Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Encroachment? Be firm; don't give up!

Mr. Velusamy Narasimanaicken Palayam in Coimbatore-TN, noticed that his neighbor​ Rani Selvaraj had encroached a piece of corporation land and built a fence around it. Velusamy filed a Right To Information(RTI) petition to PIO of respective Taluk office with help of 5th Pillar, Coimbatore Chapter. He got a reply for the RTI but no action was taken.

Then he filed 1st appeal to the Appellate authority of the Taluk office; he got the reply and the officers promptly came and measured the land , confirmed that it was Corporation land and notice was served to Rani Selvaraj to remove the encroachment. She ignored the notice, so Mr. Velusamy filed a complaint with the information commission, after which the officers sent another notice to the encroacher; this time she removed the fence around the Corporation land and it became free from her encroachment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Got the Land Title after 40 Years.

Subbian, Retired Junior Engineer from Electricity Board applied for his land title 40 years ago, the Thasildar refused to give him the title without the parent document for the land. He did not have the parent document. A few weeks ago he contacted 5th Pillar and the received his Patta without having to submit the Parent document, turns out they the applicant is not obligated to have a copy of the parent document, they were able to locate a copy in the office with only the Encumbrance Certificate.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Ripple Effect

We helped Raja, Raja helped Padimini. 

Padmini was trying to get hold of the Resurvey settlement Register [RSR] / Survey Land Register [SLR] document to locate her land for the past 4 years. 5th Pillar's member Raja who had once received 5th Pillar help filed a Right To information petition to the Taluk office after taking 5th pillar's RTI coordinator's advice on 3- 10 - 2016. On 19-10-2016  they received the documents. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

5th Pillar’s Perspective on Economic and Community Development

Our team prepared this article for a magazine, we were assigned this topic. Hope you like it. Please share your thoughts.

The whole world can be considered one big community in which there are smaller communities like different countries, states, cities, villages, workplaces, social media sites, ethnic groups, herds of animals and even the apartments we live in can be defined as a community. The economy of a community is the management off available resources in that community. Some communities are created for a specific purpose but other exist because all the people in it just happened to  be a part of it because they have something in common.
We know that a community is developing when there are visible efforts being made by each member of the community  to improve the economic well-being and the quality of life.

Corruption is one of the biggest deterrents to development. Corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person, misuse of entrusted powers. When a community or an economy is corrupt, wealth gets accumulated in the hand of a very few people, Policies made are biased, Proper research on what is good for everyone doesn't come out. Corruption does not only affect the poor people, it affects everyone.
The United Nations defines community development as "a process where community members come together to take collective (us, you and me) action and generate solutions to common problems."

Ideal government

Efficient communication between the people and the State is crucial to build trust and to gain support among the people. When the citizens understand the difficulties involved in making and implementing policies; the citizens would have more patience when their representatives fail to keep up to their word due to genuine reasons. It gives the politicians more freedom to innovate to solve problems, without the fear that the public would lose confidence in them when they fail. Without this understanding the politicians have to constantly think about maintaining people’s confidence in them, which would deter them from making the bold moves which are sometimes required to solve the problems faced, and make them think only about quietening the tiny fires erupting here and there, without looking at the bigger picture. Understanding would also change the kind of skills required to be a successful politician from managing people and suppressing conflicts to having vision and being able to think about big problems. There is an additional perk to this mutual understanding : understanding makes people intelligent and they can suggest solutions to complex problems to their representatives, instead of just pointing fingers. Also each citizen can lend a helping hand to ensure smoother implementation of the solution once he understands the problem and believes in the judgement of the policy-maker.

There are no easy answers to the problems we face - their complexity arising from their size,  differences among people, etc. Consider a hypothetical example of deciding on the tax rate. On one extreme, when the State levies very low tax  on its citizens it has insufficient funds for public goods. On the other end of the spectrum, if the tax rate is very high, the State has huge funds. Even when these funds are completely used for common good, the allocation of resources need not be as efficient as in the case where each individual chooses for himself. This is because each of us has different needs and we makes choices more knowingly, and often more carefully when we spend out of our own pockets.  So the tax rate should be fixed at the bargain between the extremes. But how should it be arrived at? We are not advanced enough to predict this theoretically. So we have to experiment with different values and finalize upon the optimal tax rate. While conducting the experiment, we will fail to achieve good results at tax rates which are off from the optimal value.

We can generalize this behavior to the problems we face. It is difficult to arrive at the right answer without failing several times. This brings us to the need for the trust of the people in their representatives even when the representatives fail miserably. Such an understanding curbs any unnecessary pressure on the policy-makers to not make mistakes.   

We are all responsible and we all have the power  
(remember? You are corrupt if you don't use your power properly)

Mutual understanding is the responsibility of the State and its citizens because its advantages are universal, and it can be achieved only through constructive efforts from both sides. The citizen has to sharpen his intelligence to be capable of understanding the nuances involved in complex problems. The State has to figure out effective ways to communicate their ideas to the people and receive the opinion of the people.    

