Don’t protect political parties from RTI

Don’t protect political parties from RTI
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First Published: Mon, May 05 2008. 11 01 PM IST
Updated: Mon, May 05 2008. 11 01 PM IST
A propos your editorial, “Political parties should answer” (Mint, 2 May), the question raised is needless, but it is also a reflection of the times we are passing through. We talk of corporate governance and transparency in business, while the political parties running the country want to evade scrutiny by the citizens. No public authority should be beyond the pale of RTI. While a political party “technically” may not be a public authority, in most cases it would be more important than one. Under no circumstance should political parties be allowed to get away from the RTI net. In fact, any party failing to honour the orders under the RTI should be disqualified from putting up candidates during elections. Public opinion should be mobilized in this regard.
It is quite amazing that Salil Tripathi, in his column “Media and moral outrage” (Mint, 1 May), can’t comprehend a very basic fact that a country can simultaneously have an increasing per capita food consumption and a decreasing availability of foodgrain for the rural poor.
To actually expect, as Tripathi does, that migrant and suicidal farmers would be eating “fish, meat, eggs and milk” instead of coarse cereals is a cruel joke.
But perhaps journalists, whether based in London or Mumbai, are tired of stories of rural misery and deprivation. Their alibi for their “shining India” can be easily found in the writings of select economists and English journals.
-Shishir K. Jha
Faculty, Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, IIT Bombay
Our columnist responds:
Like many of my colleagues, I am not “tired” of stories of rural misery and deprivation. Nor have I called for greater focus on shining India. My point remains that the rural crisis is not the only crisis in India; those not reporting Vidarbha suicides are not necessarily covering urban fashion shows instead. Many are concerned about other dangers such as the rise of Narendra Modi or the impunity enjoyed by those who massacred Sikhs in 1984; to ignore such journalism is disingenuous and Manichean.
Shishir Jha has presumably heard of Giffen goods and the notion of inelasticity of food demand. It is not my case that all poor farmers are eating superior foods—just as it cannot be P. Sainath’s case that all rural Indians have less food available (but that’s the claim). Jha would know the limitations of statistics and averages. If statistics of increasing food consumption do not tell the full story, neither does the claim of declining food availability. May I suggest the Economic Survey of 2004-05, Table S-17, as a good starting point? National sample surveys will also show a shift in consumption pattern, in rural and urban India, from cereals to other food products. This requires reflection and further study, not assertions.
-Salil Tripathi
My congratulations to Tamal Bandyopadhyay. His column on 28 April suggested there would be no interest rate hike. And that’s what the monetary policy announcement on 29 April did. Bandyopadhyay’s post-policy commentary was fantastic and his interview with RBI governor Y.V. Reddy was the most comprehensive and insightful among all papers. Give us more.
-M.N. Maity
This refers to Sangeeta Singh’s timely report in Mint, 28 April. It is apparent that labour shortages are affecting operations of handling at the mandis. But isn’t it ironical that this is happening concurrent with a government restriction on the railways transporting wheat on account of private traders? Therefore, while a well-structured system of handling and logistics by private traders lies stifled by bureaucratic “firmans”, apparently in the interests of reserving rail capacity for FCI, the latter’s wheat stock struggles to cope with handling problems... and the government treats the public on a diet of measures to control inflation!
-Prakash Bhaduri
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First Published: Mon, May 05 2008. 11 01 PM IST
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