Monday, December 04, 2006

In a while...

I breathe in air infused with aspirations and perplexing ignominy that seldom sustains the rhythm of life. Life in itself, a state of mind is devoid of any true indication of its existence. Life becomes the absence of death, nothing more. Asserting its compound, degenerate and lucid forms it bemoans for a reason to be, a purpose to fulfill.

In search of self, it is said, time is elementary. I am not in search of time as a quantity but its worth as an experience, as a truly lived entity. It governs our lives, but yet it is oblivious. We struggle to find it yet it is always right there. Waiting to be sought for, intermingling with our illusion of its scarcity.

I am on a sabbatical albeit a brief one, indefinite in time but only a moment in its conclusion.

Some of my work that you may want to read:

  • Reality check

  • Importance of being miserable

  • Indian History X

  • Euphemistic Euthanasia

  • Breaking the block

  • Bio mutiny

  • Conversations: After the blast

  • Clinically cynical

  • Times they are a changing

  • Bio mutiny
  • Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Inherent conflicts - I

    “There are two tragedies in life. One is to loose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it"

    - George Bernard Shaw

    Journalism ensures that a person is subjected to both of these divergent life experiences and often at the same time. The crux of the paradox is the functioning of the institution itself, which demands compliance and rebellion in unison. A feat uncannily achieved by stalwarts of the field or as I like to call them ‘survivors’.

    As I explore my own sensibilities, perceived truths and judgment about many a “facts” I feel ill-equipped to understand them. Not due to lack of initiative or interest but solely because of the mistrust in what is being disseminated as relevant information. The act of reading, with time morphs into an exercise in extreme skepticism, following which one feels even more distraught than before.

    Media is a unilateral institution, a corporate enterprise in the current context. The agenda of a media company is set by the benefactors and collaborators, which is quite obvious. The advertisers, corporate compulsions, the publisher’s personal beliefs, political affiliations et al are vital to what is presented before the unassuming public. The product that is sold in media is not the medium but the ‘audience’. If you look closely at the structural organization of this entity, it is very clear who the buyers and sellers are in this trade. And the commodity, the audience is certainly at a loss, as it is completely alienated from realizing what is perceptual as against what is real.

    The establishment of these co-conspirators, if I may, makes it increasingly difficult for any of the units to deviate from the determined agenda. Now this is truly the disturbing part of the profession. The institution mandates that one must conform to the values of the ‘interests’ on which it depends, else your survival is unlikely. But, the perceived success in “true reporting” is in being anti-establishment, going beyond the generic and routine. The likely clash of interests here can be verified in those numerous worthwhile stories and ideas that go uncovered as they are not within the ideals upheld by the organization.

    Also, the system ensures that those who reach a point of relevance in the social order to take decisions and determine opinion of the institution have imbibed those principles that are plausible and acceptable. It acts as a filtering mechanism, where a voice of dissent against its own is castrated to a point of submission. Hence, the editors and the news makers which are considered to be the key-opinionators have reached those positions because they choose to and have eventually conformed to the system. (As ably argued by Noam Chomsky)

    Herein lays my predicament, the fact that I have to internalize the values of an institution to “succeed” in the traditional sense of the word, despite it incapacitating those very instincts which make it possible to function in this field. This logically extends to the widely held belief that one can be a good journalist or a successful journalist, not both.

    At this point I do not know which one I aspire to be.

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Khairlangi protest - A reflection

    As a protest rally is underway at Azad Maidaan today, 20 Nov, by the Dalit community to protest against the gruesome khairlangi massacre, and demand Deputy CM, R.R.Patil’s resignation, I am compelled to reflect on the recent agitation that I was a part of on Thursday. Especially when political parties are trying to derive maximum mileage out of the situation, the significance of that apolitical platform is now apparent.

    On 16th Nov, under the banner of “Khairlangi Hatyakaand Virodhi Sarva Dharmiya Ekta Samiti” social activists, citizens, young professionals from diverse fields came together to condemn the Khairlangi massacre. A one day fast was observed by a courageous few disturbed by the lax and casual attitude of the authorities towards such a heinous crime.

    This inter-religious, multi cultural inclusive agitation served as an apt opportunity to understand the importance of voicing one’s dissent in a society to condemn a crime against humanity. The purpose was to focus on the core issue of ensuring speedy justice for the sole survivor of the Bhotmange family, Bhaiyyalal. Also, to urge the administration to formulate long-term policies to ensure such atrocities do not take place in the future.

