5 Years of ‘Right to Information’ Legislation

 

सूचना का अधिकार और आम आदमीपांच साल के बाद
हेमन्त गोस्वामी

 

पिछले पांच वर्षों में काफी लोग यह तो जान गए हैं कि सूचना प्राप्त करने का कोई अधिकार है पर ज्यादातर अभी भी नहीं जानते कि सूचना कैसे मिलती है और उसके लिए क्या प्रावधान है। नतीजतन आबादी का एक बड़ा हिस्सा अभी भी अपने अधिकार का प्रयोग नहीं कर पा रहा है। इसका एक बड़ा कारण है कि सरकार अपने कर्त्तव्य का निर्वाह नहीं कर रही है। सूचना के अधिकार धिनियम 2005 के अंतर्गत सरकार का यह उत्तरदायित्व था कि वह सूचना अधिकार अधिनियम के बारे में जन साधारण को जागरूक करे। सरकार का यह भी दायित्व था कि जनपद के लिए सूचना प्राप्त करना सुलभ बनाये। सरकार इसमें पूरी तरह से विफल हुई है। ना-कामयाबी का यह आलम है कि सूचना अधिकार विधान के सेक्शन 4(1 ) के सारे प्रावधान आज पांच साल बाद भी क्रियान्वित नहीं हो पाए हैं। सेक्शन 4(1)(), (सी) और (डी) भाग के अनुसार सरकार का फ़र्ज़ है कि हर ज़रुरी दस्तावेज़ बिना किसी के माँगे जनता को उपलब्ध कराये और उसे इन्टरनेट पर भी डाले। यह भी अनिवार्य है की हर वह फैसला जिससे जनता या कोई व्यक्ति या समुदाय विशेष प्रभावित होता हो उसके सारे दस्तावेज़ बिना किसी के माँगे उपलब्ध करवाए और उस फैसला लेने का घटनाक्रम और कारण जनता से सांझा करे। अफ़सोस यह सारे नियम केवल काले अक्षर बन कर किताबों में बंद पड़ें है और इसको लागू करने की सरकार की कोई मंशा नज़र नहीं रही है। बावजूद इसके पिछले पांच साल में भ्रष्टाचार रोकने और उजागर करने में सूचना अधिकार का अहम् योगदान रहा है। 

 

क्या है सूचना का अधिकार?

सरकार हमारे पैसे से चलती है और समानता से सर्वहित में हमारे पैसे का सदुपयोग करना ही सरकार के अस्तित्व का आधार है। ऐसे में हमारी सरकार चलाने वाले हमारे चुनिंदा लोग अपने कर्त्तव्य से पथ-भ्रष्ट ना हों इसके लिए उनका जनता को जवाबदेही होना जरूरी है। अपने टैक्स के पैसे का हिसाब मांगने और उससे होने वाले काम का ब्योरा जानने का अधिकार हर आम आदमी के पास होना किसी भी सफल गणतंत्र के लिए ज़रूरी है। यह भ्रष्टाचार पर भी लगाम लगाने का एक आसान उपाय हो सकता है। सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम 2005 इस मंशा से ही लागू हुआ था। इस कानून के अंतर्गत कोई भी व्यक्ति सरकार के किसी भी विभाग या सरकार के पैसे से चलने वाले किसी भी संस्थान से कोई भी सूचना और दस्तावेज़ प्राप्त कर सकता है।  सूचना के आवेदक को इसके लिए कोई कारण बताने कि आवश्यकता नहीं है। केवल एक साधारण कागज़ पर अपना नाम पता और वांछित जानकारी और दस्तावेज़ों की सूची लिख कर दस रुपये के साथ सम्बंधित विभाग के सूचना अधिकारी को जमा करवानी है। कानून के मुताबिक वह जानकारी और दस्तावेज़ उस व्यक्ति को 30 दिन के भीतर उपलब्ध करवाना उस विभाग के सूचना अधिकारी की ज़िम्मेदारी है। सूचना ना मिलने पर अपील करने का प्रावधान है, जिसके लिए कोई पैसे नहीं लगते और ही किसी वकील की ज़रूरत है। सूचना ना देने कि सूरत में सूचना अधिकारी को 25000 तक का जुर्माना लगाने का नियम है।

 

कहाँ विफल हुआ है  सूचना का अधिकार?

