EDITORIAL

Success mantra

What is the mantra of success? Can we easily explain this? Before we carry on further to grope for an answer we perhaps ought to define success. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has tried to catch the bull by the horns. "What is success?", she asks and then goes on to reply: "I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose." Has she spoken about being successful or being famous? To be successful or renowned does require a "certain" degree of effort and dedication. By and large the political class revels in power play. For its members it is but natural to aim for and strive to achieve an office which they regard as a measure of accomplishment. In the present age we can come across any number of celebrities --- "main hoon na" (I, me and myself) sort of variety ---- thanks mainly to their half-a-dozen television appearances or a few front-page by-lines or photographs. Some of them write books centring on them and beguile others by distorting facts. To us it appears that they are taken in by their own images. In sharp contrast they think that they are the only living intellectual giants. They are not afraid of even wangling public honours by misrepresenting truth exploiting in the process the half-knowledge of others. The contact between this State and New Delhi in several matters is a case in point. What Carl Bernstein (celebrated American journalist who along with Bob Woodward has broken the story of the Watergate break-in leading to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon) has said about his country is relevant in our milieu. According to him, "the lowest form of popular culture --- lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people's lives --- has overrun real journalism. Today ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage." A difference may be that journalism is possibly . .....more

Kashmir: Retrieve the magic

By Dr Karuna Thakur

Mood in Kashmir, after Indira Sheikh Accord of 1975 was upbeat. A surge of emotions over the leader's homecoming had apparently overshadowed bitterness of the fifties.The valley had turned into a nervecentre of activity and played host to an influx of visitors including leaders, writers, journalists and filmmakers. Globetrotting yogis too ,descended on the scene to unwind while some, like the Mahesh yogi group, held training sessions on transcendental meditation for the overworked government functionaries.....more

When the 'Sur' goes wrong!

By Zafri Mudasser Nofil

It was one composition which connected all Indians and nearly went on to achieve an anthem status. And now an effort to add a Gen-X touch to 'Mile sur mera tumhara' has made the new version less assuming and a trifle out of tune.
'Phir mile sur', launched on January 26 has received lukewarm response from people and critics alike. It has been found to be a bit too long with too many new faces and Bollywood dominance..
......more

Status of RTI in J&K

By Muzaffar Bhat

On Sunday evening-almost 11 months since the J&K RTI Act 2009 was gazetted-the people of J&K learned that ex-IAS officer Wajahat Habibullah would not be coming to Jammu & Kashmir to become the State's first Chief Information Commissioner. Wajahat is presently the first Chief Information Commissioner of India, and was responsible for successfully establishing and safeguarding the Right to Information Act in the Central government since his term began in October of 2005. Last October, he submitted his resignation .,,,,.more

EDITORIAL

Success mantra

What is the mantra of success? Can we easily explain this? Before we carry on further to grope for an answer we perhaps ought to define success. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has tried to catch the bull by the horns. "What is success?", she asks and then goes on to reply: "I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose." Has she spoken about being successful or being famous? To be successful or renowned does require a "certain" degree of effort and dedication. By and large the political class revels in power play. For its members it is but natural to aim for and strive to achieve an office which they regard as a measure of accomplishment. In the present age we can come across any number of celebrities --- "main hoon na" (I, me and myself) sort of variety ---- thanks mainly to their half-a-dozen television appearances or a few front-page by-lines or photographs. Some of them write books centring on them and beguile others by distorting facts. To us it appears that they are taken in by their own images. In sharp contrast they think that they are the only living intellectual giants. They are not afraid of even wangling public honours by misrepresenting truth exploiting in the process the half-knowledge of others. The contact between this State and New Delhi in several matters is a case in point. What Carl Bernstein (celebrated American journalist who along with Bob Woodward has broken the story of the Watergate break-in leading to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon) has said about his country is relevant in our milieu. According to him, "the lowest form of popular culture --- lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people's lives --- has overrun real journalism. Today ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage." A difference may be that journalism is possibly not as much responsible for the present scenario in our State and the country as the other channels of communication. Only the nave or an ethical Gandhian will be surprised by this milieu. To our good fortune Mahatma Gandhi has been and is popularly respected as a great exception to the trend of deceit, conceit and dishonesty. We can always cite him to nail a lie. To our ill luck, however, his name is exploited currently mostly by those in positions of power who swear by him day in and day our without following him in letter and spirit.
His true followers suffer in silence in their unflinching belief that the truth will prevail in the end. Albert Einstein has been a greater admirer of the Mahatma wondering whether such a man has really walked the earth. His message, therefore, is meaningful: "Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." Surely he must be turning in his grave now that the men of lesser or no worth are taking the centre-stage. Humorist Eerma Bombeck is not wide off the mark when she says: "Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other." Madonna is an actress and entrepreneur. Helen Keller is a saga in human courage --- the first deaf-blind to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, an author, political activist and lecturer. The moral of the story is one who is famous may not be successful.