    Although I was acutely aware about the concept of 'people' being the primary institution in a polity, capable of initiating change, the practicality of the notion eluded me. So, this premise was a little unknown and hence a novel experience.

    Initial skepticism aside and driven by my derision towards such ghastly acts, I decided to be a part of this cause.My friend Behzad Mulla, a quiet fun loving Parsi employed in Merchant Navy and my designated photographer for the day, agreed to join me. It is necessary that every person must be aware of the on goings in one’s immediate society, however disconnected we may feel.

    I met Ronald Rebello, a social activist who was the key motivator of the agitation, at the ground. As we were conversing about the various aspects of the issue and how we can effectively mobilize people and create awareness among them, a lot of questions crept in my mind. The most obvious one was the motivation that urged these young and talented individuals to be actively involved in social work. As the day progressed, the answer slowly but unwaveringly revealed itself.

    In the FIR filed by the local police the fact that the two women were mercilessly raped is not even mentioned. The case is noted as a simple murder case, with post mortem reports aptly "cleaned" to suit vested interests. The possibility of liberal gun license policy for protection of Dalits, as suggested by certain leaders was discussed. But the probability of misuse of this freedom by trigger happy citizens and anarchist naxalities is immense for such a blanket dictum to be adopted. Also, it may lead to further marginalization of the community due to harboured mistrust.

    The folk songs were one of the interesting aspects of the day, sung in harmony and one voice. A reflection of the contemporary the socio-political scenario, it was the glue that bound people gathered together, reminding them of the task ahead. Their rustic charm coupled with sharp lyrical content has an appeal which one cannot ignore. They compel you to think, look within and eventually be in unison with the rhythm that captivates your mind and spirit.

    The people from different social groups and causes had converged to demand justice in this case. As the day was reached its conclusion, notably none of the major broadcasters or even main stream print reporters chose to give voice to the cause. Local and regional newspapers acknowledged the importance of the protests. The DCM and his principal Under Secretary were away, apparently dealing with the violent protests in Amaravati. So, a letter which staunchly condemned this act along with other suggestions and demands (see below) was sent to the DCM via the police present there. Also, a meeting with the DCM was scheduled at a later date for follow up.

    Initially I was a bit disheartened that no major authority took cognizance of the fact that a multi-religious demonstration, a first in this case, was held. But then again as Ronald put it “In a democracy it is important that one’s voice is heard. We have made our point and will monitor the progress of the case.”

    At the end of the day, we formed a circle, to take stock of what we have achieved and learnt from the day’s protest. A senior activist affirmed the necessity to adhere to “ahimsa” and not get carried away. The media and the administration, by ignoring such non-violent protests are giving credence to the notion that to receive justice or merely be heard one has to resort to jingoism and violence. To awaken the lethargic and indifferent government, the people must come together and demand answers.


    The demands / suggestions made by Khairlangi Hatyakaand Virodhi Sarva Dharmiya Ekta Samiti in a official letter to the Deputy CM R.R.Patil, also the Home Minister of Maharashtra:

    1. Speedy justice to Bhaiyalal Bhotmange. The case must be moved to a fast track court.
    2. Due to a lack of witnesses in this case, the indicted persons must be subjected to a Norco-Analysis test to determine the truth.
    3. The ‘status report’ of the case, which has now been given to the CBI, must be made public.
    4. Awareness should be created about The Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989, which empowers the under privileged sections of societies and helps them fight social evils, via media platforms like radio, T.V., newspapers etc. The district officials, tehsildars, police officers and other local authorities should be educated in this context.
    5. A policy devising a concrete witness protection programme for the safety of witnesses like Surekha Bhotmange (who was brutally murdered), to avert such situations should be formulated.


    Ronald Rebello ; Muskaan Shiekh ; Gorkhnath Avaadh

    Rajendra Laxman Kathkar ; Archana Pale; Shoobha Sutar

    Naseem Banu; Hemant Morajkar; Ganesh Sodaye

    Shaheen Shiekh; Shabaana Shiekh; Maneek Prabahvati

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Solidarity rally at Azad Maidaan

    At 11 am tomorrow [16 November 2006] a solidarity rally is being held at AZAD MAIDAN, CHURCHGATE, MUMBAI, in protest of the brutal massacre at Khairlangi.

    It is an apolitical rally of students, social activists and professionals who refuse to be oblivious to such heinous acts.