यद्यपि सरकार की अनुचित गोपनीयता कि नीति के मुकाबले आधा अधूरा सूचना का अधिकार भी बड़ी जीत सा प्रतीत होता है लेकिन सच तो यही है कि सूचना प्राप्त करना आज भी एक लम्बी लड़ाई जैसा है। इसका एक बड़ा कारण यह है कि केवल सरकार के पिट्ठू ही इन्फोर्मेशन कमिशनर  के रूप में नियुक्त होते है। इन्फोर्मेशन कमिशनर कि नियुक्ति में किसी भी तरह की कोई पारदर्शिता नहीं है। यह संविधान के अनुच्छेद 14 , 15 और 16 कि सीधी सीधी अवमानना है। ऐसे में वह इन्फोर्मेशन कमिशनर जो सिफारिश और राजनीती कि वजह से नियुक्त हुए है वह अपने सरकारी आकाओं के हक़ में फैसले लेने से नहीं चूकते। इसका एक प्रमाण है कि कई इन्फोर्मेशन कमिशनर आज पांच साल बाद भी दोषी सूचना अधिकारी को जुर्माना लगाने से परहेज़ करते हैं। सरकार सूचना के अधिकार को आम लोगो तक ले जाने में भी बुरी तरह नाकामयाब हुई है। जहाँ सूचना के लिए बने इन्फोर्मेशन कमीशन का फ़र्ज़ था कि सूचना प्राप्त करने कि बाधा को ख़तम करे वहां इन्फोर्मेशन कमीशन ने गैर ज़रूरी नियम और नियमावली बना डाली। नतीजतन आम आदमी के लिए जानकारी प्राप्त करना और भी कठिन हो गया। कानून के तहत गरीब आदमी को सूचना मुफ्त देने का प्रावधान है पर 5 सालों में इसके केवल इक्का दुक्का ही उदाहरण है। न्यायतंत्र भी पारदर्शिता से घबराया हुआ है और अभी तक  न्यायालयों का भी पूरा सहयोग राष्ट्र को नहीं मिल पाया हैं।

 

कहाँ सफल हुआ है  सूचना का अधिकार?

सूचना के अधिकार ने सामाजिक कार्यकर्ताओं के हाथ में भ्रष्टाचार से लड़ने में चंडी के हथियार सा काम किया है। अनेक बाधाओं के बावजूद ऐसे कई उदाहरण है जहा आम आदमी सरकार के भ्रष्टाचार और कई गैर कानूनी गतिविधियों का पर्दाफ़ाश करने में कामयाब रहा है। इस वजह से कई बार सरकार अपनी गलत नीतियाँ बदलने पर मजबूर भी हुई है और अनेक मामलों में सीबीआई और CVC भी केस दर्ज करने पर मजबूर हुई है। उदाहरण के लिये रेड क्रोस में भ्रष्टाचार का खुलासा सूचना के अधिकार के प्रयोग से ही हुआ। चंडीगढ़ में कई करोड कि ज़मीन के घोटालों का पर्दाफ़ाश हो या चंडीगढ़ को स्मोक फ्री सिटी बनाने का प्रयोग हो, सब सूचना के अधिकार के कारण ही हुआ है। हजारों ऐसे उदहारण हैं जहाँ लोगो ने अपने साथ हुए अन्याय से लड़ने के लिए सूचना के अधिकार का कामयाबी से प्रयोग किया हे। मामला चाहे अपने डिपार्टमेंट में प्रोमोशन का हो या अपने सहकर्मी द्वारा अपने पद के दुरुपयोग का हो, सरकारी कर्मचारियों ने भी सूचना के अधिकार का खूब सफलतापूर्वक प्रयोग किया है। इसमें कोई शक नहीं है कि सोते हुए अफसरों को जगाने के लिए सूचना का अधिकार एक कारगर उपकरण साबित हुआ है।

 

यहाँ से आगे का सफ़र

भ्रष्ट अधिकारी सूचना के अधिकार के प्रयोग से विचलित हैं। वह हर संभव कोशिश कर रहें हैं जिससे इस अधिनियम में बदलाव लाया जा सके। ज़ाहिर है कि जो भी व्यक्ति सूचना छुपाने का काम करता है उसके भ्रष्टाचार में लिप्त  होने की पूरी सम्भावना है।  सहजतः पारदर्शिता जनहित में हैं और गोपनीयता भ्रष्ट अधिकारियों के हित मैं है। ऐसे में हर नागरिक का कर्त्तव्य है कि वह सतर्क रहे और सूचना के अधिकार को कमज़ोर करने के किसी भी प्रयास को सफल होने दे।  सूचना का अधिकार भारत के संविधान के अनुच्छेद 19  में दिए अभिव्यक्ति के अधिकार का ही हिस्सा है और इसके पूर्ण रूप से लागू होना केवल जनहित मैं है बल्कि यह हमारे राष्ट्र और संविधान को सबल और सशक्त बनाने का मार्ग भी सुगम करेगा। रास्ता कठिन और कंटकमय ज़रूर है पर  दिशा सही नज़र रही है।
 