 

Kashmir: Retrieve the magic

By Dr Karuna Thakur

Mood in Kashmir, after Indira Sheikh Accord of 1975 was upbeat. A surge of emotions over the leader's homecoming had apparently overshadowed bitterness of the fifties.The valley had turned into a nervecentre of activity and played host to an influx of visitors including leaders, writers, journalists and filmmakers. Globetrotting yogis too ,descended on the scene to unwind while some, like the Mahesh yogi group, held training sessions on transcendental meditation for the overworked government functionaries.
To meet the ever growing pressure, numerous mini valleys were earmarked for development as tourist destinations.The western tourists flocked to houseboats ,locals to the Mughal gardens on holidays whereas the rest dispersed along the boulevard at Dal Gate where the shikarawalas made brisk business in peak season. Earthy Sadhus and pilgrims enroute to Amarnath ,camped along the Lidder valley whereas the ponywallas wooed the visitors with viewpoints like Bobby hut.
The Sonwar residential complex overlooked the Jehlum and gave a peep into Doonga life at night, when, after a hard day's work, men relaxed by smoking hukka and the women got together to sing in chorus.
Marriages were festive with elaborate wazwan, a food ritual , deeply embedded in Kashmiri lifestyle and a symbol of its core value of shared, community eating. The multicourse foodstyle was not just a lavish display of food items but also signified a deeprooted tradition of warm hospitality. Frugality , as a trait, in entertaining guests was unmistakably absent in Kashmiri households.
Life vibrated, in parks, bunds, hotels and public places. Cinema halls remained packed to capacity,particularly on days when old movies like Mugle Azam and Shiri Farhaad were screened. Kashmir Ki Kali , any day, filled the audience with pride over how their exotic locales could enamour outsiders, who trooped in huge numbers to experience the reel magic translate into real life. Kashmir's magic in its full form was captured at night in the backdrop of Zabarwan hills from Pari Mahal or Shankracharya when the poetic version of a paradise on earth literally, came alive.
With memories, skillfully captured in frame by the Mahattas and Darly photographers, visitors were lured to return the visit , which was never the last. They were brought back many times over, to experience varied shades of the valley, where autumn could script an account, as fascinating as the spring , a single trip was never really sufficient.
Politics was not invasive, it interspersed with life smoothly, people pursued their normal lives and engaged in politics by choice. Hope, defined the mood of the period.
A trip to the valley two decades later was marked by night long encounters and gunfire in different parts.Life moved with an underlying fatigue. Lhasa the Chinese restaurant once a favourite haunt for its warm, ambience now, resembled a down town cellar,lakes like the Dal and Nageen looked equally desolate. Beauty of the valley was of no consequence as appreciative revellers had vanished, so had the magic
Growth of a society is a complex interplay of forces, spanning over centuries . Like an arterial network , its constituent parts;l and, soil, climate, communities, languages and customs interconnect to infuse life and vigour to it and make up for its ethos. Rupture of Kashmir's centuries old, intricately woven society, once pulsating with life, is a painful experience for all its inhabitants .Modern state structure apparently has no available tools to measure levels of psycho social trauma and hence not well equipped to heal the same.Though sad, this outcome is also, in some measure, a failure of' its inhabitants to put up appropriate assertions to resist disruptions in their life spaces. They have to strive and reclaim the sphere which allows them their right to life and the basic freedoms which flow from it . A significant difference can be made by setting boundaries where politics of any kind does not violate the sancti ty of their lived spaces.They can do it in a way, nobody else really can.
Societies must grow out of celebration of life and everything connected with it, not its demise. Nations can not thrive over stillness of graveyards.Kashmir will revive no doubt , but a philosophical question which everyone connected with the good old times continues to ask is ,"can the magic ever be retrieved?" Perhaps, people of Kashmir know best and they alone can make their choices in this regard.

