Right to Information Act is a landmark legislation in India. Although, the dramatic change that one expected after its coming into effect was not immediately apparent, the fact that government orders, file notings, media and all such information formerly tucked away inaccessible in the far-away lands of sarkari attics is not RTIable. This brings in the opportunity for us to understand public policy issues better and “push” for action sometimes, and at other times, make noise about inaction. RTI in the hands of an informed citizen is a wonderful opportunity to bring about change.

I have been trying to use RTI to understand how data of various forms that is either collected by or vested with the Government is used (or not used). In this series of articles, you will find updates on these efforts.

(All my RTI’s are filed through RTINation. If you are already not using it, please do.)

Tukde Tukde hum nahin, tumhara tootna mumkin hai

Posted by on Jan 9, 2020 in Campaigns, Poetry | 0 comments

टुकड़े टुकड़े हम नहीं, तुम्हारा टूटना मुमकिन है – उमेश श्रिनिवसनयह जो बैर के पहाड़ खड़े किए हैं तुमनेसोचा होगा के हैं हिमालय से भी बुलंदहम नहीं जियेंगे इनके साए मेंनफ़रत के टुकड़े कर...

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We’re not scared, not cowed…

Posted by on Jan 7, 2020 in Campaigns, Poetry | 1 comment

Further to the lovely poetry and music that the recent protests across the country have been producing (see my recent post on Madara’s Tukde Tukde Kaun?), here’s two more that we ought to celebrate. The first one is (possibly) by Vishal Bharadwaj that he recited at the Carter Road protests at Bandra (Mumbai), that apparently also had several hundred Bollywood/TV personalities. And the second one further below is Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna by the poet Bismil Azimabadi, popularised in the Indian freedom struggle by another fellow Bismil,...

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An anthem for the times: Madara’s Tukde Tukde gang

Posted by on Dec 30, 2019 in Campaigns, Notes, Poetry | 2 comments

Nothing like music to communicate the anger and passion which sparks within. As the year winds down and the anger runs high, hip-hop artist Rahul Negi, who raps under the name Madara has released what I think will find a huge following among the political churning ongoing among several young people in the country. The rap communicates what has been said in many ways in the last months to year: that a manipulative, divisive and malicious narrative of pitting people against one another will eventually be exposed for what it is. The...

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BUCEROS: A time to review the BNHS ENVIS newsletter

Posted by on Sep 1, 2019 in Campaigns, Wildlife | 0 comments

Lovely images and production quality of the BUCEROS magazine/newsletter produced by the BNHS ENVIS team In the recently arrived Vol. 22 No. 2 (2017) for instance several pages are reproductions of articles (well selected ones) that seem to have appeared in The Times of India I glance at the two volumes of BUCEROS that arrived a few days back (Vol 22 No. 2 (2017). The least problematic is the fact that I received them in 2019! ENVIS, short for Environmental Information System is a programme to bring together information on...

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LUKOSIN: A classic “magical” remedy

Posted by on Feb 16, 2019 in Campaigns, Public Health | 4 comments

I got drawn to the magical remedies of AIMIL Pharmaceuticals early last year and had tweeted about some of their products, two of them BGR34 and Lukosin caught my attention, not only because of the flaunting of DRDO’s logo on the website of this private pharmaceutical company (for Lukosin and a modest mention of the know how by CSIR on the former), but also because of the claims made about cure (not treatment) of Vitiligo.  Along with @BGR34Online that is marketed for #diabetes and this one below for #Vitiligo,...

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Painting with a broad brush: Stereotyping “tribal” identity

Posted by on Feb 7, 2017 in Campaigns | 1 comment

Yet another “tribal” story in a national newspaper. Based on my reading, the story is based on the seizure of a consignment of ghee packets at a forest checkpost by the department. Clearly this indicates that some of the ghee packets under a government scheme are finding ways into private markets for sale. Several reports abound about such “hand-outs” entering private markets. Often, these instances are cited as reasons for not giving subsidies or hand-outs.  Without going into that larger policy argument, there’s a finer point to...

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Of absurd letters and misplaced priorities

Posted by on Jun 21, 2015 in Campaigns | 2 comments

It is not too rare to see very bizarre letters. In fact, there have been letters unearthed from over 2000 years ago from the dawn of writing itself often written by people who wanted to complain about services or to authorities. More recent funny letter compilations abound on the Internet, many of them quite lame leave letters supposedly written by staff of  IT companies around Bangalore. But, this letter I chanced upon at one of Karnataka’s tiger reserves (BR Hills) definitely takes the cake on absurdity and ad-hocism, let alone...

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Open government (data)

Posted by on Jul 19, 2014 in Campaigns, Public Health | 0 comments

Comment is free, but facts are sacred Thanks to the exceedingly good central government run website to file applications under the Right to Information Act (see end of this post for details), I got the opportunity to look at some useful data on implementation of large nationwide schemes. I have been trying to obtain data on such schemes across subjects, disciplines and departments with the objective of understanding what ails the management and utilisation of data in government services in India. Take for example the poor utilisation of...

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Afrindian Mammals

Posted by on Jul 4, 2014 in Birds, Campaigns | 0 comments

I just came across a recent book on Indian mammals. Congratulations to the authors (M. S. Pradhan, S. S. Talmale), both from the prestigious Zoological Survey of India. I, for one would have bought it, if not for its fairly expensive pricing. It is priced at 4500. I hope, that by now, the authors have become aware of the bloopers on its outside cover though. Well, I hope they are bloopers, for I would find no good reason to illustrate a book of Indian mammals with African elephants on its cover! See the Flipkart page for the book for example...

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Counting system losing count

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Campaigns, Public Health | 3 comments

In continuation of a campaign to free public data (and potentially public data), this opinion piece published in Business Standard on 21 Jan 2014. Also see similar advocacy articles on public data across health and natural history. More to follow… In 1921, laying the foundation for a leading newspaper’s entry into data journalism, its editor C P Scott wrote, “Comment is free, facts are sacred“. Over the years, the use of data and analysis has moved much beyond inaccessible research journals to the domain of public...

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