हेमन्त गोस्वामी एक सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता हैं और कई गैर सरकारी संस्थानों से जुड़े हुए हैं आप हेमन्त से ई-मेल hemant@rightto.info पर संपर्क कर सकते है

 

Metro for Chandigarh – A sure way to disaster

Whosoever said that “The road to hell is paved with bricks of good intention,” knew how the masses can be manipulated into thinking that they will benefit if a particular idea is executed. Metro for Chandigarh is just another example of misleading and manipulating the common people for gains other than public welfare.

The first thing that goes into planning of MRTS (Mass Rapid Transport System) is to understand the extent of congestion, the existing walkability within the city and an appreciation of the fact, as to whether the capacity of the surface transport has been exhausted to its limits. Interestingly, according to the ‘Ministry of Urban Development’ official report, Chandigarh has zero (0) congestion index, which is the least in the country. Chandigarh also has the highest walkability index of 0.91 in the entire country. We have still not exhausted our surface transport options. The “City Bus Transport Supply Index (CBTSI)” for Chandigarh is just 17.54, which is quite low for organised cities of this size. For example, the CBTSI for Trivandrum is 20, Madurai is 42.7, Hyderabad is 31, Chennai is 39, Delhi is 43, Kolkata is 26. A mere perusal of this data shows that there is no requirement for Metro or Monorail in Chandigarh. 

Global studies and experience has shown that Metro is a desirable option only for high density corridors and with long trip length of an average of more than 14Km. In Chandigarh the average journey time using private mode of transport is between 5 minutes to 17.5 minutes. This reflects that the majority of the trips generated in the city are short trips in the order of 2.5 to 9.6 km in length. In Chandigarh nearly 71 percent of the motor vehicle is two-wheelers. Around 83 percent of all trips are those work trips which are accessible in 15 minutes time. Clearly Metro is not a feasible option on this count too.

Another thing to be considered for feasibility of Metro is the “Per Hour Peak Direction Trips (PHPDT),” which is the average number of people in any particular area (corridor) travelling during the peak traffic time. While rejecting the proposal of Metro for Chandigarh, the eleven membered committee set up by the Central Government to asses an appropriate MRTS for the region mentioned that, “Whatever be the merits of a conventional metro system, whether below or above the ground or on the surface, such a mode is justified only when the demand is 60-70,000 PHPDT.” In case of Chandigarh the maximum traffic demand estimated by the year 2041 is 30,000 PHPDT, which does not justify spending public money on Metro. Even the Metro expert E. Sreedharan has rejected the option of Metro for Chadnigarh. 

The cost of constructing and running Metro too must be considered. Even if part financing comes from the central government, still Chandigarh will have to spend over a couple of thousand Crores for the construction alone. One of the options given by the officials (and the 2009 RITES report) is that, “Funds are proposed to be retained through property development, i.e. sale of Commercial plots in Chandigarh, the property/ plots earmarked for this purpose may be transferred by the Chandigarh Administration.”  This is sure way to disaster. Not only will this disturb the entire planning of Chandigarh but it will then bring in disastrous chaos as a result of the new commercial plots put for sale for constructing Metro. The miseries will not end here, besides the initial development cost of Rs. 150 crores per km. there would be a prohibitive recurring cost of running the Metro, which means, that the public has to bear the losses from year-to-year even if the average trip cost is kept at Rs. 50 compared to Rs. 10 for a bus-ride. 

Instead of wasting thousands of Crores on Metro, Chandigarh must use a bus based rapid transport system which is capable of carrying 30,000 PHPDT very comfortably. (See the table) Most of the chaos created in Chandigarh is mainly because of not following the Master Plan made by Le Corbusier, disturbing the sanctity of ‘Chandigarh’s periphery’ shifting of the bus-stand and plying the buses irrationally. If viable, rational, reliable, effective and fast bus transport system is given to the people of Chandigarh, it would be easily able to meet the cities need for another 40 years. 

