Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mr. Vijay Anand addresses the Law students of Sastra University, Tanjore

“Freedom from Corruption” campaign was conducted by 5th Pillar at the Sastra University in Thanjavur on 18th August, 2010. Mr. Vijay Anand addressed the Law students who are our future policy makers and legal analysts who would be a great asset to carry out the much needed reform in our current socio-political scenario. He emphasized the use of RTI Act to address the delayed services and to redress the anomalies in many departments. Five thought provoking questions were given to the students to better understand their views and stand in the current social network. Simple formalities of say for example obtaining a drivers license or ration card, becomes an ordeal, whereas now with the new Right to Information Act, it has facilitated people in many cases to retrieve their delayed services. Zero Rupee Note a novice tool adopted by 5th Pillar to combat corruption paved way to interesting discussion about how the officials react when they are rebutted with Zero currency. Mr. Anand listed events when the Zero Rupee Note has aided the public to get their services without having to pay that extra fee. There was an interesting discussion about the disparity in the amount we pay to get the same services say for example getting a two wheeler license. Zero Rupee Note was distributed to all the participants and a pledge was taken to neither accept nor give bribe.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Selection of the Chief Information Commissioner of Tamil Nadu

Appointment of the new Chief Information Commissioner(CIC) has drawn lot of controversy since the speculation of appointing the Chief Secretary Mr. Sripathi, came into light. Mr. Sripathi had pushed for exemption of directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption (DVAC) and TNVC from the purview of RTI Act during his tenure as the Vigilance Commissioner of TNVC (Tamilnadu Vigilance Commission). The selection committee for the CIC comprises of Chief Minister, Opposition leader and a Minister appointed by the CM. Noted RTI activist V. Madhav of Association for India's Development, Nityanand Jayaraman of Tamil Nadu Right To Information Campaign and K Saravanan of Corporate Accountability Desk, met Ms. Jayalalitha on Sunday and expressed their concern in unfair nomination as the word was already spreading on the appointment of K.Sripathi as the CIC. Inspection of records of past appointees to the State Information Commission has revealed arbitrary nominations. As the current term of CIC of Tamil Nadu, Mr. Ramakrishnan's term comes to an end this month, RTI Activists' campaign for fair nomination gathered momentum from last month when the local activists started applying for the post of CIC to legally challenge the selection procedure and to bring forth a transparent selection process whereby the candidate with the right credentials get the posting of CIC.

India's Pink Vigilante Women

As I was browsing the web, I came across a very interesting old article in BBC dated in 2007, titled “India's pink vigilante women”. Several hundred vigilante women in the Banda region of Uttar Pradesh identifying themselves by wearing a pink Saree and calling themselves the “gulabi gang”, go after corrupt officials and boorish men with sticks and axes. The leader of the organization, Sampat Pal Devi was married at a very young at the age of 9 and went to live with her husband at 12 and had her first child at 13. Witnessing the misery and discrimination in a land of poverty, casteism and male chauvinism, motivated her to form a group to fend for themselves as they were neglected by all. In a region of male domination she formed an organization of women with similar ideologies and unearthed many corruptive practices and thrashed many officials. 

In one instance, when the police authority arrested a lower caste man and kept him in the cell without filing an FIR( First Information Report), the gulabi gang raided the police station and attacked the policeman. Sampat Pal Devi had also taken another step forward and had contested in the local election and secured 2800 votes. We have to laud the tenacity of this person who had the zeal and courage to make a difference in the society. She did not shy away from politics, in-fact she gave it her best shot as she believed that she can bring a change in the system by being in the system.
When a group of women from poverty ridden society who lack proper education can form a group to tackle corruption, we should be able to take a stand against this social evil by standing our ground by denying to pay bribe and try to bring the wrongdoers to justice.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