When the 'Sur' goes wrong!

By Zafri Mudasser Nofil

It was one composition which connected all Indians and nearly went on to achieve an anthem status. And now an effort to add a Gen-X touch to 'Mile sur mera tumhara' has made the new version less assuming and a trifle out of tune.
'Phir mile sur', launched on January 26 has received lukewarm response from people and critics alike. It has been found to be a bit too long with too many new faces and Bollywood dominance.
Conceptualised and conceived by late Suresh Mallick of the now-defunct autonomous body Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad, 'Mile sur mera tumhara' was first aired on Doordarshan on August 15, 1988. And now, 22 years later, Kailash Surendranath and his wife Arti have recreated it and it is presented as 'Phir mile sur' for private television channel Zoom.
It features 22 superstars, 18 musicians, 13 artistes and singers and 15 other known personalities. Bollywood has a never-ending list with Amitabh Bachchan, son Abhishek, daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty and Juhi Chawla featuring in the video.
'Phir mile sur' also stars Zakir Hussain, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Rashid Khan, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Taufiq Qureshi, Faizal, Sivamani, Gurdas Maan, L Subramaniam, Bhupen Hazarika and Yesudas and sports icons Abhinav Bindra, Vijendra Kumar, Saina Nehwal, Sushil Kumar, Baichung Bhutia and others.
Surendranath feels that though the original song remains a golden oldie, the present generation needed another song.
"The need was to assert that the young nation with bright and enviable future can prove that nobody could manipulate them on the basis of their diversity. The message needed to be conveyed with sound, credible and recognised faces of today", he puts it.
And thus began the song's filming for over 60 days in prominent and historic sites across 13 cities of the country and 30 days of post-production work.
According to the creators, "It was an exhilarating experience creating the mosaic of so many different celebrities from various walks of life and regions in India. Today, we feel the same emotions gushing, after a span of two decades."
So, what went wrong?
What are Shilpa Shetty, Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor doing, some asked?
Why are Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Sania Mirza and APJ Abdul Kalam not there, others questioned?
Netizens used blogs and networking sites like Orkut, Twitter and Facebook to express their disappointment over the new version of the integration song.
Surendranath, the new song's director, says they were under some pressure to release the song on Republic Day and this led to the non-inclusion of cricketing greats like Sachin Tendulkar and others. Interestingly, the new video does not feature any member of the Indian cricket team.
But now the makers are on a damage control mission and planning a revised and shorter version of the song by roping in some icons like Tendulkar and others.
On the criticism that it has too many film artistes, Surendranath reasons " If you compare both the songs, you will find that the proportion of film personalities is almost the same. Last time there were 26 artistes, of which 12 were from films. This time out of 60 personalities, we have 22 actors, while there are 13 musicians."
According to him, " Inclusion of film personalities instils a message of national unity as the film fraternity of the country has a strong presence in the minds of youth. When we were researching, Bollywood was on top of our minds."
The makers also wanted the new song reflect the youth of the country and " so we experimented with new locations".
But that only resulted in 'Mile sur mera tumhara' ending up as " Less of soul and heart and more of gloss" as adman Piyush Pandey, who wrote the lyrics for the original video, puts it.
What about the melody factor? The new song is difinitely low on that front. Most of the singers and performers are found to try things unnecessarily.
There is neither a Bhimsen Joshi nor a Lata Mangeshkar to ignite the spirits.
One conclusion that can be drawn is that tampering with the original does not always produce the best results. This has been proved several times be it remakes or remixes. As the adage goes, old is certainly gold.
In those days of Doordarshan, the sole television broadcaster, "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" was an important filler during programme breaks. Replete with a tone of oneness, it was much more than a patriotic song. It was sort of an ignite-the spirits kind of a piece which described and represented India in a very appropriate way.
Doyens of Indian music like Bhimsen Joshi, M Balamurali Krishna, Ravi Shankar, Lata Mangeshkar, Allah Rakha Khan and Zakir Hussain; film personalities like Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty, Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Kamal Haasan, Sharmila Tagore, Tanuja and Waheeda Rehman and sportsmen Narendra Hirwani, Prakash Padukone, S Venkataraghavan, Ramanathan Krishnan, Arun Lal, PK Banerjee and Chuni Goswami added to the feel of the song.
The base raga for the song is Bhairavi. Who can forget the magical voice of Bhimsen Joshi who sets tune to the sung? Or the glamorous actresses Waheeda Rahman, Hema Malini and Sharmila Tagore lip-syncing to Lata's voice followed by the Amitabh-Jeetendra-Mithun feat as the song gradually fades into the final notes of the national anthem.
The states well also we represented. The phrase ' Mile sur mera tumhara, to sur bane hamara' was sung in 14 Indian languages-Hindi, Marathi, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Sindhi, Urdu, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Bangla, Assamese, Oriya and Gujarati.
In all, it was a well- packaged concept with both rural and urban interests catered nicely. It had melody, it had charm and grace and it was something which the people identified themselves with.
The song was indeed for the masses. It became a humble medium to concept the people of the country as was accepted as the unofficial anthem.And' Phir mile sur' is found wanting in all these aspects. (PTI)

