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Thread: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

  1. #9
    C J Karira
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    Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

    As reported by Viju B of TNN on on 22 April 2008:
    CM's relief fund used for recreation-Mumbai-Cities-The Times of India

    CM's relief fund used for recreation

    MUMBAI: Successive governments in the last decade have disbursed crores of rupees from the CM's Relief Fund for non-calamity-related reasons, a reply under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed. The CM's Relief Fund was set up in 1967, with the primary intention of providing relief during calamities.

    The fund, like the PM's Relief Fund, gets generous contributions from individuals and institutions across the country, especially during disasters and war.

    TOI had in its March 15 edition reported in detail how crores of rupees were disbursed from the CM's Relief Fund from 2003 to 2005 for trivial reasons like kabaddi competition, women's football matches and ghazal contests. Now, details of the fund in 1996-97 (Sena-BJP rule) and 2006-07 (Congress regime) have revealed a mixed bag of disbursals.

    In 1996-97, Rs 4.12 crore was given to various institutions and individuals, out of which Rs 3.28 crore was given to recipients who got over Rs 50,000 each. In 2006-07, Rs 15.98 crore was given to various institutions and individuals, of which Rs 12.95 crore was given to recipients who got over Rs 50,000 each.

    “A cursory look at the two lists reveals that in both these years crores of of rupees were being disbursed for events that were in no way related to calamities,'' said RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, who filed the query.

    For instance, the Maharasahtra Rajya Kustigir Parishad wrestling conference and competition received Rs 2 lakh, the Jagatik Marathi Parishad Conference held in Jerusalem received Rs 10 lakh and the Umesh Shenoy ticket exhibition in Atlanta received Rs 51,000. For a foreign trip to New Zealand, the Beed-based Bhagwan Raosaheb Lomte received Rs 1 lakh. During 2006-07, the CM's Relief Fund gave Rs 1 lakh to Ramdas Padhye for participating in a puppet festival in Czechoslovakia and Rs 5 lakh for the Ishwardas Chunilal Yogic Health Center's international conference.

    Meanwhile, the CM's Office held that relief funds can be given to institutions and individuals from different walks of life. “The 2001 government resolution clearly states that funds can be disbursed to cultural, social and educational initiatives and institutions. There is nothing unlawful in the disbursal of funds. Each case has been given on merit and after careful scrutiny by the chief minister himself,'' a senior official with the CMO said.

    The CMO stated that in 2006-07, for instance, Rs 2.8 crore was disbursed to 3,708 individuals who needed urgent medical care. In the last three months alone, Rs 3.06 crore was given to 3,751 people.

    In 2006-07, Rs 1 crore was given for victims of the bomb blasts and “riots,'' the CMO official said, without specifying what the ‘riots' were. Rs 1.6 crore was given for socially underprivileged people, Rs 65 lakh was given to poor students, Rs 19 lakh to economically backward sportsmen, Rs 3.5 lakh for cultural conferences and Rs 17 crore for assistance following farmer suicides, he added.

    But Gandhi said, “The word ‘relief' in the CM's Relief Fund clearly means it is for urgent relief. The fund attracts exemptions under income-tax because the money must be given for calamity-related public causes.''

    Twitter: @cjkarira

  2. #10

    Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

    Maharashtra CM's Relief Fund used for purposes and on people least related to word calamity.Chief Minister uses it as of personal fiefdom.Media has brought it to public notice.After that what?
    1 are these self appointed feudal lords going to amend their ways?
    2. Is gullible public going to stop donating to these socalled relief funds?
    3. does regional language media take up these exposures,as is done by national papers.?I do know journalist Wagle in Mumbai is an exception.
    Unless there is severe and examplary punishment meted out to corrupt people around,starting from top,these exposures aren't worth the paper they are written on.
    It is of no consequence if top most authority is personally most honest.So what? Has he/she caused to ensure clean and honest administration around? Has he/she ensured Rule of Law applicable to everyone and strict implentation of that?