    A one day fast is being observed tomorrow at the rally by a courageous few in order to express solidarity with those who were wronged.

    The perpetrators of this act must be prosecuted.

    Be a part of the peace rally. Be heard.


    If you do not have an idea as to what this rally is about read the previous post. Also please go through the links at the bottom [, for comprehensive information] to get a fair idea of what has happened in Khairlangi.

    The question that comes to mind is that a majority would have a fair idea about 'justice for Jessica' and the Priyadarshini Mattoo case. Has the media played its role in this event. Where are the candle light marches, where is the public angst?

    In the same breath I would also like to add that a lot of negative connotations are being associated with the people who genuinely feel wronged and want to voice their protest. I do concede that certain elements do want to create chaos and generate political momentum out of this brutal murder. But that does not by any means should take away from the core issue here that four people were murdered in cold blood. And such acts of cowardice must be vociferously condemned.

    It has been a month and a half since the incident. Two women were wronged in the most gruesome sense of the word.

    "(On sept 29, 2006) By now, men allegedly from the entire village of about 150 Powar and Kalar families had collected. Some shouted to the sarpanch to allow them to sexually assault the women. They raped the women and killed all four, even as their womenfolk looked on, mute spectators to a form of justice reserved for castes lower than theirs.

    Surekha and Priyanka were stripped, paraded naked, beaten black and blue with bicycle chains, axes and bullock cart pokers. They were publicly gang raped until they died. Some raped them even after that, and finally, sticks and rods were shoved into their genitals. In the meantime, Sudhir managed to contact the police from his mobile phone, but his phone had been smashed. Its pieces are now circumstantial evidence. Roshan and Sudhir were beaten up, their genitals mutilated, faces disfigured and their bodies tossed in the air, before they lay dead on the ground. Hiding behind a hut, Bhaiyyalal helplessly watched his family’s gruesome end. There was no one to call for help. Kherlanji had only two Mahar families; the rest were either perpetrators or spectators. An hour later, a village meeting was called and a diktat issued: no one was to say a word about the massacre."

    Why are the women empowerment groups not speaking out against this atrocity? Are women rights only for a representable few?

    Also, a competent witness protection program must be in place. The prime reason for this act was the fact that Surekha Bhotmange who dared to protect her land and voiced dissent against the upper caste hegemony was a witness in a case. The laxity in this dimension lead to her becoming an easy mob target.

    Khairlangi Massacre - Justice denied

    “The city police today foiled the bid by Khailangi Action Committee to stage their ‘Nagpur-Khairlangi’ protest march…over 224 people were detained…..”

    Indian Express, Nov. 13, 2006

    The brutal massacre of the Bhotmange family in the sleepy village of Kherlangi has exposed the deep rooted social dilemmas that we as a society have not been able to address. Vociferous protests to expedite the judicial probe and prosecute the responsible parties for this heinous crime seems to have fallen of deaf ears.

    Many theories have been floated recently indicating political motives behind the recent protests, the so called 'dalit offensive', to regain lost political ground. Also there is a perception that the issue will soon be engulf by a enthusiastic apolitical but equally hyper social activism. To add insult to injury the State home minister, R.R. Patil insinuated that the violent agitations have been perpetrated by naxalites and that some leftists and naxalites were fanning the incident after a month. These allegations not only lack credibility, but threaten to trivialize the fact that a four people were murdered by a seemingly all pervasive majority.

    There are many issues which need to be resolved. The government has assured that all the demands made by social organisations will be considered. But the govt. noble intentions must manifest in actual action and not just on paper. The protests against this massacre have brought to light the little faith that people have in the government machinery.

    The complete details of the incident can be read at the following links:
  • Dalits like flies to feudal lords

  • Times of India:
  • Just another rape case

  • Indian Express:
  • IG probe says cops at fault
  • Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    What about the rest?

    All throughout the day I watched news channels giving themselves a pat on the back for a job well done and how media has played such an important role (emphasis added) in ensuring justice in the Priyadarshini Mattoo case.

    I acknowledge the fact that without constant media pressure and the efforts of support groups which were persistent in demanding justice in this case this would not be possible. The media has definitely played a vital role which is now called a 'landmark verdict'.

    I just have one question for the media, what about the rest?