Many bureaucrats are proposing Metro for Chandigarh just because they see good money and spill-over coming to them through sale of land, showrooms and contracts executed in the name of Metro. Bureaucrats, who are spending public money on reports and consultants to push the idea for Metro in Chandigarh after two successive committees of the Central Government have said that Metro for Chandigarh is not feasible, are wasting public resources besides cheating the public.

Hemant Goswami

Can the Gandhi’s come clean on it? – India needs an answer

It was a chance meeting with Dr. Subramanian Swamy yesterday (May 6th, 2009) at Chandigarh which gave me the opportunity to clarify certain important issues I have been reading over the last couple of years. He was here to canvass for one of the candidates in the election. I thought I could get some time to discuss certain other important matters too on which he has moved the Apex court, including the Section 6-A of DSP Act case. However in the chaos of the political canvassing, I could not get more than 5 minutes of his and that too with unkind interventions.

Still, this was enough for me to seek his clarification on the allegations he had levied on the Gandhi family (And on which he had also filed a Civil Writ Petition in the Delhi High Court) about the billions of Dollars of unaccounted wealth in the Swiss account of Rajiv Gandhi. “Of course that’s true, I stand by it and I can prove it!” was the immediate reply of Dr. Swamy.

No doubt’ I had gone trough a scanned photocopy of a German/Swiss magazine alleging (way back in 1990’s) that Rajiv Gandhi had a Swiss account with billions stacked in there. There was further allegation that the money in that account primarily came through a foreign intelligence agency.

The Article from the Switz Newsmagazine

The Article from the Switz Newsmagazine

One could rubbish many of such articles had they not been strengthened with further allegations on the Gandhi family. There are many rumours even about Rahul Gandhi being caught at the Boston airport (USA) with a female of Colombian origin along with a few hundred thousand US$ unaccounted money in cash. It is alleged that he was detained by FBI for 9 hours. Dr. Swamy further alleges that on one occasion his fee for the Harward School came through a bank transfer from Cayman Islands (A bigger tax heaven than Switzerland). Even if the allegation that he got admitted in Harward’s as a result of payments by the Hinduja’s is not taken seriously; this allegation in itself is very serious.

During my independent research, I also came across writing on the internet, purportedly written by Dr. Swamy under the title “Do You Know Your Sonia? By Dr. Subramanian Swamy.”

The writing reads, [QUOTE] “After her marriage to Rajiv, the Soviet connection with the Mainos was fortified and nurtured by generous financial help through commissions and kickbacks on every Indo,Soviet trade deal and defence purchases. According to the respected Swiss magazine, Schweitzer Illustrate [November 1991 issue], Rajiv Gandhi had about $ 2 billion in numbered Swiss bank accounts, which Sonia inherited upon his assassination. Dr. Yevgenia Albats, Ph.D [Harvard], is a noted Russian scholar and journalist, and was a member of the KGB Commission set up by President Yeltsin in August 1991. She was privy to the Soviet intelligence files that documented these deals and KGB facilitation of the same. In her book, The State Within a State. The KGB in Soviet Union, she even gives the file numbers of such intelligence files, which can now be accessed by any Indian government through a formal request to the Kremlin.

The Russsian Government in 1992 was confronted by the Albats’ disclosure; they confirmed it through their official spokesperson to the press [which was published in Hindu in 1992], defending such financial payments as necessary in “Soviet ideological interest”. [UNQUOTE]

The same article further read; [QUOTE] “But Sonia Gandhi has been more discreet, but as greedy, in her looting of Indian treasures. When Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were Prime Ministers, not a day passed when the PM’s security did not go to the New Delhi, or Chennai international airport to send crates and crates unchecked by customs to Rome. Air India and Alitalia were the carriers. Mr. Arjun Singh first as CM, later as Union Minister in charge of Culture was her hatchet man. Indian temple sculpture of gods and goddesses, antiques, pichwai paintings, shatoosh shawls, coins, and you name it, were transported to Italy to be first displayed in two shops owned by her sister [i.e., Anuskha alias Alessandra]. These shops located in blue-collar areas of Rivolta [shop name: Etnica] and Orbassano [shop name:Ganpati] did little business because which blue collar Italian wants Indian antiques? The shops were to make false bills, and thereafter these treasures were taken to London for auction by Sotheby’s and Christies. Some of this ill-gotten money from auction went into Rahul Gandhi’s National way into the Gandhi family account in the Bank of America in Cayman Islands.

