different world for her once the Harry Potter saga ends. But she won't give a clue as to what's going to happen to Harry's world. Readers all over the world are waiting with an abated breath to know if Harry will be killed, or destined to survive, defeating the Dark Lord. Fan fictions and spoilers are available all over the internet. Anyway, the true fans of 'Harry Potter' all over the world are ready to wait till the 21st of July, to know what's going to happen to Harry and his friends. Till then, "Mischief Managed"!!!
RTI CORNER Kashmir to lift veil on government data except for human rights issue
Source : www.livemint.com , Thu, Jul 12 2007
New Delhi: Kashmir, which has been a theatre of conflict for decades and recently dubbed the second most corrupt state in the country, may, for the first time, guarantee its citizens access to government records, like the rest of the country. The state government is planning to strengthen the Right To Information (RTI) regime by setting up a dedicated State Information Commission, pruning the exempted documents list and giving citizens access to even Cabinet decisions and file notings. "We plan to make significant changes in the RTI Act in order to widen its scope and ensure accountability," says Khurshid A. Ganai, principal secretary to the Jammu and Kashmir government. However, security agencies and the defence forces stationed in the strife-torn state, which have on many occasions been accused of human rights violations, are likely to be exempt from the updated Act.Kashmir is the only state in the country where the RTI regime has not worked as the existing Act does not even provide for a dedicated information commission. The state's move is expected to beef up the now watered down version of the RTI Act used in the state, and to set in place a machinery that will hold bureaucrats accountable for supplying information sought by citizens. Some senior politicians in the state, however, want the new RTI regime to be of help in cases of human rights violations as well. "We have additional problems of human rights violations and people disappearing across the state. It will be great if people start asking for information and if the state is forced to become accountable (in such cases) and on deployment of funds, etc.," says Mehbooba Mufti, the Peoples' Democratic Party president who represents Anantnag in the Lok Sabha. In the three years since the Act was implemented, only 50 RTI applications have been received by officers in charge and controlling officers of various departments in the state. In comparison, the Central Information Commission (CIC), in the last two years alone has received over 4,000 cases and state commissions in Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Mahrashtra, for example, have received thousands of cases each. "It is ridiculous as a government servant (in Kashmir) can just sit on the RTI application and do nothing," says an official with the CIC, whose expertise was sought to prepare a draft Bill by the Jammu and Kashmir government. The Central RTI Act, which came into force in 2005, extends to all parts of the country except Jammu and Kashmir due to its special constitutional status. The legislation passed by the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, the Jammu and Kashmir RTI Act, 2004, is weak as it has no provisions to hold erring information authorities accountable and does not stipulate penalties. Under the present Jammu and Kashmir Act, authorities can even reject requests for information on the ground that collection of the information would cost considerable expense and time.
MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007
According to Ganai, a draft Bill has been prepared to amend the RTI Act. "It will be soon sent to the Cabinet and, if approved, will be put up before the assembly in the coming session," he said. The Bill is expected to change nomenclature of the RTI officers and also cut down on the long list of documents that are exempt. The attempt, says Ganai, is to bring the state Act "in line with the Central Act," with one exception. As per the Central Act, applications pertaining to security agencies and the defence forces, who are usually exempt from the Act, can be accepted if they pertain to human rights violations. “However, we have not included any specific provision to allow for human rights related petitions as we already have the state human rights commission in place to take care of such cases," Gani said. Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the move to strengthen the RTI regime in Kashmir was a significant milestone". According to him, a state information commission in Kashmir can go a long way in improving transparency in the state. According to the Congress MP from Jammu, Madan Lal Sharma, the state's chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has recently highlighted that, of the Rs.5,500 crore Central assistance given to the state, only about Rs1,000 crore has been used. Said Sharma: "Soon, people will be able to keep track of the various schemes and measures implemented by the government using RTI."
Disclose Netaji panel papers, CIC tells MHA
New Delhi, July 5 : The Central Information Commission on Thursday directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to disclose relevant papers relating to commission of inquiry set up to probe death of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose within three months. The complainant asked for certified copies of all documents exhibited before the Netaji Inquiry Committee of 1956, constituted under the Chairmanship of Shah Nawaz Khan, and the One-man Commission of Inquiry, constituted under the Chairmanship of Justice G D Khosla, to inquire into the circumstances leading to the disappearance of Netaji. However, the information was denied by the MHA on the grounds that the documents were sensitive, the public disclosure of which may lead to serious law and order problem in the country, especially in West Bengal. Moreover, the information asked for is more than 20 years old and thus its disclosure is exempted under the RTI Act. They also submitted that the committee appointed to go into the disappearance part of Netaji has come to the conclusion that Netaji died in an air crash. The report was tabled before Parliament and is in public domain and thus the Government didn't hide anything. However, rejecting these contentions of the MHA, the Commission said, "The RTI was enacted to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The Act recognises that disclosure of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests which may include preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information. A public authority is obliged to provide access to information to a citizen unless furnishing of such information is covered by one of the exemptions provided for in the Act ." "The Commission is aware of the fact that this is a matter of wide public concern and therefore of national importance. We accept that the MHA is the best judge to determine whether the disclosure of the information would prejudicially affect the national interest or not. However, such determination cannot, and should not, be superficial. Any decision to withhold information from public access is to be justified rationally, under the provisions of the Act," the order stated. The Commission also recommended that the MHA should examine these records of national importance and send them to the National Archives as early as possible.