5th Pillar, Paramakudi Chapter was initiated on 16th August 2010

National People Awareness Organization run by Paramakudi 5th Pillar Chapter coordinator, Mr. Muthukumar, organized the Independence Day celebration on 15th August 2010 at Paramakudi. He conducted district level Essay, Speech and Debate competition and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners were selected in each category. On 16th August 2010, 5th Pillar along with National People Awareness Organization organized a meeting in MGR Nagar, Paramakudi to felicitate the winners of 15th event, and to inaugurate the 5th Pillar chapter in Paramakudi.
The District Collector of Ramnad, Sri.Hariharan presided over the meeting and distributed prize cups and certificates issued by 5th Pillar to the 20winners. The collector emphasized the importance of corruption free society and applauded the efforts of 5th Pillar in combating corruption. He asked the public to liberally use the Zero Rupee Note in government offices when they are faced with bribery and encouraged people to stand up against bribe. He said that he would adhere to strict policies in his office to root out corruption.
President of 5th Pillar Mr. Vijay Anand spoke about the use of RTI Act in addressing the delayed services and the success achieved by filing RTI petitions. He mentioned that RTI is an important tool to tackle corruption. Zero Rupee Notes were distributed to all the participants and an oath was taken to neither accept nor give bribe.

Ex- MLA, Mr.Balusamy, spoke about the activities and operations of 5th Pillar and commended the efforts of 5th Pillar. He explained about the 4 pillars of democracy and mentioned how 5th Pillar acts to uphold democracy when one or all the other 4 pillars fail.
Police Inspector, Mr. Sivakumar and Sub- Inspector, Mr. Saravanakumar spoke about the importance of anti-corruption movement and the benefits of corruption free society. Local doctors of Paramakudi took part in this event to bolster their support to the social cause.
District Manager of 108 Ambulance service, Mr. Paul Robinson shared a very sad state of our government hospitals. He mentioned that in government hospitals the parents are charged Rs.500 for male child and Rs. 300 for female child. In this we can also see another social injustice embedded, namely how a male child is prided over a female child. When is our society going to change when we have a partiality even in corruption. Mr. Robinson urged the public to support organizations like 5th Pillar who can eradicate corruption from our society.

Collector Mr. Hariharan inaugurated the Paramakudi chapter of 5th Pillar and urged all the 360 participants to support 5th Pillar by acting as pillars of our democracy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mr. VijayAnand speaks at the Sourashtra Chamber of Commerce on 17th August 2010

Mr. Vijay Anand's speech on corruption and ways to eliminate them from our society was well received by all the 50 businessmen present at the meeting at the Sourashtra Chamber of Commerce on 17th August 2010 at 4 pm. Mr. Anand who is also an entrepreneur from the IT field could relate to the fellow participants and was able to get the message across that we together could tackle corruption. Many of the participants retold their experiences and the struggle they endured to get their rights when establishing their business and in their day to day operations. Mr. Anand encouraged them by saying that things could be different if we take a strong stand against corruption, and exercise the RTI Act to its fullest. He narrated many examples were our organization filed RTI's on behalf of the public and the favourable results achieved. RTI Act when deployed accurately will expose the culprit, which would facilitate an action to be taken against the wrongdoers.
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President of 5th Pillar, Mr. Vijay Anand addresses the Sourashtra College students in Madurai

“If we don’t eradicate corruption; corruption will eradicate us. We will have to unite to work against bribery and corruption”, said Mr.Vijay Anand, President of 5th Pillar, when he addressed the Sourashtra College students in Madurai on 17th August, 2010 during the, “Freedom from Corruption” campaign . He first spoke at Sourashtra Men's college, and in the afternoon spoke at Sourashtra Women's college, where he emphasized the importance of the role of students in eliminating corruption as todays students are future leaders, government officials, entrepreneurs and policy makers who can definitely turn around the social scenario by adhering to anti-corruption movement. He spoke about the Zero Rupee Note a novice tool adopted by our organization to empower the public against corruption. The impact of distributing the Zero Rupee Note in real life scenarios and the impact it created on the officials with examples was highlighted by Mr. Anand. He also spoke about the RTI Act, its implementation and successes achieved. His examples of the RTI petitions filed by our organization and the resulting success was a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of the Act. Students took an oath with the Zero Rupee Note, to neither accept nor give bribe, and signed on the 30 x 15 feet Zero Rupee banner to show their solidarity against Corruption.
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5th Pillar supports Makkal Sakthi Katchi's stand against the suspension of Umasankar IAS