Rahul’s expenses and tuition fees for the one-year he was at Harvard, was paid from the Cayman Island account. What kind of people are these Gandhi-Mainos that bite the very hand of Bharat Mata that fed them and gave them a good life? How can the nation trust such greedy thieves?” [UNQUOTE]

There are serious allegations on Sonia too, one such portion of the writing reads, [QUOTE] Third, Sonia Gandhi has not studied beyond High School. She has falsely claimed in her affidavit filed as a contesting candidate before the Rae Bareli Returning Officer in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, that she qualified and got a diploma inEnglish from the prestigious University of Cambridge, UK.

The truth is that Ms. Gandhi has never studied in any college anywhere. She did go to a Catholic nun run seminary-school called Maria Ausiliatrice in Giaveno [15 kms from adopted home town of Orbassabo]. Poverty those days forced young Italian girls to go to such missionaries and then in their teens go to UK to get jobs as cleaning maids, waitresses and au pair. The Mainos were poor those days. Her father was a mason and mothers a share cropper.

Sonia thus went to the town of Cambridge and first learnt some English in a teaching shop called Lennox School [which has since 1970 been wound up]. That is all her “education” is—learnt enough English language to get domestic help jobs. But in Indian society education is highly valued. Thus, to fool the Indian public, Sonia Gandhi willfully fibbed about her qualifications in Parliamentary records [which is a Breach of Ethics Rules] and in a sworn affidavit [which is criminal offence under IPC, severe enough to disqualify her from being MP]. In popular parlance, this is called 420 or 10 “numberi” [not to be confused with 10 Janpath].

These three lies indicate that Ms. Sonia Gandhi has something to hide, or has a hidden agenda for India. We need to find out more about her.

Ms. Sonia Gandhi upon learning enough English became a waitress in Varsity Restaurant in Cambridge town. She first met Rajiv when he came to the restaurant in 1965. Rajiv was a student in the University, but could not cope with the academic rigour for long. So he had to depart in 1966 for London where he was briefly in Imperial College of Engineering as a student. Sonia too moved to London, and according my information, got a job with an outfit run by Salman Thassir, a debonair Pakistani based in Lahore, and who has a export-import company headquartered in Dubai but who spends most of his time in London. This fits the profile of an ISI functionary. [UNQUOTE]

I personally have no political leanings and have equal faith and suspicion for all political parties and leaders. But the important point to ponder here is, “If these allegations are true then it is a serious issue for the country. Where are we heading for under such circumstances?” Recently when a journalist alleged that Rahul Gandhi’s M.Phill was not genuine, he was served with a defamation notice. Then why is the Gandhi family not coming out and clarifying on these allegations which are being levied on them for a few years now?

If one wishes to run the affairs of this country (and become a Prime Minister), one must be above suspicions. “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

I personally want an answer from Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi on the issues. They can not escape their responsibilities and evade these questions anymore. If all the allegations are wrong, well the person making them must be prosecuted and if they be true, the Gandhi’s should be willing to face the trial.

Jai Hind!

Independence – What are we celebrating

independence-indiaSo we are going to celebrate Independence of India? The republic India? A country enslaved in the shackles of corruption, communalism, castism, nepotism, crime, with disregard for human life & dignity.

Is there any reason to celebrate when there’s total lawlessness everywhere, corruption is rampant, number of poor people have increased many folds, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening everyday and what not. The very values enshrined in the constitution and envisioned in independent India are now no one’s concern. Even those who sit in the high offices by virtue of the power given by the constitution are not concerned about that very constitution.

Every Bureaucrat is a law onto himself, what to say even the peon of the bada sahib is so empowered. Who cares about the law, everyone talks about the so called practical aspect and the precedents as if the laws are just comic books and fictitious novels and they have the right to decide so. Even the judges in the court “on record” say that there is a law of the books and a law of practice. God knows who made this law of practice outside the spirit of the constitution, how one can come to know about it and how it is to be followed. This creates a situation where all laws are interpreted selectively in an aristocratic manner under the golden umbrella and with the blessings of Maa Lakshmi.

The ears of the blind God of Justice are too high and takes years for any voice to reach there undistorted. The People are too afraid to demand their rights or even raise their voice. A ten to twenty year period for a court case to finish is but a very small period. Speedy trial is not a right even in the fast track courts.

