Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Corruption in Tourism Sector

Corruption is a issue in itself which has to be educated to one and all about what is corruption and how we contribute to it unwittingly. An article in Hindu, about tourists entering the restricted Bandipur forest area from Kerala, intrigued me to think, if the tourists who went on these trips with the tour operators realize that they are concluding with the lawbreakers. Excitement and curiosity gets the better of us. In order to cross restricted forest zones corruption should have been involved. It is very sad to see that citizens who cry in other cases against bribery and corruption forget about it when venturing into such illegal tours. In this case, they are not only a party to corruption but also against wildlife protection as they are disturbing the natural fauna by hindering the animals from moving freely in their habitat to the waterhole. To eradicate corruption first every citizen should understand what is corruption and use their better judgement and always stay on the right side of the law.

5th Pillar participates in Round Table Discussion with Tamil Nadu Right to Information campaign

5th Pillar participated in the Round Table discussion on key
issues pertaining to the implementation of the Right to Information
Act in Tamil Nadu organized by the Tamil Nadu Right to Information
Campaign, on the 31st March, 2010 at Egmore, Chennai. Executive Director of 5th Pillar, Mr. Bhanu Kumar represented 5th Pillar in this meet. The following
subjects were discussed.

1. Why this program?
2. Key issues-Challenges and achievements pertaining to the
implementation of the RTI (Right to Information) in Tamil Nadu.
3. Recent achievements and challenges in the working of the Act.
4. T.N. Information Commission-Structure, procedure, and review
including decisions of the Commission.
5. Sharing experiences of the working of the RTI Act in relation to
PIO's, Appellate authority, and Information Commission.
6. Significant decisions of the Tamil Nadu Information Commission and
experiences learnt from the Kerala Information Commission and
Karnataka RTI activists.
7. Monitoring the role of Government and Public Authorities in
promoting the RTI Act especially Section 4 (1) a,b,c,d
8. Strengthening the Tamil Nadu Right to Information Campaign to
monitor the working of the RTI Act.

The following points were highlighted

1. Problems connected with the voluntary disclosures of information by
public authorities
2. Duties and responsibilities of PIO's (Public Information Officer) and APIO's (Assistant Public Information Officer)
3. Inadequate response to the information requested, providing partial information, wrong information by PIO's and Appellate authorities.
4. Activities of the State Information Commission.
5. Role of the Government in promoting RTI
6. Courts, Public Authorities and the RTI.
7. Failure to proceed with penalties and disciplinary action.
8. The powers of the Government to exempt departments like Vigilance
and Anti corruption from the purview of the RTI Act.
9. To nominate Officers at State and District level to discuss with
the Activists of the RTI.
10. Exchange of information among the Activists of RTI.
11. Finalize the demands to be given to the Tamil Nadu State Government.

The following recommendations were made at the end of the Meeting.

1. Ensure appointment of PIO's, APIO's, AA's (Appellate Authority) at all PA's(Public Authority) under the control of the State Government.
2. Launch an aggressive training campaign to cover all relevant staff
from PA's on the obligations of PA's under the Act, and rights of
3. Allocate sufficient resources to PA's to help them implement RTI Act effectively
4. For PA's which receive a high volume of RTI applications, appoint
dedicated PIO's to handle all RTI inquiries.
5. Provide necessary infrastructure resources and support in a timely
manner to the State Information Commission. Such resources would include additional clerical staff to manage the communication they get, to ensure so that
it can run smoothly, thereby leading to an effective implementation.

State Information Commission

1. The Commission should impose penalties, without exception on all
PIO's in case of denial or inordinate delay in giving replies.
2. An efficient filing system needs to be put in place to ensure easy
access to files and communication.
3. The commission should complete its website without delay and put up
all their decisions on their website and to update it continuously.