IAS officer Umasankar's wrongful suspension is a great blow to our democracy. It is a clear example of how honesty is rewarded in the current political scenario. He has always landed in quick sand since his inception as an IAS officer during the reign of both major political parties. Current events we witness unfolding takes us to the period of Imperialism. We feel that we are still being ruled by a King and his word is the final word. The IAS officer has submitted documents to substantiate the fraud that took place in the government departments and the theft of 1000 crore tax payer money by some individuals. We are yet to hear about the actions to be taken to address this issue.
To condemn the suspension order of Mr. Umasankar, Makkal Sakthi Katchi, (Tamil Nadu chapter of Lok Satta Party), along with NGO's like 5th Pillar, Anti Corruption Movement, Nallore vattam, Rettaimalai Srinivasan Peravai, Manitham, PAADAM, FACT India, Thudi, Aathi Thamilar Peravai, Social Awareness movement, Lanjam Kodathor Iyakkam, Jebamani Janatha Party, People's Awareness Campaign Energy, Puravigal iyakkam, Human Rights Organisations, Lawyers Forum for Social Movement, Socialist Janatha Party, Tamilnadu State Bharathiya Janatha Party, organized a major gathering at Kerala Samajam Hall, in Chennai on 12th August 2010 at 5 pm. Speakers from different background spoke on stage expressing their resentment at the way things are unfolding and expressed their dissatisfaction with the present government in the current revenge tactic against a honest officer. Mrs. Sivagami, who quit IAS to enter politics, said the government should fix the culprits, who were responsible for the destruction of cables and machinery of the Arasu Cable TV Corporation, under the Goondas Act. Thamizharivu Manian disclosed the hardships he faced when he wrote exposing the corrupt government practices. He asked the public to reject the current DMK government, soaked in corruption. CPM State secretary G. Ramakrishnan, Senior CPI leader R. Nallakannu, A. S. Kumar (CPI-ML), Devasahayam (retired IAS officer) also spoke at this gathering.
The meeting adopted a resolution, to urge the government to revoke the suspension order of Mr. Umasankar and insisted for a CBI ( Central Bureau of Investigation) enquiry into the exposures made by the IAS officer in the Arasu Cable TV Corporation and disappearance of ETL Infrastructure Ltd.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

5th Pillar takes part in Independence Day celebration in Los Angeles

5th Pillar team in Los Angeles attended the Independence Day celebrations in Los Angeles and distributed the novel tool adopted by our organization to combat Corruption, the Zero Rupee Note. There were close to 2500 attendees for this celebration and creating an awareness of our organization's services to the public is crucial. Most of the NRI's have visiting parents or they themselves will be traveling often to India or face corruption when they invest in India. Many attendees of the event were eager to know what are the services provided by our organization and when they learned that we provide free RTI training sessions and file RTI petitions on behalf of the public they said that they would ask their family in India to contact us for help. Distributing the Zero Rupee Note on Independence Day to create awareness was a great way to empowerment.

Monday, August 16, 2010

5th Pillar files RTI petition on behalf of an NRI

Mr Chinna Reddy from Andhra Pradesh is living in Canada and his parents are living in Nandyal of Kurnool Dt. in Andhra Pradesh. Along with his parents his nephews and his niece are living and studying in Nandyal. His niece aged 17 , is studying in Intermediate second year. She has been getting anonymous phone calls from a person who is threatening her that he would kidnap her and take her away. He is also threatening her that he would throw acid on her and kill her.

Mr.Chinna Reddy's people have given a complaint to the Nandyal Police Station. A constable came to the house and enquired. There was again a phone call which was attended by the constable himself. The caller threatened that he will kill everybody. The family has traced out the phone numbers of the people who have been making the calls. They have made a complaint to the District Collector, Kurnool on 9th August, 2010., requesting security for the family and the children and also for taking action against the people who are doing the mischief. No reply has been received form the Collector, and no action been taken against the mischief mongers. Being abroad, Mr. Reddy is worried about the security of his family. He has made a representation to the 5th Pillar, to get the problem solved. Based on the information given by Mr. Reddy, 5th Pillar has sent an RTI Representation on the 16th addressed to the Collector, A copy of the RTI representation is reproduced below. 

