Only 10 per cent of India’s 1.1 billion population is said to be aware of the Right to Information (RTI) Act which grants citizens the right to access government documents.
Nevertheless, its power and potential is unmatched. For a nominal fee, any Indian, male or female, rich or poor, can step up to “the scariest government agency” and take his or her shot.
For journalists, RTI is a “game-changer“.
Students of the 2008-09 investigative class of the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media (IIJNM) in Bangalore—under the guidance of Prof Ralph Frammolino, a reporter at the Los Angeles Times for 24 years and a Pulitzer Prize finalist—have used the RTI to show how killer BMTC drivers are back at the wheel; how the State government never fires chronically absentee teachers; and how the chances of corrupt officers trapped by the Lok Ayukta getting punished are low.
They have also used RTI to show how chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa uses public money for his temple visits. It wasn’t easy. They had to make 12 trips to the CM’s office and file an appeal to obtain the documents.
PAVAN KUMAR H. and P. KRISHNAMURTHY write: During his first five months in office, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa spent more than Rs 11 lakh in government funds to make eight trips to Hindu temples—including one to Tirupathi to take part in the Bramhotsava.
Records obtained by IIJNM Investigations under the Right To Information (RTI) Act show that Yediyurappa charged the eight trips to taxpayers as “official” business.
In five out of eight instances, he used government funds to rent a helicopter or an airplane to carry himself and several top ministers to Hindu shrines, where he offered pujas and, in one case, inaugurated a food serving hall.
Interviews and records also show that during the same period, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader made no official visits to other houses of worship even after being invited by Christian and Muslim leaders.
And in one case, Yediyurappa was visiting a Mangalore temple at government expense the day after pro-Hindutva vandals ransacked two nearby Christian sanctuaries.
Despite heavy media coverage of the church incidents, Yediyurappa didn’t show up at the churches, although he denounced the attacks on prayer halls and met Christian leaders. Still, his failure to visit the sanctuaries prompted accusations that he and his pro-Hindu BJP tacitly condoned the attacks—a charge he vigorously denies.
A BJP spokesman defended the chief minister’s temple visits, saying the reason he didn’t go to mosques and churches in the first few months of his tenure was because “he was not invited.” Yeddyurappa has since gone to at least one dargah and one church, according to press reports.
“Yediyurappa is not against any religion,” said A.L. Shivkumar, media manager of the State BJP. “He treats all religions equally.”
Kumar said Yediyurappa has gone to more temples because Hindu priests continually ask him to.
“He visits many places and people invite him to the temples nearby, so he goes there,” he said. “He is a ‘pakka‘ (devout) Hindu and he goes to a temple as every traditional Hindu does. It would be wrong if he does not go there.”
But Christian and Muslim leaders have another account.
Adolf Washington, public relations officer for the Catholic Archbishop’s office in Bangalore, said church officials had called Yediyurappa “many times but he did not come. He is a Chief Minister so we cannot force him to come.”
Salim Babu, secretary of the Karnataka Wakf Board, which manages mosques for the government, said both Yediyurappa and his Wakf Board Minister, Mumtaz Ali Khan, have spurned requests from the Muslim community to attend events and meetings.
“He is not interested in attending mosques,” Salim said about Yeddyurappa, adding that the chief minister showed favoritism to the religious majority. “He should not discriminate between a tall son and a dwarf son.”
Records show that Yediyurappa’s State-paid temple visits began shortly after he was sworn in on 30 May 2008.
His first was on June 17, a trip that cost taxpayers Rs 2,440, to the Ghati Subramanya Temple in Doddabalapur. That was followed 12 days later by a Rs 854 car ride to the Sri Keshtra Siddhara Betta temple in Tumkur. There, the chief minister participated in a Guru Vadana, or tribute ceremony, in honor of Shiva Kumar Swamiji of Siddaganga Mutt.
The most expensive trips were to Tirupathi, India’s most famous Hindu shrine. His trips on July 17 and October 1 each cost taxpayers Rs 3.6 lakh for a “special aircraft” and Rs 9,500 for the taxi.
The official purpose given for the trips was “local visit,” although the latter was during the Bramhotsava. The nine-day festival is the busiest time for the temple.
Twice he flew in state-paid helicopters to temples. A September 8 trip to the Banavasi temple in Hassan cost Rs 1.4 lakh for the helicopter ride. The other, on October 10, cost taxpayers nearly Rs 1.9 lakh for transportation to the Sri Krishna Mutt in Udupi, where he inaugurated the food hall.
According to the CM’s office, a temple visit is “official” and paid by the government if Yediyurappa is invited by a local official, such as a district commissioner (DC), to attend a public ceremony, function or make an inspection.
Also read: How to use RTI and be the change you want to see
Having followed churumuri over a couple of years now, I can confidently predict what sort of comments are going to appear on this post:
1. Someone will accuse Churumuri of being a congress mouthpiece
2. Someone will point to some vague wrongdoing of a Congress Party member, and therefore say that Yediyurappa is justified.