The meeting served as a good forum to discuss critical issues pertaining to RTI Act. If all the requested implementations are put to work we can see a good change in the present scenario.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

5th Pillar's anti-corruption campaign in Coimbatore

A meeting was convened on 9th Feb, 2010 at the Corporation Kalai Arangam in Coimbatore to discuss the regularization of platform shop keepers in the city of Coimbatore. There has always been complaints from the platform shopkeepers about the influx of bribery by police officials as very explicitly portrayed in our celluloids by our mass heroes. This meeting was attended by the platform shopkeepers, Collector, Municipal authorities and District Superintendent of Police, to regulate the erection of the platform shops to benefit the shopkeepers by confirming their status , so that they will not be extorted by threats of legal action, and also to regulate traffic to ease public mobility. This meeting was instrumental in drawing to a conclusion regarding the areas where shops can be established and dimension of the shop that can be erected so that there are clear rules and no ambiguity that leads to bribery and corruption. 5th Pillar was invited by the organizers and our speaker Dr. K.K.Krishnamurthy, spoke on Freedom from Corruption and RTI (Right to Information). 5th Pillar members distributed Zero Rupee Notes to everyone in the audience of varied demography to establish the concept of anti-corruption in all.

5th Pillar's awareness campaign at SNS college of Technology

The ECE ( Electrical & Computer Engineering) Department of SNS College of Technology in Coimbatore, conducted a 2 day event called ELCONATOR on 5th and 6th March 2010, which was attended by ECE students of other institutions of Tamil Nadu. The event was attended by 400 students in total, and on the request of the institution we setup a stall in their premises, displayed our banner and distributed the Zero Rupee Notes and RTI pamphlets to all the students and staff attending this event. Students showed a great interest in this social cause and many registered to become 5th Pillar members and some of the colleges also showed interest to open a student chapter of 5th Pillar in their respective institutions. Some institutions have invited us to their institutes to give a presentation on "Freedom from corruption" topic. Students who are experiencing corruption first hand now that they are getting to be independent and facing the real world are very aware of the misery and are very motivated to joins us in the common platform.

5th Pillar, RAAC and EERAM of Coimbatore conduct mass cleaning of foothills of Maruthamalai

5th Pillar joined hands with RAAC( Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore), and EERAM ( Equality Empowerment & Rights Awareness Movement) in Coimbatore, to take part in the mass cleaning of the foothills of Maruthamalai, a famous Hindu shrine in Coimbatore, on 4th April 2010. Alagana Kovai, project initiated by RAAC, emphasizes on clean pollution free environment, and one of their projects is to erect good infrastructure to accommodate the growing tourists population who visit this famous historical shrine. Their plan to construct a bus stand, toilet facilities, dining hall, parking spaces for tourist vehicles have been approved by the municipality and to get the project going they conducted a mass cleaning of the foothills of Maruthamalai. More than 500 students from various academic institutions in and around Coimbatore took part in this event along with the 5th Pillar members. 5th Pillar members distributed Zero Rupee Notes to all the participants and the public to create anti- corruption awareness. People coming to temple to offer thanks and request for favours and remedies were equipped with Zero Rupee Note to be used as a tool in need.

Friday, April 16, 2010

5th Pillar conducts Anti-corruption awareness to Management students of PSG Tech, Coimbatore on 4.02.2010

200 students of the Management Department of PSG Tech, convened at the convention Hall to tAke part in the anti-corruption awareness program conducted by 5th Pillar. The speaker of that day, Mr. Viswanathan, a noted Businessman and Social Activist spoke on the topic, "RTI and Freedom fron Corruption". As a businessman addressing the management students, he was able to explicity relate the affliction of corruption in the business sector. 5th Pillar's role in society to combat corruption using the novice tool, Zero Rupee Note and the Right to Information Act was the highlight of his address. Examples of cases were our organization filed RTI petitions on behalf of the citizens, to obtain ration card, land patta etc., captivated the audience, who in turn had interesting queries about situations encountered by family or friends. Dr.K.K.Krishnamoorthy, former Dean of Tamilnadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore was the next speaker who elaborated on the social evil, Corruption. His address on Right to Information Act and its efficacy in obtaining basic rights of services was elaborated for clear understanding of the simplicity of the Act in itself. The speech was well received by the students who were encouraged to join hands with our team to tackle corruption.