India's growth amid regional tension

By Ramesh Kanitkar

The declining contribution of agriculture sector to the national Gross Domestic Production is a matter of serious concern. Agriculture called backbone of our country’s economy is losing its position and the ultimate sufferers are the farmers. The cases of suicides by the farmers across the country in the events of the crop failures are increasing day by day as they are left with no option when crop failure leads them to the dark tunnel of indebtness. In Jammu and Kashmir the picture too is gloomy. Continuously existing dry spell for the last two years has totally broken the back of the farming community. The worst sufferers are the farmers following rain-fed agriculture. The kandi belt has suffered a lot from the long run dry spell. The last years Rabi season and then Kharif season have faded the faces of the farmers. Paddy crop in the field is being harvested but it has produced far less yield much below the expected level. Paddy cultivation involves too much labour. In many cases farmers are complaining that they have not been getting even the cost involved in the cultivation of the paddy crop. With the onset of the Kharif season, farmers had to face the wrath of the weather with no rains and delayed monsoon showers resulting in the delayed showing of the major Kharif crops.

In a situation mirroring the change in the national economy, the tertiary sector in Jammu and Kashmir is fast threatening to overtake the primary sector. Agriculture, once the mainstay of the economy, is being increasingly abandoned by people in favour of jobs in the private sector leading to a marked slump in the primary sector in the last few years. As per official figures, the contribution of the primary sector, which includes forestry, livestock and agricultural sector, to the State Domestic Product has witnessed a decline between 2001 and 2007. Sources attribute this decrease to the growing urbanization of J&K. They added that even though the actual growth rate of agriculture in the state had shown a consistent increase, it had lagged behind the national average. The rate has been 5.13 per cent in 2002-03, 5.17 per cent in 2003-04, 5.23 per cent in 2004-05, 5.73 per cent in 2005-06 and 6 per cent in 2006-07. A major change in the cropping system has been observed with the farmers following the sowing of Kharif pulses and oilseeds at the places where they used to grow paddy during the normal monsoon season. Many farmers followed the sowing of fodder and even many kept the fields fallow so that they may sow the toria crop during the month of September. But the rain again betrayed them and gave them sheer disappointment. In the lower intermediate region the rains only occurred at the time of late Kharif season which resulted in the late sowing of Kharif crops and during the entire crop period no showers have been observed.

The rain-fed agriculture is risk prone and during the times of Monsoon this season remained very weak fading the faces of the farmers. The crops sown during the Kharif season failed to get irrigations at the critical stages and resulted in poor crop stand, poor vegetative growth. Poor flowering, poor grain formation and grain filling thereby resulting in the poor yield. Farmers had hopes from the Kharif season but it failed to meet up to the expectations and ultimately now the farmers have eyed all hopes on the ensuing Rabi season. But unfortunately the beginning is not good. By now the major rains as required to bring the soil moisture to the level sufficient for following the sowing of the crops has not taken place.

Farmers have harvested their Kharif crops and many places the fields were already fallow and are waiting with all inputs at their disposal for the shower to take place. At this stage the needed strategies are formulated by the scientists is formulation of contingent cropping plans and the schemes which would ensure at least some sowing by the farmers and minimizing the losses to be incurred in the event of failed rainfall? During the cropping period in the times of drought, the revenue and agriculture officials are engaged for the calculation of the losses to the crops due to drought so a s to calculate the intensity of the compensation to be given to the farmers. This is reactive approach. Why the pro-active approach in this direction shouldn’t is followed? The farmers should be trained in the moisture conservation practices. Digging of the ground water wells or tube wells is a alternative means to grow crops. The question is for how long we will be able to irrigate the land with the ground water? A viable long run solution is needed that can mitigate the problems of the farming community for a longer period. It has also been seen that the youth is losing interest inn the noble vocation of agriculture.