    The fact is this story was picked up because it had potential. I do not wish to undermine the seriousness of the issue, but this tragic event made for compelling news. A young promising girl, full of hope and dreams was wronged in the most heinous way by Santosh Singh, a retired IPS officer's son. The perpetrator is now sentenced to death. Would this case have reached its logical conclusion if it was not a high profile case?

    What about similar cases which I am sure exist in abundance and have no hope of even brought to trial. If Ramgad ka Ramu committed the same crime would the media still be interested in telling say a Sunita's story. Without the trappings of high profile people being involved there is no drama for the media to thrive on. Nobody cares if an unknown entity, I understand there are many who have been grossly wronged, would ever receive even a semblance of justice in his or her life.

    What about the bigger picture. Does the media propose to take up every case in which common people are denied justice and where the aggressors are influential people? Why only Jessica Lal murder case and the Nitish Katara case are brought into focus? What about thousands of cases lying on the bench never to see the light of day.

    The answer to this is obvious. Some would argue that it is not the job of the media to ensure fair investigation and speedy justice, we already have agencies to do that. That is exactly my point.

    It took 10 years to reach a verdict in a case where the judge had previously ruled that "he had no doubt" the act was committed by Singh but was forced to "acquit him due to lack of evidence". It is an opportunity to take stock of our judicial capabilities in terms of quality and quantity. Also, the investigating officers who compromised the case must be brought to book.

    By being jubilant over what I can safely call a minuscule victory, delayed due to judicial lethargy, only because the media chose to emphasize this case would be an insult to those who yearn for their rights. Is justice only for the higher ups or those who are "blessed" enough to get the apparent media midas touch?

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    Inside : India Questions

    An exercise in visual media marketing, India questions is timed close to the release of Don. If one remembers that a similar “debate” was held after KANK released on NDTV’s ‘We the people with Barkha Dutt’. How valid is this current trend in news channels, well that’s subjective. The following programme might as well be just that.

    In his introduction Dr. Pranoy Roy rightly said that there is so much known about SRK in the public domain, one is at loss when it comes to asking him questions. “Your life is an open book” and that too literally and figuratively.

    So yes it is true. He is humble, articulate, ‘chilled out’, hyperactive and just about everything that you have heard in countless interviews. (We couldn’t confirm the gay thing, obviously). The show was supposed to begin at 12.30 but like he has confessed in a previous interview with Vir Sanghvi, SRK true to his word walks in 2 hours later. The most frustrating part about this was the fact that it was being taped at Mehboob studios, two minutes away from the grand mansion that he calls home. But the audience, mostly comprising of journo students and college crowd didn’t seem to mind.

    Pranoy Roy arrived probably an hour before Shah Rukh did. He is a lot smaller in person than what I initially thought. A comfortable ease surrounds him, a nonchalant awareness of sorts. NDTV announced its projections for the next quarter and an aim of taking their business to $500 million in10 years. This man, at the helm of it all seems too honest and genuine a journalist to be burdened by the trappings of creating a media empire.

    And then the Don makes an entrance with the music from the movie being played in the background, well not so much of an entrance really. Bodyguards in tow, surrounded by hordes of people, dressed casually in blue jeans and a checkered brown shirt (cleavage on display, why-o-why!) I couldn’t believe that it was him. He appears a lot smaller in person and a lot “normal” too. The girls were swooning by now and some guys also, with a distant sigh I could hear words like “so cute” “wow” “is it really him”… I couldn’t see what the fuss was about, but his impact as an entertainer, an enigma was apparent in the way the crowd and just about everyone was reacting around me. It is impossible to ignore the man, even if you are a determined cynic at war with the influence of pop-culture.

    He is called destiny’s child and is truly blessed, I must say, because I just can’t see why this very charismatic yet ‘normal’ looking guy is the King of a multi-billion dollar industry. A casual aura surrounds him as if he is completely oblivious to his concomitant reality.

    As the interview begins I can see why both these gents are so affable and loved all across the country. The genuineness and honesty is highly infectious and an immediate connection is made with the audience.

    The initial questions are routinely generic but my friend fires one at SRK (my question mind you) that in spite of being a smoker he launched a Biocon anti-cancer product recently. His answer is much more calculated than probably what he would have said five years back, but honest none the less. He categorically derides smoking as a bad habit, “I am trying to quit” and mentions the loss of his father to cancer which made him endorse the cause.

    When asked about him being overtly diplomatic when it comes to commenting on his co-actors he replied and which I consider a true definition of SRK in his private life, “I am just a wise-guy!” He does seem to be the cool friend that everyone would want to hang out with.