5th Pillar presentation at Dr. Ambedkar Youth Club, Coimbatore on 26.01.2010

5th Pillar Coimbatore chapter have been active propagandists of anti-corruption campaign in their township. This has been the second event in this year and in this meeting the speaker Mr. Viswanathan, a noted Businessman and Social Activist, who is a 5th Pillar member was speaking about corruption and its torment on ordinary citizens. His address included lot of facts and incidents of corruption, and its impact on us. Zero Rupee Note, the novice tool adopted by 5th Pillar was distributed to all the 70 participants and an oath of abstinence from bribery was proclaimed. The speaker's note on Right to Information Act and the support provided by our organization for all the citizens to address their problems by filing RTI petitions, was lauded by the participants. His mention on all the field activities of 5th Pillar was inspirational to the young at heart and many showed interest in the cause by joining the organization.

5th Pillar, Coimbatore chapter conducts Awareness Campaign

NSS students of Karpagam Arts & Science college who were at a camp at Government Higher secondary school at Malumichampatty, on 14th January, 2010 had invited 5th Pillar for a presentation on the topic of "Freedom from Corruption". Dr. B.Ilango, former vice- chancellor of Bharathiyar University, Coimbatore spoke on corruption and its effects on day to day life of every citizen. Mr. Vijay Anand, President of 5th Pillar spoke on the header, "Freedom from Corruption". "Zero Rupee Note and filing of RTI (Right to Information) petitions were the tools adopted primarily by 5th Pillar to fight corruption", said Mr. Anand. Recount of many success stories obtained by handing out Zero Rupee Note to corrupt officials were motivational to the students. 5th Pillar members of Coimbatore chapter, Ravisundar, Sureshkumar and Dhandapani distributed the Zero Rupee Notes to all the 120 students, and a pledge was taken by all, to neither accept nor give bribe. After the speech the students had time to share their thoughts with the members of the 5th Pillar team and to get answers for the problems that their family or friends were encountering at present. It is interesting to hear views from these youngsters who had their share of experiences from traffic regulations to obtaining certificates for admissions.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

5th Pillar New Members Introductory meeting in Chennai on Sat, 17 April 2010

All the new members who have joined 5th Pillar recently have been invited for an introductory meeting in Chennai. The meeting is on Sat 17th April, 2010 at Corporation School in Sastri Nagar, Adayar, Chennai.(full address and directions below).

The agenda of the meeting is-

1. WELCOME speech by Sarath Babu, Program Coordinator.
2. "5TH PILLAR UNTIL NOW" - Presentation(Slide show) and talk by Jarina Yasmin, ADAYAR Coordinator- the history, success stories, campaign results
3. Role of Exisiting Coordinators: Mr.Banu Kumar followed by Coordinators and active members in the organization(Jayaselvan, Adhi(Tuticorin), Sanjayakumar(Pallavaram), Natarajan(Tirunelveli), Santhanamoorthi(Cuddalore), etc.....
4. New Members Self Introduction- will share their background info, why they joined 5th Pillar, in what way they can get involved etc.
5. "WHAT CAN I DO?" - A. Subramani, Director-Operations will talk about the various committees and list out the various activities and how people can contrubute their time and efforts towards 5th Pillar's success.
6. "FREEDOM from CORRUPTION" talk by Vijay Anand, President of 5th Pillar.
7. Vote of Thanks- Srimathi Sridhar

Date : Saturday, 17th April, 2010, Time : 4 – 6 pm.
Venue : Corporation School, 11th Cross street, Sastri Nagar, Adayar, Chennai.