14 August 2010

The Collector of Kurnool,                     

Dear Sir,

                Sub Information under Right to Information Act, 2005,-Security problem of Mr. Chinna Reddy's family at Nandyal Regarding-Requested.

        Ref: Representation from Mr.Chinna Reddy , Canada addressed to the Collector of Kurnool Dt.

I wish to enclose a copy of the representation addressed to you by one Mr Chinna Reddy of Canada with regard to the security of his family at Nandyal. I request to be supplied with the following information under the Right to Information Act, 2005

1. Has the representation from Mr. Chinna Reddy been received in the Collectorate of Kurnool and if so on what date?

2. If the representation has been received, what action been taken over this issue which is concerned with the security of the family of a person who is outside the country?

3. Has the information been passed on to the Police people at Nandyal, who is connected with the security?
4. If so what action been taken by the Nandyal Police in this regard?
5. Whether the Police has arrested any of the persons who have been giving threatening calls to the members of the family
6. If not arrested, the reasons for the inaction of the police, inspite of the fact that the telephone numbers of the mischief mongers have already been intimated in the representation?

I request information on the above lines may please be furnished at the earliest.
Thanking You,

Yours Sincerely

(K.Bhanu Kumar)
Executive Director 
5th Pillar

RTI News Article in New York Times

Recently I saw an article in New York times, “ Right-to-know law gives India's poor a lever” and started to read it as it was relevant to the kind of work we do in our organization. The article was about Chanchala Devi from a desolate village in Jharkand, who had repeatedly tried to receive the support payment from the government to build a new house as she was below poverty line. She was the right candidate eligible for the support funds of $700, but was delayed whereas neighboring wealthier people received the same funds from the government and had constructed new homes. After waiting 4 years she approached an RTI activist and filed an RTI petition. Within days the local bureaucrat sanctioned the funds, and she is on her way to build her new home. This is good for her, but where is the justice for the rest who are still waiting for a miracle to happen and the grants to be sanctioned whereas the money is siphoned wrongfully to the already rich people. The RTI petition should act both ways. One to receive the delayed services and the other to question the services provided to those who are not eligible. These kind of RTI petitions followed by remunerative measures like retroactive repayment with interest of the wrongfully sanctioned grants would help steer the corrupt into the right direction due to fear of severe penalties. We can definitely contain Corruption and create a sense of responsibility if we can use the RTI Act effectively.

5th Pillar addresses RTI to the Retired Government Employees of Cuddalore

Retired Government employees Association of Cuddalore organized a meeting for the retired government employees at the Pensioners Hall in Cuddalore on August 1, 2010. There were 90 participants for this event and they invited 5th Pillar for a presentation on the activities of 5th Pillar and RTI Act. Mr. Santhanamoorthy, District Secretary and Virudhachalam chapter coordinator of 5th Pillar Mr. Thennavan were the speakers of the event. Special invitee of the day Mr. Venkataraman (Retired DRO), and other participants who were all retired government employees had so many interesting episodes to share and learn from one another. Their experience and knowledge of the intricate functioning of the offices would facilitate to understand the impending problem and methods to adopt to tackle them. Speakers spoke about the beneficial of the RTI Act and how it has helped the public to retrieve their services in due time. 5th Pillar’s monthly Tamil magazine, “MAATTRAM” was distributed to all participants along with the Zero Rupee Note and RTI pamphlets. The participants would be able to write effective RTI petitions if they were trained as they already are familiar with the working environment of the government offices. The participants were very eager to join as our members and subscribe to our magazine, and requested 5th Pillar to come for their next meeting to conduct an RTI training session for them. Empowering every citizen is the best way to address Corruption by its horns.