    The questions are dealt with a characteristic smile and the twinkle in the eye, which makes you wonder, what is he going to say next. He confesses to being tone deaf, musically inert and admits that he likes making comedies a lot including the forgettable ‘Babloo’ and other such zany characters.

    What was most revealing about his personality is the way he perceives life and his job (as “just another 9 to 6 shift” Ya right!). The passion for his work is omnipotent and that is the secret to his unparalleled success today. He best describes it as being a child with many ideas and unbridled enthusiasm which his directors just cannot ignore. He reiterates the often heard “Do whatever that you wish but do it with passion”, a mantra that he clearly follows in his own life.

    “Nothing better than honesty and goodness to achieve your goals…with a bit of patience…” is his advice to youngsters. I don’t know how much of it would hold true in SRK’s professional life but it does seem to be a norm for SRK the person.

    The show couldn’t end without the wily doctor perpetrating a jig to which the marketable star willingly obliged. He danced to 'Khaike' along with some auidience members and made it look effortless.

    As the crowd rushes to the makeshift stage, Shah Rukh is completely swamped, probably groped and molested too; the bodyguard then somehow manages to extract the prized possession.

    He smoked two cigarettes for those eager to keep a count. If you watch the show, the cigarette pack is in his left shirt pocket. Also, he is quite restless as a person, fidgety as if always in a hurry. He spun around in his swivel chair. It is this boyish quality which makes him one of us, relatable.

    Sorry Nessi didn’t get an autograph, but I did find out that SRK at the end of the day is a nice guy. My friend, who had a chance to go on stage during the Hindi version of the show, apologized for being brash earlier. Shah Rukh HUGGED HIM and said “God bless you” with a peck on the cheek (?!)

    Watch India Questions this Saturday, 21 Oct on NDTV 24/7.

    Monday, October 16, 2006


    Here is a list of links which you may find useful to better understand RTI Act, 2005.

  • Right2Information

  • Ministry of public grievances

  • Maharashtra govt.

  • human rights initiative

  • Municipal corporation of Greater Mumbai

  • Mumbai RTI laws.pdf

  • ******
    Another example of RTI at work.
    Aware citizen Ronald Rebello asks Min of petroleum and natural gas to respond to the rampant misuse of its LPG licience by the Railway authorities themselves.

    This is the RTI petition he had filed and still awaits reply.

    Mr. R. Panda
    Maharashtra state level co-ordinator
    Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas


    I had sent the following application under the Right to Information to you on 7th September per Courier which was received by your office the next day. However, now it is more than one month and I have not received a reply which is mandatory under the Right to Information. Please show cause why I should not approach higher authroties so that you may be fined as per the Right to Information Act, 2005 for not providing information . You are hereby called upon to furnish the information within 72 hours of receipt of this E-notice.
    Fail not.

    Ronald L. Rebello
    Rationing Kruti Samiti
    Add: 52, Gilder Lane Municipal School,
    Opposite Mumbai Central Railway Station
    Mumbai Central 400 008.

    Copy to:
    1.. Print and Electronic Media.
    2.. Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. What is the point if your Ministry issues so many advertisments running into lakhs of rupees in the newspapers, seeking co-operation of citizens to expose misuse of LPG, if your officials can't respond to a complaint purusant to the same?
    3.. Department of Public Grievances in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India

    ----- Original Message -----
    To: ; Rationing Kruti Samiti
    Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 10:04 PM
    Subject: LPG RTI


    The Public Information Officer 7th September, 2006.

    Bharat Petroleum,

    Ballard Estate, Mumbai Mumbai.

    1.. Full name of the applicant: Ronald L. Rebello

    2.. Address: 52, Gilder Lane Municipal School,

    Opposite Mumbai Central Railway Station,

    Mumbai 400 008.

    3.. Particulars of the information required:

    (1) Subject matter of information: Misuse of LPG domestic gas cylinders for commercial purposes.

    (2) Period of which the information relates to: Jan 2006 till date of receipt of this application.

    (3) Description of the information required:

    The undersigned applicant had complained via email to your department on September 04 citing instances of misuse of LPG cylinders for commercial purpose. The complaint was emailed on that is regularly advertised in newspapers by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for reporting complaints on black misuse of LPG and Subsidised Kerosene.