(Directions- From Adayar, take Lattice Bridge road; turn left on road leading to Beasant Nagar, just before the BSNL Telephone exchange. Take 3rd right and the school is on the left.)

Looking forward to see everyone that can make it to the meeting. Please feel free to bring friends and family who might be interested in 5th Pillar's cause and goal.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

5th Pillar members of Tuticorin conduct awareness campaign at Tuticorin Collector's office

Throngs of people visit the collector's office on Monday as it is the petition acceptance day of the week. Petitions are filed to protest, and so this is an ideal venue to create awareness for the people congregating here, and hence the members of our organization distributed the Zero Rupee Note and the RTI (Right to Information) pamphlet to all the visitors to create an awareness about 5th Pillar, an active advocate for citizens rights. People usually come to Collector's office on Monday to file their grievances in form of petition for deteriorating services and discrepancies, and hence by distributing the Zero Rupee Note and RTI information pamphlet we were armouring them to face the situation and get a solution for their impending issues. Volunteers of 5th Pillar took time to explain about paving way to solutions by filing RTI petitions, with relevant questions to expedite and yield favourable results. Tuticorin chapter of 5th Pillar have good rapport with honest officials in all government offices, and through their guidance help the people approaching our organization, to file the application for services in proper order, so that there will not be any delay in obtaining their benefits. Counselling of honest government officials to obtain services quickly and righteously is commendable.

Monday, April 12, 2010

5th Pillar's President addressed the Rotarians of Chennapatna on 8.04.2010 at Savera Hotel in Chennai

Rotarians of Chennapatna invited 5th Pillar's President, Mr. Vijay Anand to address their meet on 8th April at Savera Hotel in Chennai. Mr. Anand spoke about Freedom from Corruption, and his detailed account of RTI petitions and Public litigations filed by our organization and other field activities highlighted the practical approach in tackling corruption. “Success stories of getting your rights without paying bribe using Zero Rupee Note and filing RTI petitions were possible”, said Mr. Anand. He said, “If we in 5th Pillar can get this done, so can every other citizen in our country, so let us all conclude to stop paying bribe demanded as extra fee”. Volunteers of 5th Pillar distributed the Zero Rupee Note to all the participants and they all took an oath to neither accept nor give bribe. Creating awareness and introducing the concept of resistance to bribe is the first step to eradicating this social evil.

Student Chapter of 5th Pillar, SAC at Vellore Institute of Technology organized an RTI training camp ON 7.04.2010

Student chapter of 5th Pillar, SAC ( Students Against Corruption) at Vellore Institute of Technology had been very active propagandists of social issues and have conducted many programs this past year as listed below. Student coordinator of SAC at VIT, Mr. Jagdeeshkumar an Asst Prof of School of Science and Humanities has been a strong motivator for the students in organizing the following events.

29.09.2009 - Next is what? 
A movie compilation event in association with movie club on the theme, "India in 2020". The duration of the movie was for 10 minutes.

30.10.2009 - Workshop on movie compilation in association  with IEEE-WIE, VIT affinity group.

Nov 3-7, 2009 - Vigilance Awareness Week.
Wide publicity regarding, Central Vigilance Commissions(CVC) appeal to the public on
- complaints to be sent directly to CVC
- to fight corruption together
- to contribute to nation building

December 2009 - Membership mobilization campaign, and RTI (Right to Information) awareness events.

18.02.2010 - Committee selection for a social awareness club, who would be active advocates of bringing about a change in India, by making India corruption free thereby supporting Vision 2020, and become an ardent RTI activists.

24.02.2010 - Results of core committee selections declared.

1.04.2010 - Poetry Competition
On the spot poetry competition for the first time in VIT - language no bar- best poems were displayed on all notice boards - certificates issued to winners on 7.04.2010.