5th Pillar's RTI campaign at Erode Farmers Association

Farmers Association in Erode is an active body which meets regularly, and for one such meeting on 1st August they invited 5th Pillar for a presentation. 5th Pillar’s Salem chapter coordinator, Mr. Rajamanickam spoke in detail about 5th Pillar’s role in combating corruption using Zero Rupee Note and RTI petitions. Zero Rupee Note with our contact details on the back side of the note, was distributed to all 40 participants. Mr. Rajamanickam’s detailed discourse about RTI and successes achieved by filing the RTI petition, motivated the audience, hence they requested for a detailed RTI training session in their next meeting. Many participants became members of our organization and also subscribed to our monthly Tamil magazine, “MAATTRAM”.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Corruption in Foodgrain storage and distribution

Corruption has rocketed in all sectors, but its effect in the food grain sector affects all especially the poor. A recent observation of the Supreme Court, highlights the prevalent corrupt practices in the foodgrain storage facility. Due to the negligence of bureaucrats and responsible officials, every year tonnes of foodgrains go to waste due to improper storage facility. No one is accountable for this sorry state. In the same country we see people starving and begging for few kernels of rice for survival,eating rats for survival and we see tonnes of rice going to waste.

Earlier we had reported of corruptive practices in food procurement agency in Thanjavur District were the poor farmers are taxed for their hard earned crop. They are paid Rs.10 less for each bag of rice. When the rice is transported from this society to the storage facility there is lot of discrepancies were they loose some bags. At the storage facility there is different scenario and loss of bags. When the rice is distributed through PDS we hear stories of very poor quality rice being replaced instead of the regular variety. Miscreants replace the good variety rice with the inferior quality, and the people who are really affected by all this are the poor who solely depend on this rice. It is so unfortunate that even if there are governmental policies for the poor they never benefit due to these intermediary corrupt officials. Apart from this we see corruption in the Ration store where the poor go to buy their alloted measure of essential commodities. Most of the time they are denied saying that they have not received stock and the items are sold for stores. 

When we see bags of rice being left to rot like seen in the above picture, whereas kids waiting in line for food and malnourished children we see how unfair and imbalanced our society is. Why is it, that there is no sense of empathy in our society. Everyday we hear stories of black money being stashed in offshore accounts and we see poor dying for lack of nourishment. We need sincere officials in all civil service who can work cohesively, complementing one another in maintaining a strong corrupt free society.

Friday, August 6, 2010

97.6 crore paid as bribe by the people living below poverty line (BPL)

Recent survey on corruption levels by Transparency International-India and the Centre for Media Studies, New Delhi , reveal that families living below poverty level in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have paid Rs. 97.6 crore as bribe to obtain their basic services, last year alone. This astounding figure transcribes to Rs.477 per household of BPL. The national study estimated that BPL (Below Poverty Line) households paid about Rs 900 crore a year as bribes to get basic services. The study divided the states by their size and ranked them on levels of corruption into 'alarming', 'very high', 'high' and 'moderate'.
The sad state of this entire scenario is that the poor are the ones who suffer to make ends meet and they are the one who become vulnerable to the voracious officials. Everyday we hear and read articles in newspapers about the effects of corruption and bribery on lower income group. We have read about the schools collapsing in rural areas and kids dying. This is all a one day news report, with no follow up action against the perpetrators. The media should also play a role in streaming the news and report on the follow up action developments. This is the reason why freedom fighters and great minds resorted to publishing to get the message out to all to bring about a change in the society. We hear about crores of public money siphoned to an individual, whereas in the same state there are poor struggling to get their basic services like good hospital care, education and so on. The gap between the rich and the poor are widening day by day and the main reason for the widening demarcation is corruption.