  3. Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

    Unfortunately in India, such manipulative persons become Chief Ministers. Good citizens are passive and hence bad citizens are thriving now a days. You can progress through bad motives and bad means. System support such people. RTI will at least dig out the dirt and people will know real situation. They must remember this while voting. Such disclosures impose greater responsibility on people who care for country.
    It takes each of us to make difference for all of us.

  4. #12
    C J Karira
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    Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

    As reported by Prachi Jawadekar Wagh in on 23 May 2008: RTI reveals misuse of CM relief fund in Maharashtra

    RTI reveals misuse of CM relief fund in Maharashtra

    Shocking details of violations in the Chief Minister Relief Fund, now open to public scrutiny, has been revealed.

    Not only was the fund meant for relief and aid during calamities used for trivial ventures like cricket matches, documents from an RTI application show that the sanctions were given despite strong objections from state bureaucrats.

    Huge amount of money have been diverted from the fund in Maharashtra for trivial reasons like cricket matches, by violating the fund's bylaws.

    Documents retrieved through an RTI application show that money from the fund was diverted by former chief ministers Manohar Joshi and Sushil Kumar Shinde. Even though officials strongly advised against it.

    In 1997, Manohar Joshi sanctioned Rs five lakh to the Press Club of India, even though it didn't fit with the fund's objectives.

    In 2003, Sushil Kumar Shinde gave Rs 10 lakh for a Gandhi Film Foundation documentary though it was a commercial venture. The next year, he sanctioned Rs five lakh for a cricket tournament though enough had been spent on non-calamities that year.

    ''Money has been sanctioned just because the CM made some announcement somewhere although it does not fit in the objective of the fund,'' said Shailesh Gandhi, an RTI activist.

    The RTI also details a government order in 2001 that made the fund open to non-calamities. And this cleared the path for diverting the CM's fund.

    The government might have covered its bases by bringing out GRs making the fund free for all. However, the feeling of being taken for a ride will make well meaning citizens think twice before donating to this fund ever again.

  5. #13

    An open letter by Sailesh Gandhi to Maharashtra Chief Minister

    An open letter by Sailesh Gandhi to Maharashtra Chief Minister

    The Chief Minister of Maharashtra,
    Mumbai 400032.
    Sub.: Chief Minister’s Relief fund
    26 May, 2008

    Dear Mr. Chief Minister,
    I have obtained information under Right to Information about the functioning of the CM’s relief fund and discovered some disturbing facts during my inspection of the files of the fund on 22nd May 2008 at your office. I am outlining below the main objectionable actions in the working of the fund from the papers seen by me:

    1. The CM’s Relief Fund is a Trust, which appears to follow no process by which it can be called a Trust. Though registered as a Trust with the Charity Commissioner, it is claimed to be exempted from any of the regulations of a Trust by a GR. There is no record of any meetings of the Trustees, thus leading to the conclusion that there is no record of a board of trustees being in charge. Thus it appears to be a virtual fictitious Trust.

    2. The Trust was registered with the object ‘To assist people affected by natural calamities’. This is the belief of all common citizens like me, and was the only reason for setting it up. Right to Information has revealed that money has been given for mango festivals, making buildings, gazal programs, kabaddi competitions, trips abroad, and so on. A circular of GR dated 15 November, 2001 has been shown to justify these activities in which the objects of the trust have been expanded to try and cover giving of alms on virtually any count. Thus the objectives of the Trust are claimed to have been changed radically,-almost to the point of rendering its original objectives incidental,- without any meeting of the Board of Trustees!

    3. It is also revealed that Commissioner of Sugar routinely issues circulars to all sugar factories that crushing licences will not be issued to them unless two rupees per tonne are deposited with the CM’s Reilef fund. This is an illegal and extortionist action. The last time such an action was highlighted was in the cement scam during Shri Antulay’s Chief Ministership, when the Citizens had voiced a very strong disapproval.