    Now therefore under my right to information, I want a pointwise reply as under:

    1.. What action was taken on my complaint? Give detailed description of action such as the enquiry if any, date and time of raid conducted, if any, names and designation of the officials who conducted the raid, the cases registered against the offendors and the law under which arrests were made, if any. If no enquiry or action was taken, why not?

    2.. Why no one was picking up the phone on 5th September at 11:41 am, when I called from 6524 1968? What is the name and designation of the officer who handles these complaints via phone as well as email?

    3.. Is the number provided by you operated 24 hours? If not, then mention the duration of hours it is operated.

    I state that the information sought does not fall within the restrictions contained in section 8 of the RTI Act and to the best of my knowledge it pertains to your office.

    If the information requested doesn�t pertain to your office, under section 6 (3) (ii) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 you are duty-bound to transfer the application or part thereof to the appropriate authority / department and inform me within 5 days of such transfer.

    Under section 7 (9) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 �information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought�. Therefore, the undersigned applicant would like to have the above information in question and answer format and in English. Please note, that in case of reply in language other than English, the reply would be appealed against.

    Provide details of the Appellate Authority such as Name, designation, address, phone, fax and email, so that I can appeal if dissatisfied.

    Requisite fees shall be paid if it is reasonable and in accordance with rules.

    Information required by ordinary post. Copy by email will be appreciated.

    Ronald L. Rebello


    Place : Mumbai

    Date : 7th September, 2006.

    Enclosure: Copy of complaint sent by email.

    ----- Original Message -----

    From: Rationing Kruti Samiti


    Sent: Monday, September 04, 2006 2:39 PM

    Subject: complaint on misuse of LPG, as per your AD


    Maharashtra Incharge (LPG complaints)

    Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas,

    Sub: Complaint of misuse of domestic LPG for non-domestic purposes.

    Re: Your regular advertisments in the newspapers.

    Dear Sir,

    Further to your advertisements appearing regulary on requesting citizens to point out misuse of doestic LPG for Non-domestic purposes, I hereby point out the following places where you can conduct raids and arrest the persons responsible.

    1.. At Mumbai Central Railway Station, the Railway canteen on platform number 4, uses the domestic LPG cylinders for commercial purposes. When I questioned them, they tried to defend saying that the railways sends it to them. They even confidently stated that the Railways provide more than 100 cylinders to all such eating shops on railway premises in Mumbai. Therefore, such a thing needs to be investigated at the earliest.

    2.. Outside Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Vile Parle (West), the local dosa hawker uses domestic LPG for commercial purposes in gross violation of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Control Order, 2001.

    Hereby, acting on my complaint, you are enjoined to conduct the raids as per law.

    You may contact me on ------------------------- for further details.

    Ronald L. Rebello

    Rationing Kruti Samiti

    52, Gilder Lane Municipal School,

    Opposite Mumbai Central Railway Station,

    Mumbai Central 400 008.


    Copy to: Print and electronic media to investigate

    the above complaint and to specifically see

    if Railway's itself is misusing subsidised LPG.

    Right To Information

    The Right To Information Act,2005 is an essential piece of legislature that everyone must be aware of. It does not matter what stream you are in or if you do not intend to ever use it in your lifr. I think it is absolutely imperative that every Indian must have the basic knowledge about it. Empower yourselves.

    Ronald Rebello, a social activist and founder of Justice corps (an organisation working for judicial reforms) and a part of Rationing Kruti Samiti was kind enough to share his RTI application with me.

    This is a follow up on his initial petition that was not answered by the concerned authority. It is an excellent example of how RTI has the potential to empower common people, you and I.

    Please do take a look at the RTI petition carefully, it may be of use to you someday. It is important that a hackneyed system is made accountable for its decisions and functioning.


    The Public Information Officer
    (Through the email of Principal Secretary - Food and Civil Supplies Department)
    Mantralaya, Mumbai

    Please refer to the following application sent to you per courier that was received by your office on 8th September, 2006. It is more than one month now that you have not provided any information under the application nor have replied to it. You are therefore called upon to provide the said information within 72 hours of receipt of this email, failing which I shall approach the appealate authority that will make you liable to a fine under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

    Therefore fail not.

    Ronald L. Rebello
    Rationing Kruti Samiti
    Add: 52, Gilder Lane Municipal School,
    Opposite Mumbai Central Railway Station
    Mumbai Central 400 008.

    Copy to:
    1.. Print and Electronic Media, Mumbai.
    2.. Advisor to Supreme Court Commissioner in PUCL v. UOI (WP 196/2001)



    The Public Information Officer

    Department of Food and Civil Supplies September 05, 2006.

