Saturday, September 13, 2008

YFE congratulates Mr Shailesh Gandhi

Its a great day for all the people who have cared and worked for the sharpness of Right to information act. Amid fears from the Supreme Court and the Parliament to throttle the act. today we all have a reason to celebrate.

One our friends, former IITian and renowed RTI activist from Mumbai, Mr Shailesh Gandhi has been appointed as Central Information Commisoner and Central Information Commision. Sixty-one-year-old Shailesh Gandhi, who was awarded the Nani Palkhiwala Award for civil liberties this year, is widely known for using the RTI Act effectively for better governance and accountability in public life.

It is heartening that has been appointed as theChief Information Commissioner. Gandhi’s appointment will also create a piquant situation for the three other commsioners as he claims he will function as an information commissioner for a token salary of Re 1, and not take the bungalow and other perks.

In our experience, whenever a new person takes charge of a senior post in Government, by the time that person understands the systems and how things work, their term is almost over.

Hence, unless there is clarity of purpose at the start, there is a chance either of that person soon thinking from the government's point of view, and accepting the limitations of government, or of that person getting frustrated and opting to leave and work from outside the government.

We request you to suggest to Mr. Gandhi as targets and objectives for a year, and clear principles and non-negotiables that will help achieve these targets.

Email your suggestions to him at

Now we can expect a flury of people oriented decissions from CIC. as we have first ever RTI activist and Non-IAS commsioner in CIC. Youth for equality wishes him a inspiring tenure.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Update on Bihar Flood Relief

Till date, our members have established two camps.

One base camp is at Simraha.They have already attended more than 2000 patients. This camp is working round the clock and is open 24 hours a day.

The other one is mobile team which is moving around the flood areas that to be near the Bhutia dam where around 2 feet water is still there thus they are moving on cycles and rickshaws.No Government medical camp , only food distribution is being done over there.

Army is also present there and is doing the rescue operation.

Our team has seen more than 500 patients in this area.

Tomorrow another team is leaving from New Delhi to Patna.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Screening of Divided Colors of a Nation

Screening of Umesh Agrawal’s my latest film DIVIDED COLORS OF A NATION, produced by PSBT & PRASAR BHARATI, will be carried out on 13th September 2008, at 6.15 P.M. Indian Habitat centre.

Its a 60 minute film in English. It focuses on caste based reservation in India, an issue that concerns all of us in one way or the other.

The film will be screened as part of Open Frame International Film festival, organized by PSBT & Prasar Bharati.

The screening will be followed by an open forum. All the involved parties in this issue will participate in the forum.

All of us have been invited for the screening ceremony.

A quota of attention
Umesh Agarwal on his documentary on reservation.

You seldom find documentaries that walk the tight rope of veracity. And if the issue is caste reservation, it becomes all the more difficult not to fall on one side of the divide. Umesh Agarwal has managed to do the balancing act in his latest film Divided Colors Of A Nation.

The film not only scans the concept of caste-based reservation since it made an entry into the Constitution courtesy the very first amendment and its usage as a political tool over the years, but also looks into the status of education in the country. “The film is not pro or against reservation, but it does say when there is disparity at the level of grassroots education, what is the use of reservation,” says Umesh.

He has travelled from Delhi to Rajasthan to Andhra Pradesh to prove his point. At some places he didn’t find a teacher in government schools in villages, at others he found 200 students of five grades being taught together. He discovered that most of the teachers appointed to these schools are from cities and they don’t want to travel to villages every day. “Instead they have made arrangements where a local man marks attendance on the teacher’s behalf. Students don’t even know the name of their school and teacher.” But what takes the bakery is the government primary school in Gosainganj in Lucknow. Here the teacher at the dilapidated school fails to name the President of India.

Gross negligence
“Originally I had no plans to look into the educational aspect, but the Gujjar agitation made me think about the state of education. In Rajasthan the pass percentage of the State Board’s High School examination is not more than 50 percent in the last 10 years. Around the same time, the ‘Aaja Nachle’ controversy happened in Lucknow. I was in the city at that time. I was curious to know the state of education in the state where there is such high caste consciousness that the government led by a Dalit Chief Minister bans a film where a line in a song has casteist overtones. Most of the students in the Gosainganj school come from scheduled caste and Muslim families.” The film also points out how public schools made on subsidised land are not imparting free education to the deprived, which is their fundamental right. Umesh says this gross negligence of primary education has resulted in a situation where there are vacant seats in the reserved quota in prestigious institutes but there are no students despite all the relaxations.
Then Umesh takes us to the other spectrum of the issue — whether the ‘creamy’ layer of the scheduled castes, tribes and other backward castes should get the benefit of reservation. “The Supreme Court has said that the creamy layer from other backward classes should not get the benefits of reservation but hardly any state government has taken note of it. They keep on amending the law to suit their political agenda. I feel the economically well off SCs and STs should also be included in the creamy layer so that their seat goes to the really deserving one.” Umesh has taken into the account diverse point of views without being judgemental. The film also points out how the number of castes has increased in the last six decades with the demand for reservation. “We are increasingly becoming casteist. In Rajasthan, there are separate crematoriums for Jaats, Meenas and Gujjars. I agree with what Naryan Moorthy said: India is the only country where people are thronging the streets to be called backward.”The film will be screened on September 13 at PSBT’s Open Frame festival at the India Habitat Centre and followed by a discussion.

* * *
A retired Cabinet Secretary who belongs to a scheduled caste feels his grandsons also deserve the benefits of reservation.

Sharat Babu, an SC student who went to IIM, Ahmedabad, and now runs his own food business, feels his kids don’t need reservation.

When asked how one should explain the reservation policy to an 18-year-old, UGC Chairman Sukhadeo Thorat feels he should be told this is how the wrongs of the past could be corrected.

Monday, September 1, 2008

YFE won SMS college elections

There is a good news for all of us from Madhya Pradesh. YFE, MP candidate "Richa Toshniwal" has been elected president of S.M.S. Government Model Science College, Gwalior. This is second largest science college in Madhya Pradesh. Many congratulations to all YFE members and thanks to our YFE members in MP who have worked hard to achieve this win in this student election.
There are some more students election in line for us and and we should work hard to replicate this success there also.