    4. In a number of cases, the official of the Trust has made comments that giving the money will not be as per the rules of the trust; at other times there are notings that this is violative of the 25% limit imposed by Income Tax on all Trusts for expenditure not covered by its objectives. Yet money has been given as per the CM’s arbitrary directive. There are notings at times that there is not enough money in the Trust, yet money has been given for purposes which are not in line with its objectives.

    I am attaching a note to illustrate some of these, with copies of the papers received from your office.

    I have obtained information from 1996 onwards and it covers the operation of the fund during three different Chief Ministers. I concede that the issues I have raised are related to a systematic decline of governance, and you would perhaps have been only following earlier practices. Some of these are improper, some immoral and some clearly illegal. Operating a Trust without any checks; not follwing the discipline of following its objective of providing relief for major calamities; violating rules and also the provisions of the Income tax act; using the State’s machinery and powers to force sugar mills and government employees to give money to the Trust are all unworthy acts. You have personally shown the sagacity of accepting that the Chief Minister’s Relief fund comes under the purview of the Right To Information Act. I request you to display the same qualities of a statesman to declare that the CM’s relief fund will henceforth be used only for victims of calamities and disasters. Please also declare that the State will not issue diktats to force institutions or individuals to give money to the fund. It is quite likely that you may be given wrong advice to neglect this letter. I would be very glad to meet you to explain the reasons for you to act in a manner to retain the sanctity of the fund, and your position. As the Chief Minister of this State it is your duty to do this. This single act could become the precursor for a new journey towards better governance under your leadership.

    Thanking you,

    Yours truly,

    shailesh gandhi

    Mera Bharat Mahaan…
    Nahi Hai,
    Per Yeh Dosh Mera Hai.

    Enclosed: Note giving some details in the individual cases with copies of the papers obtained during inspection at your office.

    A few select cases where CM’s relief fund has been misused.
    The attached papers are labeled 1, 2 etc.,as per the points.
    1. 5 lacs given to Marathwada Sahitya Parishad 20 May, 1997- remark by secretary that proposal does not fall in the objects of the trust, but money has given many times like this before.
    2. 5 lacs given to Press Club of India (New Delhi)note of 7 October, 1997 says the Club informed that various Chief Minister’s who addressed their seminars had given 2 to 8 lacs (and hence by implication since Maharashtra CM had been given the opportunity to address the seminar) 9 lacs should be given! A fee by the CM to speak! The notings state that this does not fit in the objects of the fund and there are not adequate funds. Yet 5 lac rupees were given on the same day. A certificate of utilization shows Rs.1.5lacs spent for constructing toilets for the Press Club.
    3. 50 lacs sanctioned for the construction of Shanmukhananda Hall 24 November, 1997. It shows that there vare not adequate funds and hence 10 lacs is given as first installment.
    4. 1 lac given on a letter by Madhav Godbole -2 may, 2003 for ‘Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies’. Note mentions financial assistance cannot be approved.
    5. 9 lacs given to Vanrai, Pune of Shri Mohan Dharia for computers, software, fax machine, internet connection and making a progress report- 9 May, 2003. A total of 25 lacs had been given before this. Note states giving this money is not as per the rules of the CM’s Relief fund.
    6. 25 lacs given to Rajbhavan Club- 5 August, 2003 for sport’s equipment. Note states this is not in line with the objectives of the trust.
    7. 1 lac for Maharashtra Carrom Association- 29 November, 2003. Note states this violates the IT requirement that less than 25% can be spent for purposes other than objectives.
    8. 5 lacs given for Gandhi Film Foundation-19 November, 2003. Note says this money is going to be used for building corpus of the foundation, which is not permissible. The note categorically states that for such purposes the foundation should get loans commercially.
    9. 5 lacs for Yuvak Biradari for purchasing Motor Vehicles- 24 November, 2003. Note says purchasing motor vehicles is not permissible under the rules of the CM’s relief fund.
    10. 5 lacs for Superseven Cricket Association- 15 January, 2004. Note says money cannot be given in the rules of the CM’s fund.