The government should have the intellectual capacity and flexibility to adapt to the rapid pace at which the technology is growing, so as to incorporate better efficiency in the services with the modern solutions. For example, if we can build a database for all sectors with impenetrable security, a lot of time, effort and resources can be saved in terms of filling out forms, validating the identity of the individual, transferring information between different sectors. It also provides transparency in execution of policies. The data provided by different sectors should be consistent - this can serve as an effective check on many malpractices. For example, fraudulent reporting of the number of laborers employed in a construction activity can be surfaced easily. When this report is compared to the information collected about the earning of each person (which is generally recorded), an inconsistency between the two records would be observed (assuming that the income is reported correctly). Further inquiry would bring out the truth.   

Vision matters. The decisions of the legislators and the executives have an impact on the future, so they should keep in mind the generations to come while doing their work.

You help the country(community) by helping yourself.

Skill development is the responsibility of every individual. Honing skills makes people self-reliant, they don’t need to depend on others or the State to take care of their needs.

With learning and understanding the brain matures and becomes intelligent. It becomes more and more capable of taking the important decisions  like electing  (Use your Power wisely) the MLAs or MPs, etc.  Learning a skill is not easy. The hard times that have to be overcome make us resilient. Hence, skill development makes us better individuals, and we make our community better by contributing through our skills.
Take time to get your own work done. I don’t want to get into the whole debate of we spend our time for so many things like movies, TV, simple leisure activities but we don’t take the time to get the government services we need ourselves. We all need all of these things from time to time but I know that  it's everyone knew how to go get their government services without delay or bribe they would. Although the first step is to want to get your service without delay or bribery, remember you are the citizen, you have the right, you have the power and also misuse of powers is corruption. Don’t be lazy, just because you have not done it, it doesn't mean you cannot.

Keep the human in you awake and active: The other day when I was going back home from work, there was this man standing in the middle of the road with all his belongings scattered on the road. When I stopped and asked him why he was standing there he answered: “this car had hit me and I dropped everything when I was crossing the road, he didn't stop the car, neither did any other vehicle that went past me, I have been standing here for the past 15 minutes.” He was really mad at everyone that went past him without stopping.
Some of us might think, oh I would have stopped, I just wasn’t there. Maybe, but the truth is most of us are not really conscious of what is happening around us, to us. It is important that we start paying attention to the little things around us, and we will naturally do the right thing.  We have the power to make everyone feel included, simple acts like these will change other’s lives in so many ways.  
Inclusiveness is crucial to community’s development we cannot have a healthy developed community if some people are left out,it's not like we can dump them in the ocean.  Remember it said collectively in the definition of community development? I am talking about caste, creed, Sexual preference, work choice, lifestyle choice, clothing etc.

Participate: Helping someone else might seem like a tall order. We can help ourselves (in turn others)if we paid more attention to the little things around us. Say you drive on the same road, every day, and this road is poorly laid, you find yourself taking a bumpy ride everyday. It is in your hands. You can simply file a complaint (cool tools below) to the corporation and save yourself a backache and the rest of the people who travel with you every day.
Remember you are the citizen, you have the right, you have the power and also not using the power, I won’t say is corruption, but it is so very easy! Take one for the team every now and then.

We have to make choices with the big picture in mind. Corruption can be done away with, once we look beyond temporary gratification and understand the impact of our actions on the society.
Suppose there is a shift in the mindset of a considerable proportion of the population. This may happen because the people feel the power of Gandhi’s statement:
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Or because of empathy for the suffering of the victims of corruption. Or any other reason. But when it happens we begin to live in a fundamentally different place where economic and community development happens rapidly. Can you dream about the beauty of such existence?
We believe that this is not an unrealistic dream.

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This is what 5th Pillar is all about.
The books say there are 4 Pillars to a Democracy(also a community), we think there is a very important 5th pillar which is us, you and me, citizens.
We work on the minds of the people. Being enslaved to bribery and corruption is a mere matter of mindset and attitude.  Our programs are targeted towards changing the way they think and act towards obtaining their basic rights, certificates or any task pending with any government department.  Citizens adopt largely to the slave mentality and allow the government officials to assume the role of a master, when it comes to denied or delayed rights and services due to one of the following reasons: laziness, helplessness, apathy, uninformed about procedures etc. We help people break out of this conditioning of the mind, and act differently, positively and boldly using appropriate anti-bribery tools, practical alternatives, and creative solutions.

Tools like
  • ZERO RUPEE NOTE (ZRN)  is an “A Non-Violent Weapon of Non-cooperation”. It is a simple but creative currency-like tool with the pledge “I will neither accept nor give bribe”
  • “Right to Information (RTI) Act” mandates timely response to citizen’s request or government information.
and many more tools.

Contact: +91 94451 64555, info@5thpillar.org.
Contributors: Divya Donapati, Hardhik Donapati, Vijay Mallangi, Anna Milovanovic, Lakshmi Gunasekar. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Waited 12 years, out of FEAR of bribery.

In 2004, Muthuselvi applied for a ration card and was demanded a  bribe, she dropped her efforts and did not hold Ration Card for the last 12 years out of fear of briberyWhen she applied for it again this year they asked her for Rs.2000 as the bribe. When she approached 5th Pillar, they helped her file Right to Information Act [RTI] petition o26.07.2016 to PIO of Civil supplies and ​Consumer Protection Department. To her wonderment officials turned up in 23 days to deliver the Ration Card, the news came as a relief for the family which lasted for a decade long.