The statistics are manipulated year after year to show progress. People like us, living in urban areas, are made to believe that the whole country is progressing. Statistics are quoted, increase in GDP is cited and what not. We are made to believe that India is growing rich.

There are just around 6 crores and 40 lakh gas cylinders in India, what to speak of any other thing. How is the rest of India cooking its food? Still using Kerosene and Wood (or do you believe they are using microwaves?). Half of the countries population stills sleeps without three meals a day.

Even the poorest of Indian pay over 30% on all money transacted through him in the form of Sales Tax, Excise, Service Tax, Property Tax, Octroi, Income Tax, etc. Since every article we buy is directly and indirectly taxed at many levels so even if not everyone is paying Income Tax still he/she is paying good amount of taxes. Where is it going? Why no development is still taking place?

How have we killed the spirit of independence of every Indian? No one can dare raise his voice against corruption, crime or any other wrong. Any one can come and rob, kill or rape in broad daylight, in presence of hundreds of people, still no one raises his/her voice.

In 58 years we have managed to developed a system which has chocked every voice capable of speaking, handicapped every mind which can think, killed the spirit of enquiry or inquisitiveness and moved from a Nation of action to nation of rhetoric’s. As if all the speeches (and the so called planning’s) is a substitute to action.

What are we celebrating?

Still deliberating…………..
Hemant Goswami

Give the freedom back – “The freedom of speech”

parliament-pic The first hallmark of any successful democracy is the right of every citizen to express oneself freely. Among all rights, the “Freedom of Speech” stands at the highest altar. Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees it but still, somehow this right has been ruthlessly and systematically curtailed. On the 60th Independence Day of India, let’s evaluate where this right got lost over the years.

Let’s first understand what this constitution right of freedom of speech means. It is not just a guaranteed right to speak but also the assurance that no adverse, legal or illegal action would be taken against a person for speaking up his mind. It becomes the constitutional duty of the government to protect its citizens from any action/fallout resulting from his/her fair opinions. Of course there are some basic proviso’s too which restrain the free-speech right to the perimeter that it mustn’t be used to spread communal disharmony, promote national disintegration and/or be libellous. The proviso begins and ends here.

On the outside, it might look like that the right to speak one’s mind freely exists, but the moment one gets deeper into the details, the realities surface.

We begin our evaluation at the highest level; from the parliament. The premise is that, if there is no freedom of speech there; it is nowhere. So the first question is; “Can our members of the Parliament (Representing over a billion people) speak-up and express themselves freely and fearlessly in the parliament?” The unfortunate answer is; “Not at all.”

There are too many disincentives and repercussions for our M.P’s (And the Legislative Assembly members [MLA]) to air their true opinion and views in the parliament or the assembly. The fist one is the risk of loosing their membership. The “Fifty-Second Amendment” and the “Tenth Schedule” inserted on Feburary 15, 1985 in our constitution mercilessly restricted this right. This amendment implies that if a parliamentarian (Or MLA) speaks/votes against any policy adopted by his party, he looses the membership of the parliament. This means that even the free vote in the parliament is surrendered to a person (Leader of his/her political party) who may or may not be a parliamentarian (Or member of the assembly) himself/herself. This also means that the whole parliament is allowed to be ruled by a handful of people (Say about 5 or 6) and they are the one who decides what a MP or MLA will speak and how he/she will vote on any important issue.

This reduces the MP’s/MLA’s to the level of mere marionettes in the hand of their political masters. They are forced to either keep mum or to speak against their own conscience. The right to free speech actually does not exist with them. How many times have you seen the ruling party MP’s or MLA’s speaking factually on the wrongdoings of the government or making arguments to that effect. Never!

Besides the basic legal provisions, airing once views outside the parliament may even have stricter consequences for a member who listens to his inner voice and speaks-up; some of the associated costs are expulsion from the party, disciplinary actions and public bashing in many different varieties and flavours. There is no forum for an effective redress on such unjustified and illegal actions anywhere in the country and such a politician faces the risk of becoming a political pariah.

The irony of the whole issue is that prior to the 52nd amendment, the word political party finds no mention in the constitution or any other law including the “Representation of People Act 1951.” In technical sense, it finds no mention even on date. There is just one section, “29A” of “Representation of People Act 1951” which was inserted in 1989 (June 15, 1989), mentioning about “Political parties” and that too in a very loose sense.