  6. #14
    C J Karira
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    Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

    As reported by Smruti Koppikar in in issue dated 16 June 2008:
    In Stark Relief :


    In Stark Relief
    Check the 'victims' who got money from the CM. It's a calamity. ...

    Exactly what kind of "relief" would the legendary Shanmukhananda Fine Arts Hall in Mumbai, the bustling Press Club of India in New Delhi, the nondescript Yashwant Rama Salvi Swimming Club in Thane and the distinguished Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies in Pune want from the Maharashtra Chief Minister's Relief Fund (CMRF)? Plenty, if we go by the CMRF records.

    These institutions and hundreds of others (see box) have been beneficiaries of the largesse shown by successive CMs of Maharashtra. The CMRF was set up in December 1966 with the sole aim of providing relief and assistance to victims of natural calamities across the country, but particularly in Maharashtra.

    The average amount any year in CMRF is Rs 200 crore. Only 25% of what's collected is disbursed.

    In November 2001, the beneficiary list was expanded to include those affected by communal riots, accidents and Naxalism. However, CMs of the Congress, Shiv Sena and BJP, in brazen violation of the rules of the fund, have sanctioned "relief" ranging from Rs 1 lakh
    to Rs 25 lakh to institutions and individuals that can't, by any stretch of the imagination, fall under the beneficiary list.

    Accordingly, the CMRF chest was opened up for the reconstruction of the Shanmukhananda Hall auditorium which was gutted in a fire in 1990. It was sanctioned Rs 25 lakh in 1997 despite an official noting that the "funds in the CMRF are low". The well-appointed Raj Bhavan in Mumbai, where the Maharashtra governor and visiting heads of state stay, also got Rs 25 lakh in 2003 to refurbish its sports and club facilities. The Press Club in Delhi got Rs 5 lakh in 1998, most of which was used to construct toilets, undertake electrical work, purchase computer hardware and software. The swimming club in Thane got Rs 60,000.

    CMs' Privy Purse: 1996-1998

    In 2003, the Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies in Pune was given Rs 2 lakh on the recommendation of former Union home secretary Madhav Godbole. This was the second time it was given the money, having got Rs 5 lakh in 1993. No heed was obviously paid to the official file noting attached to Godbole's letter which read (translated from Marathi): "As per the rules of the CMRF, the financial assistance cannot be given—however, according to the honourable chief minister's instructions and directive, the proposal is put up for sanction." Such notings or remarks appear routinely on files. They show that CMO officials have pointed out violations but have had to bow to political pressures. When Godbole made his recommendation, Sushilkumar Shinde was the CM.

    CMRF's beneficence has also gone to kabaddi and chess competitions, towards construction of buildings for hundreds of educational institutions, to youth organisations for purchase of cycles and computers. It has contributed regularly to the kitty of Marathi cultural, theatre and literary festivals; and money has also gone to a ghazal festival, a Congress MLA's religious programme and to actors' fan clubs. The press clubs in Mumbai, Pune and other cities across the state have regularly applied for and got amounts between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh. The most ridiculous of the CMRF's dole would have to be those that went to a mango festival and to the Indira Gandhi Udan Academy.

    "This is nothing but a brazen exercise in arbitrariness," says Shailesh Gandhi, well-known rti activist, who first filed an application to the CMRF in 2005. "My chief minister is not a king or feudal lord to dip into his treasure chest and give away money to who he pleases.

    The CMRF is a public authority to which the common man has donated in good faith." After a tortuous legal process involving two appeals, during which the CMO desisted from parting with information under an arsenal of legal and other excuses—like the CMRF is not a public body, giving information may attract breach of privilege in the state legislature and so on—the state information commission earlier this year ruled that CMRF was indeed a public authority and its disbursements had to be transparent. CM Vilasrao Deshmukh finally opened it for public scrutiny on February 28 this year.