Active SAC members of Vellore Institute of Technology, invited 5th Pillar's President, Mr. Vijay Anand for a one day event organized at their institute on 7th April 2010, on the topic of Right to Information. Vice-chancellor of the Institute, Mr.Shekhar Viswanathan gave an inaugural speech on the take of student's interest for social causes, especially on the debilitating issue on hand, Corruption.

Mr. Vijay Anand spoke next on the topic of, "Freedom from Corruption", and his power-point presentation with the statistical ranking of India in the Corruption Index was an eye-opener to the extent of cleansing required. Video presentation developed by our organization highlighting the current sorry state of our nation in regard to corruption was very captive. His recount on the successes obtained by distributing the Zero Rupee Note and filing RTI petitions motivated the already fervent students. Director of operations of 5th Pillar, Mr. Subramani, spoke about RTI Act and its adoption to solve problems pertaining to acquiring our basic rights to services. He gave a detailed account on how to prepare an RTI petition for a real life scenario, with examples for better understanding. Ms.Shaazka Beyerle from the US who is a Senior Director of the Center for Non-violent conflict resolution, spoke on the International scenario on Corruption. Student's queries on corruption related issues were answered by Mr. Anand.

After the presentations, a panel discussion was organized, were 10 groups of 5 members each took part in an active discourse on the topic of RTI. The topic of discussion was national development and influence of Indian politics on RTI. Students had interesting, innovative ideas which portrayed their clear understanding of the compounding, debilitating problem in hand, corruption.

Why the private sector is excluded from RTI?
Why the Supreme Court Judges are exempt from declaring their assets?, are some of the thought provoking questions that were debated on this session. It is good to see future policy makers taking part in active debate on hindering aspects of the RTI Act.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

IITians participate in Freedom from Corruption campaign

President of 5th Pillar, Mr. Vijay Anand was invited for a presentation on the topic, “Freedom from Corruption”, on 11th March, 2010 by IIT Madras. His presentation on the topic included 3 short clips demonstrating the impact of corruption in our society. He instigated a series of interactive discussion on the topic in hand, Corruption. There was a question session, when students had interesting queries about the efficacy of the Zero Rupee Note in confronting corruption. Mr. Anand said that when a corrupt official is given a Zero Rupee Note instead of the demanded amount, he is startled and feels ashamed and wants to flee from the situation, and in some cases they are confused, and do not want to face any criminal charges and so they let go. Zero Rupee Note distributed by the volunteers of 5th Pillar to all the participants led to a unified proclamation of abstinence from corruption from both ends, say receiving and giving. The session was very interesting with students showing interest to follow up, by joining the organization and actively play a role by undergoing training to file RTI(Right to Information) petitions. Followed by Mr. Anand's speech, the Director of Operations of 5th Pillar, Mr. Subramani, gave an RTI awareness session.

5th Pillar files an appeal RTI petition to Villupuram District Collectorate

A 75 year old person, Mr. Meypogam of Eandhur village in Dindivanam Taluk of Villupuram District, encountered resistance from the Taluk office when he applied for old age pension. This pension is granted to people who have no property and children to take care of them. The schemes main idea is to bestow dignity to old age people, and to help them with their basic necessities when they are handicapped to earn for themselves. In this situation they are forced by some corrupt officials to spare change to certify them as orphans in society in order to receive this pension. As Mr. Meypogam had no change to bribe the officials visiting to inquire his living condition, he was denied pension on grounds that he has no family to support him, which is the contrary of the stipulated regulation of the law. This was proof enough to file an RTI(Right to Information) petition on 10th January 2010, by the RTI coordinator of 5th pillar Mr. Jayaselvan, to the Personal Assistant of the District collector of Villupuram. We received a reply stating that as per RTI Act sect 3, only the Indian citizens can request information as per the Act., and the organization cannot ask for any information. This was absolutely wayward from the issue as the person who filed this petition is an Indian citizen affiliated to an NGO organization. So an appeal was filed to the district collectorate of Villupuram on 16th February 2010. We have received an acknowledgement letter stating that the issue has been directed to the concerned dept for further evaluation into the matter and would receive a response in the imminent future.