    Maharashtra Government, Mantralaya, Mumbai.

    I.. Full name of the applicant : RONALD REBELLO

    II.. Address: 52, Gilder Lane Municipal School, Opposite Mumbai Central Railway Station. Mumbai 400 008.

    III.. Particulars of the information required:

    Subject matter of information: Ration Cards for homeless citizens.

    Period of which the information relates to: 1997 till date of receipt of this application.

    Description of information required: Rationing Kruti Samiti had filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court regarding ration cards and food entitlements to homeless citizens in 2004.

    Now therefore,

    1.. Please provide me the case number of this PIL / WP.

    2.. The number of hearings in the court so far and the dates of hearing that took place.

    3.. The copies of the orders / judgments passed in the matter.

    4.. Say, whether any action was taken by the state government in the matter pursuant to the court orders / judgements ? If yes, what action was taken?.

    5.. As per 23rd March 2004 GR, homeless families have to be issued ration cards? How many such cards have been issued to homeless families under this GR in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Sangli, Nagpur and Pune?. List out as under:

    Sr. No. RO wise /Tahsil Number of cards

    Examples: 1. 26 D / 162 80

    1.. Pune 20

    6.. Which of the following cards are homeless families entitled to?

    i. Antyodaya card

    ii. BPL card (Yellow Card)

    iii. APL card (Orange Card)

    iv. White card

    v. Any other (mention type, period of validity, procedure for renewal etc)

    7.. What are the entitlements under the �homeless cards�? Whether the beneficiaries having �homeless cards� are entitled to foodgrains, Kerosene and Sugar on a consistent basis. Mention the quantity of entitlements available to homeless people.

    8.. Whether those possessing �homeless cards� have been given their entitlements uniformly so far? If not, why not?

    9.. Whether any applications for �homeless ration cards� are pending in any Rationing Offices in Mumbai? If yes, mention RO wise how many such applications are pending? Give reasons on why these applications are pending?

    9.. RO officials state that �It is a government policy that only if BPL beneficiaries do not lift grains, then only the homeless families will be provided food grains; surplus from BPL stock�. Verify if this is true. If true, quote the policy, decision maker, basis of such policy etc.

    10.. Give full details of appellate authority such as Name, Designation, address, phone, fax, email so that I can appeal in case I am dissatisfied with the information provided by you.

    IV.. I state that the information sought does not fall within the restrictions contained in section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and to the best of my knowledge it pertains to your office. If for any reason, it pertains to any other department, the Right to Information Act places an obligation on you to forward the same or part of the application to the appropriate department and intimate me within 5 days of such transfer.

    V.. Under the RTI, information shall be provided in the way it is sought. Hence, it is requested that the information be provided in question and answer format in the above manner.

    VI.. The requisite fees for this information will be paid, if in accordance with rules.

    Ronald L. Rebello


    Place : Mumbai

    Date : 05th September, 2006.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    India questions

    Tomorrow I will have the privilege of being a part of the audience at "India questions" , a NDTV feature where Pranoy Roy will interview King Khan, Shah Rukh Khan himself.

    I am not sure what is more exiting, an opportunity to ask questions to SRK or be in the presence of my icon, my idol Dr. Roy.

    It will be a learning experience for a young Journo like me. To observe both these individuals who have accomplished so much in their respective fields and that too at what they do best, interact with a live audience on camera, will be a treat.

    More on this when I post about my experience tomorrow or day after, as time permits.

    Watch this space for Inside: India Questions

    Remembering Anna

    It is said that the well being of an economy is reflected in the way the media is allowed to function. A robust independant press is a sign of a country's willingness to achieve or at least tend towards the ideal of 'the people' as a primary institution.

    Anna Politkovskaya's brutal murder only magnifies the strangle hold that the Putin administeration has on the press in Russia. Such a despicable act must be condemned world-wide.

    (Coincidentally, my muse for my initial fiction work was also named Anna)

  • Anna's Wiki Page

  • Chechnya : articles by Anna Politkovskaya

  • Guardian article

  • WAN-Press press release :

    Paris, 7 October 2006
    For immediate release

    World's Press Condemns Murder of Russian Journalist

    The World Association of Newspapers today condemned the 'shocking murder' of
    Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist.

    Ms Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was found dead
    Saturday afternoon from a bullet wound in the elevator of the building where
    she lived in Moscow.