3. The word “pseudo-secular” will be invoked within the first 3 posts.
4. Someone will blame the “foreign hand” because the name “Adolf Washington” appears somewhere in the post.
5. Someone will blame it on Muslims… and for good measure the Pope and all Christians as well.
Given the Yeddy family’s considerable wealth, wonder why the need to constantly dip into our tax money.. oh wait.. just got the answer…
And they wonder why the turnout in elections among educated, thoughtful and concerned people is low…
congrats to the IIJNM students for this interesting report: Religious bigotry seems to be the hallmark of present day politics…….Let’s hope that all this changes….Is it asking for too much?
Good. Now that we have the information, how to use it(other than merely reporting it and PILing)?
The title — Big Bark, Small Bite( http://www.iijnm.org/investigations/ ) is tad too unfair, we should be rather be protesting for giving Lokayukta, the power to prosecute.
Well giving more power to Lokayukta and getting a decent person there(like we have now and immediate before) should solve some of the problems.
It’d be fun when a reinstated delinquent driver wrongs again then the minister/bureaucrat reinstating him can be prosecuted for negligence/malicious manipulation.
” the Lokayukta runs its own mini-court system and 200-member police force on an annual budget of Rs 230 lakhs. ”
It is just a special court, like CBI’s, Lokayukta can only refer the cases for prosecution.
I think u got the meaning of ‘Hindutva’ wrong.
The Right to Information Act has a potential to transform Indian democracy — but only if journalists use it.
Many kudos to Pavan Kumar, Krishnamurthy and the other IIJNM students, as well as to their accomplished teacher Ralph Frammolino. These enterprising folks have rekindled my hope in Indian journalism.
So, what is wrong with a Hindu Chief Minister visiting Hindu shrines and taking part in Hindu functions if he is invited in his capacity as Chief Minister?
Or is the problem that he did not visit mosques and churches also?
I just cannot understand these secular loonies. They berate the BJP for it’s supposedly Hindu agenda all year long and when one of them becomes Chief Minister, the fellow is again berated for acting like a Hindu and visiting Temples and Hindu shrines.
So, why should he be visiting mosques and churches anyways? Looks like Yeddi does not believe in allah and the son of god. Will he not be hypocritical if he makes these visits? Or are these keepers of the churches and the mosques prepared to acknowledge that a Hindu is just as entitled to salvation while being a Hindu, just as they feel a christian and muslim is, respectively? If they are prepared to do that, then they have a right to expect Yeddi in their midst. If not, let them very simply take a long walk wherever!
Again…did I hear Rs 11 lakhs?? Ha ha haw haw!!!
Yedi’s achievement in the past 10 months is nothing but appeasing demi gods (mutts) and roaming from temple to temple.
People will tech him a lesson.
One of the worst CM that Karnataka has ever seen.
Enjoy your anti-BJP postings while you can. After May 16th you Congresswala’s will be too shell-shocked to write anything, so you might as well use the next 16 days to continue your anti-BJP tirade.
You have problems with Yeddi spending tax payers money on visiting temples. That’s very much acceptable. But why bring the church and mosque into picture? In case he visited equal number of mosques and churches using tax payers money, he would have been exalted to the post of secular hero, isnt it?
I have always maintained that Yeddi is wasting ‘state governance time’ by visiting temples. I am not surprised that he is dipping into state funds for financing his pilgrimage. Well the voters will sort him out very soon…
Is the issue about the use of taxpayer money for personal trips or about his bias towards Hindu temples? The way the article reads, it seems the expectation is that the CM should be an equal opportunity thief of taxpayer rupees. IOW, it is OK if the CM uses public money for trips to religious places as long as he visits all of them.
One of the first things I would hope is taught at a journalism school, by a renowned(?) journalist no less, is the importance of sticking to the point. What’s the point here?
I do not mind my tax money going towards Yeddi’s temple visits instead of it going to the Haj Piligrims who come back re-didcated to blow us all to high heavens. Compare this to the trips Haradanahalli Hero made during his tenure to various temples in state and mostly out of state to offer this pooja or that havana/homa and even performing black magic in kerala against his opponents.
I am always amused by the nit picking that these pseudos indulge in when it comes to BJP leaders.
BTW this is a third article this week trying to show BJP in poor light published by Churmuri :) Anything to make the Numero Uno family and its henchmen win the elections…everything is fair in love,war and elections
Expect more of the same. Is PIL against the CM an option?
Tone of the article seems to be more worried about Yeddi attending only Hindu functions rather than attending Muslim and Christian functions as well. Had he spent another 11 lac each on muslim and christian function would it be great? We are meant to be a secular nation and meaning of which is not sucking up to all religions rather than showing them the right place which is medieval 15th century. Can we have a effin secular ATHEIST govt? The word Secular has become so much an abused word that its meaning in dictionary also needs to be revised soon.