    On its part, the CMO says that only about 26-30 per cent of the CMRF has gone to individuals/institutions not affected by natural calamities or accidents. The bulk has been given to "worthy victims"—of the Kargil war, the Orissa cyclone and so on. That, however, does not impress public-spirited individuals like former cop Y.P. Singh who exposed corruption in the police or social activist Gerson da Cunha. "The fund was given for renovation of clubs and temples at a time when 9,000 children in Maharashtra died of malnutrition," says Singh. He wonders how people and institutions with good credentials and access to other sources of funds were not ashamed to apply, and worse, were actually found deserving of the CMRF!

    Free Funds: 2003-'05

    Then there's another catch. Most contributions to the CMRF are voluntary but, as the state information commission pointed out, the government has used "its strength, authority and might to mop up maximum contributions". For example, the commissioner for sugar had directed that, following a government order, cooperative sugar factories deduct Rs 2 per tonne crushed for 2005-06 and 2006-07 from its members and deposit it into the CMRF, failing which crushing licences for 2007-08 won't be issued. A day's pay was deducted from the January 2005 salary of all government employees for the CMRF sans their consent.

    The average amount in the CMRF is around Rs 200 crore any year. Auditors' reports show that barely 25 per cent of the amount collected is disbursed in a year. For example, while nearly Rs 25 crore was added to the fund in 2006-07, only Rs 6.7 crore was disbursed. "The amounts are too small for politicians to be interested in them, but the fact is that successive CMs have treated the fund as their personal purse and have in turn earned goodwill or perhaps silence from critics," remarks Singh.

    As it happens, the CMRF is also registered as a public charitable trust with the charity commissioner. However, records still show the late V.P. Naik, the CM of Maharashtra in 1967, as president of the trust. "That this public trust has had no meetings, has kept no minutes of meetings and has no clear rules/guidelines for disbursement should send alarm signals to the public, many of whom contribute massively to it," says Gandhi.

    Now that the misuse of its funds has become public knowledge, the trust will perhaps pull its act together. Only then will public money not be gifted away to undeserving private interests.

  7. Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

    Why no body is talking about recovery of amount from respective CMs and govt. officials? For a small mistake, govt. punishes ordinary citizens, why not the powerful ones? Where is equality before law? Perhaps a PIL will work.
    It takes each of us to make difference for all of us.

  8. #16

    A matter of trust

    A matter of trust

    As Reported By Darryl D’Monte, Tuesday, July 08, 2008, DNA

    The Chief Minister’s Relief Fund should be for those affected by disasters not for mango festivals

    Whenever there are calamities, ordinary people are only too ready to contribute to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF). The purpose of this fund is self-evident, or ought to be. It is to come to the assistance of anyone who has been subjected to some distress due to natural causes.

    However, investigations by right to information activists reveal that several recipients of this fund in Maharashtra have not even remotely been stricken by disaster in any form. They include organisers of mango festivals, ghazal programmes, kabaddi and chess competitions and for making trips abroad. Shockingly, a Congress MLA received funds for a religious programme and so have actors’ fan clubs. Even the Mumbai and Delhi Press Clubs have been allotted funds, which is a blatant violation of the letter and spirit of the trust.

    Many of the institutions which have benefited from this largesse are headed by former politicians and bureaucrats. For instance, the Shanmukhananda Hall in Matunga, which was razed by a fire in 1990 received Rs25 lakh from the fund seven years later. The Sabha which runs this hall is presided over by Dr V Subramaniam, a former minister in Maharashtra. It asked for Rs50 lakhs so that the reconstruction of the hall could be completed “as a remarkable centre of Culture and Entertainment” and received half that amount despite official notings on the file that “funds in the CMRF are low”.

    Similarly, Madhav Godbole, a respected former union home secretary asked for funds on behalf of the Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies in Pune, which had already received Rs5 lakh in 1993. The file noted that funds could not be given as per the rules but deferred to the wishes of the Chief Minister. The Centre received another Rs2 lakh.

    DNA - Opinion - A matter of trust - Daily News & Analysis

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