In view of the changing pattern of the rainfall, there is a dire need to change the strategies of the farming also. Utilization of preserved moisture is very crucial besides there is need to develop cropping sequences and cropping systems suitable for the changing climatic scenario. Work should be done to evaluate the use of surface mulches, both organic and inorganic for short term moisture conservation, to determine ideal fertilizer doses and improving fertilizer use efficiency, to test new planting materials for introduction/substitution after they have proved their superiority over existing ones.

Developing strategies for meeting the challenges of an aberrant weather like skip or catch cropping etc. Even after utilizing all the available water resources, about 50% of our culturable area will still depend on rains. Therefore, our agricultural scientists, policy formulators and farmers should appropriately realize the magnitude of role that rain-fed agriculture or dryland farming can play. They should thoroughly examine the problems of dry land agriculture from different view points and evolve appropriate technologies, crop varieties, etc. for these areas to better the economic position of the farmers

(The author is Agriculture Extension Officer)

Status of RTI in J&K

By Muzaffar Bhat

On Sunday evening-almost 11 months since the J&K RTI Act 2009 was gazetted-the people of J&K learned that ex-IAS officer Wajahat Habibullah would not be coming to Jammu & Kashmir to become the State's first Chief Information Commissioner. Wajahat is presently the first Chief Information Commissioner of India, and was responsible for successfully establishing and safeguarding the Right to Information Act in the Central government since his term began in October of 2005. Last October, he submitted his resignation to the President. Days later, the Governorof the State officially appointed him to be the J&K State Information Commission. Since that time, we have been hoping that he would do the same for this state, particularly in view of (1) his reputation, (2) his integrity and (3) his deep experience with both RTI and Jammu & Kashmir. But the Central government has been unwilling to find his replacement, and Prime Minister Manmohan privately advised him last week to remain in Delhi at the Chief Information Commission [CIC] until his retirement at the age of 65 in September.
Although Mr. Habibullah had some critics, it's also true that there wasn't a more qualified or promising candidate for the job. But we criticize the Centre and Mr. Habibullah for leaving RTI in J&K paralyzed for so many months--and to no avail. His coming appointment was known to us last August, and was reported widely in the media in September. On 1 October, his appointment was finalized by the Selection Committee convened under Section 12(3) of the JKRTI 2009 that comprised of the CM Omar Abdullah, the Deputy CM Tara Chand and the acting Leader-of-the-Opposition Mehbooba Mufti. But the Centre insisted that Mr. Habibulla's replacement first had to be found by the Central Selection Committee, which comprises of the PM Manmohan Singh, the Law Minister Veerappa Moily and the Leader-of-the-Opposition first LK Advani and then Sushma Swaraj. So J&K waited... and waited... and waited.... The Central Selection Committee convened in December, but they could not agree on candidate since the Centre was proposing ex-babus while Mr. Advani was proposing eminent citizens like Kiran Bedi (ex-IPS) and Shekhar Singh (RTI legal expert). Now, we've finally learned that Manmohan Singh was simply unwilling to find a strong replacement, and that Mr. Habibullah was simply unwilling to force the issue by implementing his own resignation and walking away from the Central Information Commission.
As RTI activists, this development comes as a shock to us. Now the future of RTI in J&K is in chaos. The J&K Selection Committee must meet again, and decide upon the Chief and the two additional Commissioners who comprise the 3-member Commission. At the Centre, civil society activists and eminent citizens including Arvind Kejriwal, Aruna Roy, Narayana Murthy, and Aamir Khan have called upon the Centre to (1) frame a clear and transparent procedure for appointing the Information Commissioners, and (2) to select strong, eminent citizens rather than picking babus and other "blue-eyed boys." We repeat this call to the Government of J&K. We already forwarded some recommended names, including current and former justices of the J&K High Court who would be outstanding Chief Information Commissioners. We call upon Mr. Abdullah, Mr. Chand and Ms. Mufti to move swiftly and transparently in this direction.
Fortunately, during this fruitless 6 month long wait, some progress was made in establishing the State Information Commission. On 19 October, the SIC was constituted by the Government vide SRO 325, and the IAS officer Gazzanfer Hussain was appointed as its first Secretary. The Commission currently now has offices in Srinagar at the Old Assembly Complex (Tel. 194-2484269), and a temporary office at House No. 14, Sector 8 in Trikuta Nagar in Jammu (Tel. 0191-2475260). Officials at both offices are receiving appeals and complaints from citizens until the time that the Chief Information Commissioner assumes office.