    "This is tragic and deeply shocking news", said Timothy Balding, CEO of WAN.
    "We condemn this as an outrageous attack not only on a journalist but on
    freedom of the press and democracy in Russia. We call on the Russian
    authorities to pursue mercilessly the killer or killers and those behind
    this cowardly act".

    Mr Balding added: "There had been many skeptics in Russia, including other
    journalists, when Ms Politkovskaya said she was the victim of attempted
    poisoning by security forces on her way to cover the Beslan massacre two
    years ago. This assassination is terrible confirmation, if any were needed,
    that she was not inventing her claims that she was constantly under physical

    Ms Politkovskaya was celebrated internationally for her critical coverage of
    the war in Chechnya.

    She was the 76th journalists killed world-wide in 2006, the most deadly year
    since WAN began keeping records of journalist murders in 1997. The list of
    journalists killed world-wide can be found at .

    The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry,
    defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000
    newspapers; its membership includes 73 national newspaper associations,
    newspapers and newspaper executives in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and
    nine regional and world-wide press groups.

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    Rack ruckus

    It must have been conceived by a very disturbed mind. Only a sadist can devise such a diabolical scheme which has the capacity to inflict pain across the spectrum of society. No one is spared as it is designed to cause maximum damage.

    As the trained moved in slowly towards the platform, adjusting the rather heavy bag on my shoulder I leaped towards the pole in the middle. An elbow free in its trajectory planted itself in my nonchalant right eye. Even as I entered in one piece, jostling with the crowd, I instinctively removed the bag off my shoulder. With my best faux Jordan stride I looked up to fling it on to the overhead rack. To my horror, the rack was gone.

    My fellow passengers smiled at my senile attempt to find a place for my bag. They smiled at my perplexity and empathized with my angst. Some even had a bemused expression on their faces, as if still reeling from the shock.

    A youngster brimming with mirth suggested that the racks were removed to encourage “socially acceptable distance” between two men in trains, a conspiracy to discourage probable gay intentions. As I smirked at the tirade my co-passenger enlightened me, the overhead racks were removed from that Virar to Churchgate local, and four others as a trial, for “security reasons”. This was an interesting. Were they trying to curb terrorism by removing rack from five trains? And importantly who were “they”?

    The overhead rack in a Mumbai local is an inseparable part of everyday travel for millions in the city. A pedestal of temporary respite where one can rest ones burden momentarily. It is a high point which encourages humanitarianism by providing an opportunity to people to help others. As bags of all grades are balanced on each other, a helping hand is always willing to stretch and make way for more items.

    The gent’s compartment desperate for any conversation has it own brand of ‘bag’ ice-breakers. A series of grunts directing the apt placement of the precious possession, capped with a barely audible “thank you”. Also, it serves as an excellent support to hold on to, as the train quivers uninitiated and almost flings you in a very precarious position. An embarrassment is thus averted.

    I am having visions of utmost distress. I foresee people standing in a cramped compartment with bags over their heads. Dabbas would spill due to constant agitation, staining the crisp white to a murky yellow. With both hands occupied, one cannot hold on to the handles above or protect their vitals below.

    An exasperating itch on the shoulder blade cannot be subdued. A projectile of saliva and mucus lands squarely on your cheek. As you brush it off it disgust, the culprit sniffling explains that he couldn’t cover his face in time. Indeed, it is a ghastly situation.

    Besides if a person wanted to plant a bomb, he can easily slip it below the seat. An underworld by itself infested with leftovers, lonely wrappers, scurrying arthropods and probably friendly leprechauns. Only the severely paranoid looks beneath the seat before sitting.

    Removing the last left bastion of communal harmony is hardly an answer to curb miscreants. How about better surveillance techniques, more railway guards or better yet, an approachable friendly enquiry system. This would go a long way in safeguarding out trains.
    The perpetrators of the 7/11 blast must be found quickly and brought to justice. They should be dealt without impunity and severely to serve as a deterrent to any such future designs.

    I humbly appeal to the powers that be to avert a crisis in the lives of millions traveling by the local trains by restoring our racks, just as they were. Let us be free, as we were meant to be.


    Journo death toll - 76.
    Another journo killed while performing her duty.

    Ms Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was found dead
    Saturday afternoon from a bullet wound in the elevator of the building where
    she lived in Moscow.

    Such acts must be vociferously condemned.