The intention of the constitution makers was absolutely clear so as to ensure protection of this basic right of speech. The intent was that each member may represent himself and his constituency in the parliament and no one else. The election of the Prime Minister and Chief Minister was supposed to be conducted in the parliament/assembly with free voting and not by the illegally constituted “High Commands.” Somehow over the time we have lost this vision of the constitutional makers and for selfish interests’ deteriorated the system to great depths. In the process the parliament (And the people it represents) has lost the right to free and fearless speech.

The result is that there is no more protection for speaking one’s mind. If you are a politician, you can not only loose your membership of the house but also the basic membership of your party. If you are an executive officer (IAS, etc.) you risk being wasted-out and being sent to an insignificant post in some insignificant place where your talent would never be used. If you are a social worker, you risk loosing the much required official cooperation and above it you can be sure of victimization and adverse actions from time to time. If you are any other employee, repercussions can vary from poor remarks on your annual report (ACR) to loosing your job. If you are a journalist either your article will find no place (The media is after all a profit making commercial enterprise [And not a philanthropist entity] which must keep those in power happy) or very soon your job responsibilities will change. And so on and on… … consequentially we have reached a point that every child now has a very clear tacit understanding of what he or she should speak and what must be left unsaid.

As a role reversal, the intention of the speaker is no more accorded any significance at all; the intention and opinion of the recipient (Or the affected person) has become of prime importance and it’s this person who can act on his whims and fancies with no fear of any backlash. Free voice can be switched-off anytime using any of the hundreds of tools available. Of course you need to be powerful enough for gagging a throat. So why are you surprised when no one raises one’s voice against crime, corruption, nepotism, unfair social practices, witch hunting, etc? Everyone knows (And constantly learn from observation) that the price to pay for speaking-up is often too high as quite often there will be someone powerful enough who will get offended by one’s free-speech, so better to keep mum and find a short cut. After 60 years of freedom, this is the extent of “Free speech” and we don’t even realize that this is also one of the originating seeds of corruption, anarchy and terrorism.

Even under an alien rule, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak had taken the freedom of speech for-granted while stating that “Swaraj (Self rule) is my birthright, and I shall have it!” Can we take such a liberty today?

Can we ever restore the freedom of speech again?

The only apparent way to get it back is by speaking up.

Yours,
Hemant Goswami

Someone forgot ……. India won its independence in 1947 : The colonial shades

independence-flagWhile scanning the expenses of the Governor of Punjab, we found large scale wastage of resources through the office of the Governor’s. The office operates more-or-less without any accountability, supervision and responsibility. A large number of staff personnel, not required otherwise, have been appointed to take care of the Governor.

 

Besides 130 people in the personal staff of the Governor, there are hundreds from the Para-military, State Government and other providing services to the Governor. Most of these people appointed in the personal staff of the Governor have no useful job to perform. As an example some of the personal staff persons are listed below just to highlight the issue;

 

Post

No. of employee’s in the category

Drivers

9

Head Driver

1

Clerks/Garage Clerk

3

Head Khidmatgar

1

Head House Bearer

1

Tailor

1

Cooks

4

Daftri

1

Jamadar of Peons

4

House Bearer

4

Khidmatgar

8

Camp Jamadar

1

Asstt. Camp Jamadar

2

Jamadar of Sweepers

1

Peons

18

Masalchi

6

Bhishti

2

Khalasi

8

Mate to Dhobi

1

Scooter Driver

1

Chowkidar

1

Chowkidar cum Sweeper

1

Cleaner

1

Sweepers

6

 

Surprisingly even in the 21st century, the Governor needs Bhisti, Khidmatgar, Masalchi and Khalashi. Apparently, bridging the gap with the modern development, the Governor house has also appointed a ‘Scooter Driver.” Undersigned fails to comprehend the hard physical work which the Governor does, justifying the needs of six Masalchi’s.

 

The wage bill and sundry liabilities of the personal staff of the Punjab Governor comes to over Rs. 2,20,00,000/-

 

Wasting and spending this kind of money for maintaining one person is nothing short of a criminal act in a country where the per capita income at current prices is estimated at Rs 29,642 and where over 400 million people are still living below the extreme poverty level (earning less than Rs 40/- a day).

 

There is an urgent need to shed the opulent style of the erstwhile “Governor-Generals/Governor” of the colonial India and stop this wasteful expenditure in the name of the office of the Governor. Thought not of immediate importance, but still, we must also ponder upon the question if we really require an office of the Governor.