5th Pillar files RTI, in respect to Patta allocation

5th Pillar had sent a RTI Representation to the Public Information Officer, Taluk Office,Ambattur, in respect of a patta allocation to one Mr. Desigan of Chennai-82, on 20th November, 2009. The letter has been received by him on the 1st December, 2009. Since no reply was received from him even after 55 days, an appeal was sent to the Appellate Authority of the same Office on the 25th January, 2010. Since there was no reply from the Appellate Authority , an appeal was sent to the Chief Information Commissioner, at Teynampt, on the 24th February, 2010.
The Chief Information Commissioner, in his letter dated 6th July, 2010 summoned Mr. Jayaselvan, the applicant and the Public Information Officer, Taluk Office, Ambattur to appear before the Commission on the 15th of July, 2010. This is the first time that the 5th Pillar has been called for an enquiry by the Commission based on an appeal preferred by the Organization. Accordingly, Mr. K.Bhanu Kumar, Executive Director, and Mr. Jayaselvan, RTI Coordinator of 5th Pillar appeared before the Commission with the connected records. The Public Information Officer, Ambattur was also present. The Information Commissioner Mr. Srinivasan, conducted detailed enquiries and furnished the following observations in his Proceedings NO. 5465/Enquiry/2010 dated 15.7/2010.

1. The Public Information Officer should furnish the details called for in the representation within 10 days of the receipt of the Proceedings. and inform the fact to the Commission.

2. The District Collector, Tiruvallore has been requested to show cause to the Public Information Officer, why action should not be taken against him under Section 20 (1) of the Right to Information
Act, for not providing replies to the RTI representation and for the appeal to the Appellate Authority.

The concerned party, in this case Mr. Desigan was very happy and relieved. Successes like this is always a motivation to move forward.

Reward for Honesty meted out to Mr. Umasankar IAS

Mr. Umasankar IAS was victimized by the Tamil Nadu Government on grounds of falsified community certificate. He entered civil service in 1990 under the Dalit quota, which is currently being disputed. The media is reporting facts that he has always been an honest officer and has been instrumental in unearthing a discrepancy in 1995, in Madurai in the construction of cremation facility, and during his tenure as the Managing Director of the Arasu Cable Company (ACC) and Electronic corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT), he unearthed a major scandal of missing subsidiary companies with allocated government funds in multiples of crores.In spite of all the support and trust he is still under suspension and no action is being taken to study the matter of dispute, namely the vanishing of 700 crores of tax payers money.

Earlier, in 2006, when Umashankar was MD of the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT), it floated a joint venture company with New Era Technologies Ltd called ELNET, which in turn, launched a subsidiary company called ETL Infrastructure Ltd. "This company purchased 25 acres of land at Pallikaranai near Chennai and constructed an IT park of 17 lakh square feet. It also got IT special economic zone status from the Centre by projecting itself as a subsidiary of the state-owned ELCOT. But later, ETL became a wholly privately-owned company," the AIADMK chief said. She alleged that the officer was shunted out from ELCOT after he raised questions about the disappearance of it subsidiary from records along with its Rs 700 crore assets.

Right now he is suspended and facing disciplinary action for falsified documents. The media and opposition party is projecting that all this is due to his intervention in the mismanagement of funds in the Governmental communication sector. Mr. Umasankar has described the events as a retribution for his honesty. Being said, there is yet a commission to be formed to evaluate the assets of the all the communication departments involved. Right now the focus is to get Mr. Umasankar out in the clear, but at the same time an inquiry into the accounts of the major cable companies involved in this controversy, which have siphoned taxpayers money for personal gains have to be undertaken immediately. Someone has to be accountable to the lost funds and an inquiry is imminent. This would be a very good issue to watch and see how it unfolds in the coming months, and if the public would ever come to know about the source and distribution of funds.

5th Pillar in Neyveli Book Fair, 9-18 July, 2010

Zero Rupee Note and RTI pamphlet were distributed by Annai book Stall, instituted by the Dharmapuri chapter coordinator, Mr. Vinoth at Neyveli Book Fair from 9-18th July, 2010 . People from neighbouring towns like Cudalore, Chidhambaram and other nearby towns, who visited the fair and received the ZRN and RTI pamphlet of 5th Pillar were very enthusiastic about learning the services provided by our organization. The  campaign was a huge success as we received many calls from the public as a follow up, and many joined as members and requested help in addressing their pending matters. Mr. Vinoth's answers to all the queries put forth by the visitors, motivated them to approach the respective chapters of 5th Pillar. Many of them who were having problems in receiving services approached our office and have initiated remedial measures by filing an RTI petition.

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