However, we have questions for the Government in eight areas where implementation has been lacking. First, "When will the Government appoint all the required PIOs and APIOs?" Every "Public Authority" appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) to receive & process RTI applications by the 28 June 2009 (5(1)). They must also appoint Assistant PIOs (APIOs) in each district office to receive & forward RTI applications from rural applicants to the concerned PIOs. To date, 32 of 35 Departments have appointed at least one PIO, and the details have been put on the GAD's website. After we sent reminder, the Chief Minister's Secretariat, the Raj Bhawan, the Legislative Council, the Legislative Assembly and the High Court have also appointed PIOs. Yet, 8 months after the deadline, the Elections, Estates, and Technical Education Departments have no PIOs or APIOs! A dozen bodies under government control or ownership (such as the J&K Police, SIDCO, SICOP, ERA, SFC, WDC, JK Cement, J&K Bank) also have no PIOs or APIOs! Finally, many service-oriented Departments have not appointed APIOs in each District, including Revenue, Agriculture and Health.
Second, "When will the PIOs, APIOs, and other relevant government officials be trained in RTI Act & Rules, including 'best practices' from elsewhere in India?" RTI users have found that many officials in Government are ignorant of basic RTI provisions, sometimes creating trouble. The new Act requires that the Government provide training to government officials, especially the PIOs and APIOs (see 23(1)(d)). Yet, not even a single training programme has been conducted. Fortunately, there are some positive examples to emulate. The SVO has diligently maintained a webpage detailing the status of all RTI applications it has received. We recommend that all Departments and Public Authorities follow this practice as fulfillment of the monitoring & reporting requirements of 22.
Third, "When will the Government conduct RTI awareness programmes for the public?" The Government is required to raise awareness and provide training to the public, especially for "disadvantaged communities" (See 23(1)(a) and (b)). Yet no RTI awareness programmes for the public have organized in the past year. Under Section 40, the Rules empower the State Information Commission to conduct awareness programmes, and so the Government may consider funding the SIC and civil society groups to fulfill this obligation on its behalf.
Fourth, "When will the Government start pro-actively releasing information through information booklets and websites?" The J&K RTI Act 2009 requires that the Government disclose as much information "suo moto" as possible (4) to improve transparency and reduce reliance on RTI applications. Yet 32 of the Government's 35 departments don't even have websites, and only the J&K Police and the GAD have published their information booklets. To fulfill this provision, every department must establish a website and publish its information booklet.
Fifth, "Where are the RTI user guides for the public?" The Government is required to prepare and release a free "RTI user guide" in English, Urdu and Hindi (see 23(2-4)) within 18 months of gazetting. Yet, there has been no effort to prepare, print, and circulate this user guide.
Sixth, we ask, "has the Government set aside budgets for training programmes, awareness programmes, information and RTI user booklets, and for the State Information Commission?" The Rules empower the SIC to: (1) conduct RTI programmes, (2) lay down computerization standards for Government, (3) perform transparency ratings of Departments and authorities, and (4) maintain an RTI & Transparency Institute to study transparency measures (see s 13, 14(i)(c), 35, 36 and 40 of the Rules). Has the Government established a budget for any of these programmes? What are the details and who will be responsible and accountable for implementation?
Seventh, "When will the Government correct the RTI forms that it has recently released on the GAD website?" The GAD has posted 5 forms for use by applicant and PIOs, which were simply "updates" of the old forms used for the defunct J&K RTI Act of 2004. The forms include several major errors, including (1) the false requirement that applicants appear in person before PIOs, (2) the false impression that fees must always be paid (BPL applicants are exempt), (3) the erroneous impression that information fee calculations do not have to be shown by PIO, and finally (4) the false impression that only PIOs must provide application receipts (APIOs must also provide receipts, too).
In summary, we call upon the Government to move swiftly and address all of the afore-mentioned issues, including a process for selecting the State Information Commission that is transparent and involves civil society. RTI in J&K has waited long enough, and now the onus is on the Government to formulate and explain its plans.
(Feedback: muzaffar@jkrtimovement.org)



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