 

It looks like that someone forgot to remind the Government, that India did attain independence on August 15, 1947 and that in independent and democratic India scarce public resources could not be wasted like this.

 

Hemant Goswami

Chandigarh decaying in the name of development

The contribution of Chandigarh

After having spent my childhood in Chandigarh, it took me nearly twenty years to understand the contribution of Chandigarh to the development of India. The more I travelled around the country, the more I got convinced about how Chandigarh had silently shaped the development of modern urban India.

 

As the first modern planned city of Independent India, conceived by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Chandigarh was deemed as a city “unfettered by the traditions of the past, a symbol of the nation’s faith in the future.” Chandigarh, indeed, has no reflection of our colonial past and has truly paved the way for modern cities with proper ur­ban planning and well laid out mas­ter plans. Most Indian cities were later built on the success of Chandigarh as a modern city.

 

A City now killed by whims of individuals

 

Le Corbusier had visualised the possibility of greedy and oppor­tunistic people trying to hijack the materialistic returns which Chandigarh could provide and so he passed on the responsibility to save Chandigarh on its citizens. While laying down the ‘Edicts of Chandigarh,” he clearly wrote, “The object of this edict is to en­lighten the present and future citi­zens of Chandigarh about the basic concepts of planning of the city so that they become its guardians and save it from the whims of indi­viduals.” Though Corbusier was foresighted enough to ensure leg­islative protection to the city but within fifty years, the termite of greed and corruption has started pushing Chandigarh to the path of self-destruction.

 

Murder in the name of futuristic development

 

“Shouldn’t Chandigarh also progress and become dynamic with time?” was the counter-question of the bureaucratic mouth-piece of the property mafia when they were recently confronted with the unsci­entific abrasive sale of property in Chandigarh.

 

I ask: Is a “Film-City” a require­ment of the city? Is a hundred acre ‘Amusement park” within Chandi­garh the need of a city with 114 square km of area? Is a “Milk City” and a “Vegetable market” built by uprooting thousands of farmers from Chandigarh a prudent futur­istic idea?

 

Is constructing commercial flats till the regulatory end of the lake, a development in the interest of the city? Is selling a two room flat for 60 lakh the dream of a socialist Pandit Nehru? Is inviting migratory popu­lation to Chandigarh, in the name of various projects, a prudent idea? No unbiased urban development expert can justify any of these acts in Chandigarh. In the last five years, the city has seen open loot and plundering in the name of development. Unfortunately all this so called development activities have made the city more fragile and less adaptable for the natural evolutionary process of development.

 

Chandigarh – The loose end of democratic India

 

The 1980’s were a bad phase for the region. During the Punjab disturbance, the bureaucratic control of Chandigarh also got disturbed. The changes effected included the Punjab Governor assuming the role of “Administrator” or the chief executive officer of Chandigarh. This change of guard has proven fatal for Chandigarh as it shifted the decision taking power from the hand of the Union Min­istry and Parliament to the hand of an unelected political nominee who has all the reasons to be tempted to act on his whims and fancies instead of following the scientific ap­proaches.

 

In my opinion, Governors are mostly political appointees, assum­ing power only as a reward for their sycophancy and on the basis of “who-knows-who” politics. They are not accountable to the people or the parliament either directly or indirectly and only answer to their political masters. That’s one of the reasons why our Constitution does not provide for any executive pow­ers to the Governor. Giving execu­tive powers and the control of the state to a person who does not rep­resent the faith of the people is un­democratic and against the very ba­sis of the constitution. Chandigarh has fallen into this peculiar trap and has become the only state in the country which is being ruled by someone not answerable to the par­liament either directly or indirectly.

 

Save Chandigarh before it is too late

 

There is an urgent need to get back to the basics. All the futuristic development plans of Chandigarh have to go into the hands of the ur­ban-development experts and not the non-technical bureaucrats of doubtful integrity. The desired ex­trapolated growth has to be as sci­entific as the initial concept of Chandigarh was. It has to eliminate the possibility of personal whims and plug the leakages through the legislative route. If someone is un­happy with the concept of Chandi­garh, let him or her go and construct another Chandigarh instead of tin­kering with the present one. The cit­izens of the city have to stand up and fight to protect this city.

 

HEMANTGOSWAMI

Article in Indian Express