NRIs in US get access to RTI
Source : www.ndtv.com
Thursday, July 5, 2007 (Washington DC) Since October 2005 the RTI Act has been extensively used in India to obtain information from Government offices Now nearly two years on, the Embassy of India in Washington DC has implemented the Right to Information bringing its operations fully under the Act's purview. This means, any Indian citizen with a valid Indian passport can now file an RTI application to the Public Information Officer at the Indian Embassy by paying a fee of 24 cents.
MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007
Battling corruption A software programmer based in Maryland, Arun Gopalan has been in the US for three years now. However, he still keeps abreast of the news in India especially that of the enactment of the Right to Information Act in 2005. ‘'The RTI act was implemented in India in October 2005 and at that time I was here and I was sort of feeling left out because anti-corruption has been an issue that has always been close to my heart. I have always wanted to do something about it,'' said ArunGopalan, Member, Association for India's Development. Thanks to the efforts of RTI activists in the United States, now Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) like Arun who live in America can also exercise the Right to Information (RTI). In April this year, after months of campaigning by RTI activists from India and America, the Central Information Commission issued an order bringing the Indian embassy in Washington DC under the purview of the RTI Act, 2005 ''The RTI act has now been implemented at the embassy of India in Washington. Any Indian national based in the United States, this applies to NRIs too, and who are based here can apply for information under this Act,'' said Rahul Chhabra, Public Information Officer, Indian embassy, Washington DC Reaching out The RTI Act 2005 empowers Indian citizens to question government decisions, and makes it mandatory for the government to disclose all information pertaining to those decisions. Arun was one of the first NRIs living in America to file an RTI application. Ironically, his application raised questions about what the embassy was doing to make NRIs in America aware of their new rights. ''The RTI Act was implemented by the Indian embassy but what was happening was that this information was not reaching the people it was supposed to. That is basically the NRI population here in the US. So I filed an application with the embassy asking them when this information was going to be available on the web site, who was responsible for it and whether they had set up a time frame by when it was expected to be up. And boom the next day the information was up on the website,'' said Arun Gopalan, Member, Association for India's Development. Over a dozen RTI applications have been filed over the last month here at the embassy in Washington DC. RTI activists are now taking inspiration from America's Freedom of Information Act. In 2005, over 20 million Freedom of Information Act requests were processed here in the US and activists are now hoping to see a similar support for India's Right to Information Act from Indians living here in the United States.
Loss of faith: CIC directs GB Pant Hospital to change surgeon of patient who filed RTI
New Delhi, July 02: THE Central Information Commission (CIC) today asked GB Pant Hospital authorities to change the cardiac surgeon of a patient, who alleged she had lost faith in the doctor after he was irked by her RTI applications. The patient, Jameela, alleged that the surgeon was annoyed at her and her son, Javed, for filing RTI applications regarding the treatment. The CIC, noting that "a treatment of this nature requires complete trust between doctor and patient, which is entirely absent in the present case," directed that Dr Satsangi be replaced. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah also directed the CPIO Dr NR Laskar CMO to report back to the Commission within a week about the action taken in pursuance of the direction. In her complaint to the CIC, Jameela alleged that the surgeon had ordered his peon to throw her son out of his chamber and "sarcastically said that only the RTI would operate on his mother". Jameela is a below poverty line (BPL) card holder, and had filed an RTI application with the state-run hospital in May seeking information about the rules for free treatment of those belonging to BPL category. After undergoing angiography tests to detect a blockage in her arteries, Jameela wanted to know the exact date of her surgery for coronary arteries bypass grafting (CABG). The hospital authorities provided her the information sought but failed to ensure her free treatment, forcing her to make another RTI application. When Jameela's son approached the surgeon concerned after getting the hospital's response to her applications, he was allegedly humiliated, prompting her to approach the CIC with a complaint.
Articles collected by Jithin Paul Varghese. He is the RTI Campaign Coordinator for CPPR MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007 9
July 18, 2007
Jeevika – A Livelihood Documentary Festival
Department Of Social Work in association with Centre for Public Policy Research organizes Jeevika – A Livelihood Documentary Festival at Rajagiri college, Ernakulam on July 18, 2007 at 4 pm.
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MINDTEXT | Volume-2 Issue-6 | June 2007