5th Pillar files RTI petition to retrieve refund amount from BSNL

Mr. Regan Jeyantony of Chennai, cancelled his broadband connection due to dissatisfaction with the service and had requested for a refund of the deposit which should have been refunded in a month's time. He approached 5th Pillar after waiting patiently for 6 months. RTI coordinator of 5th Pillar Mr. Jayaselvan filed an RTI(Right to Information) petition on 14th December 2009, for which we received a reply on 25th Januray 2010, stating as below.
The requested information of third party is personal in nature and has no public interest/ public activity, warrant its disclosure. Hence in accordance with provisions Sect 8(1)(J) of RTI Act the request could not be acceded to.
An appeal was filed by Mr. Jayaselvan on 25th February 2010, clearly clarifying the section and its relevance to this particular situation and requesting a prompt reply, for which a reply was delivered on 24th March 2010 stating that the check was already issued on 16th December 2009.
In this whole encounter we have achieved success, as we have got the refund amount, but the sad state of affairs is that, the officials are ill informed about the sections of the Act and due to this there is a considerable delay and an added workload for the State commission when it goes for an appeal. The government officials should be trained in understanding the Act, to better solve the impending tasks. An important technicality noted in this whole deal is the date posted on the cheque for an earlier date.

5th Pillar conducts Anti- Corruption Awareness Program for NSS students of Presidency College

NSS students of Presidency college who are camping at Thiruninravur near Chennai from March 31st to 5th April, 2010 had invited 5th Pillar to give a presentation about the organization and what it stands for. 5th Pillar's Director of operations, Mr. Subramani, gave a presentation on the topic, “Freedom from corruption”. His detailed account of corruption and ways to tackle it successfully by presenting Zero Rupee Note to the demanding corrupt official, and by petitioning using the Right to Information(RTI) Act raised lot of queries among the active minds of the 75 NSS students present at this event. Students raised interesting questions regarding the nature and limit of tolerance for corruption. One student posed an interesting question like “How much amount demanded as bribe will be considered as corruption?”. He wanted to know if say for example, a peon in a government office who demands Rs.50 for getting information on the status of one's file is considered corruption. Mr. Subramani replied, that demanding even a single rupee for the services to be done as part of their job is considered corruption. Another student's query was, the extent of punishment levied on the perpetrator, for which the answer was as decided by the court of law. Students also had interesting views of corruption which goes unnoticed in our current society, like not reporting the exact amount of income by business enterprises, purchasing gold without a receipt to avoid paying taxes, reporting wrong amount when registering the purchase of the property to evade taxes and so on. Another form of corruption is when one uses his or her power to attain benefits and the role of nepotism in the work environment is also considered corruption. It is really amazing to see the students' views on corruption. It is encouraging to know that as they are aware of the levels of corruption, they will definitely improve the standards of operation when they enter the work force in the coming future. Program coordinator of 5th Pillar, Mr. Sarathbabu distributed the Zero Rupee Notes to all the participants and a pledge was taken by all, to neither accept nor give bribe. Students also demonstrated their solidarity by signing on the Zero Rupee Banner to protest against corruption.
The NSS students who are staying at the Sevalaya Trust in Thiruninravur have portrayed their social consciousness by actively taking part in services for the betterment of the surrounding villages like Kasuva, Sevalaya, Puliyur, Ayaloor and Thottikalai. NSS coordinator of Presidency college, Professor Damodharan showed great interest in initiating a student chapter of 5th Pillar called SAC(Students Against Corruption), in their college. There are already student chapters in some educational institutions like Madras Christian College and Vellore Institute of Technology. There is also an upcoming RTI training session, organized by the SAC of Vellore Institute of Technology on 8th April, 2010.