The reason for Yedi not going to Mosques and Churches is probably that the last time he went to a church in Mangalore, the Bishop shouted at him.
Yedi is probably afraid of being shouted at again. :)
Kudos to the journos.
Palahalli, give me a break. Please don’t bring hindu cm, temple blah blah blah. The main point is yeddi is wasting our money. even if he visits any other place of worship its still our money which is wasted.
Well, typically anti – hindu tirade . masquerading as secularism., hallmark of churmuri these days,
If the issue under discussion is use of Tax Payers money for religious visits, the biggest culprit is haj subsidies given to muslims in India every year.
the bill runs into 100s of crores EVERY YEAR ! all paid by tax payers. Why is churmuri not talking of this & picking on bjps temple visits?
If churmuri has a problem with yaddyurappas temple visits, they should have a much bigger major problem with haj subsidies.
But even churmuri knows ridiculing hindus & their beliefs is AOK, where as a similar article on muslim beliefs will invite a mob, a bomb & a fatwa.
Dandapinda – That’s your view. I don’t see it as waste that he visits Temples as Chief Minister. Again, the motivated blah blah blah can be seen in the article itself and please don’t put a *oh I’m so hurt by this waste* spin on it!
Chet – Yes, Yeddi should have visited Mora’s Church only to be insulting..and nothing else.
What worries me is that Yeddi & shobhi are looting my & yours hard earned money and doesnt care a damn about it. I dont want the politicians to be going to temples or churches or mosques for that matter on my money. Simple aint it? On a another note, when yeddi & co come out on bangalore roads, they are wasting not only the tax payer money, they also ensure that the road is free for them to glide smoothly while us tax payers idle and wait for them to pass….ok – its not just yeddi & co but whichever party is in power…….while we look on helplessly and during voting time..dont vote. maybe we deserve fools like them for behaving so stupidly…….we get what we deserve..
Probably this is what they teach in Journalism schools. i.e., creating sensationalism wherever possible. (The above statement is not intended to defend our CM’s actions)
What worries me is that Yeddi & shobhi are looting my & yours hard earned money and doesnt care a damn about it. I dont want the politicians to be going to temples or churches or mosques for that matter on my money. Simple aint it? On a another note, when yeddi & co come out on bangalore roads, they are wasting not only the tax payer money, they also ensure that the road is free for them to glide smoothly while us tax payers idle and wait for them to pass….ok – its not just yeddi & co but whichever party is in power…….while we look on helplessly and during voting time..dont vote. maybe we deserve fools like them for behaving so stupidly…….we get what we deserve.
Why cant you consider it as Yeddi spending part of the tax contribution given by BJP supporters ?? …
Some ideas to young uncorrupted journalists, for investigation
1. Madam Sonia Gandhis expenditure (without having any official portfolio, she spends!)
2. Foreign trips to journalists offered by state/ central govt
3. Freebies given to Journalists
4. Number of transfers done on behest of journalists
Sorry! That’s an idiotic argument. I want the CM to do work for Karnatka not work on his paapa/punya issues. May be Yeddi has taken the slogan, “Government’s Work Is God’s Work’ to mean “Government’s Work is Visiting Temples Work” ?
BTW if we wanted a ‘Bhakti Parawasha’ man as CM we might as well suspend the assembly, install all the Idols inside Vidhanasabha and start worshipping them. Why do you need Yeddi?
DB – You seem to want the BJP government to divorce itself from culture and religion. If yes, why? When have they ever given anybody the impression that they would do this?
The CM visits Temples and attends religious gatherings on invitation. That’s what the article implied. Why do you think the CM must decline? If that’s what you think he should do.
A CM who is religious does not automatically mean he is also useless. Are you making that assumption?
Now let us assume that some Western head of state gets invited to the Vatican to attend some event. Do you think he would be expected to pay for that trip? If yes, why? The journo mentor sounds Italian. He would know.
Again, let us assume Yeddi got invited to attend a meet of private engineers of some firm in say, Delhi and Yeddi charged the expense to the State. Do you think that would record in this article as “wasteful and unnessasary”? Would you say it was? If not, why not?
DB sir, why are you so mad with Yeddi?
Yeddi is clearly superior — in attitude, performance, demeanor, priorities — to all his predecessors since 1994, i.e. Deve Gowda, J.H. Patel, Dharam Singh, Kumaraswamy (all except perhaps S.M. Krishna).
Please be a bit less mad with Yeddi. :)
I agree but Yeddi’s penchant for temple visits are coming in the way of State governance matters. If he undertakes all these ‘darshanas’ with minimum fuss and out of his own funds, he will be sending a powerful message that he is good in words and deeds.
You make good points but my objection is Yeddi is wasting valuable time attending to his religious side! Sure if he is only a duffer who escapes to temples then that is another matter altogether. Sure as a BJP man he should care for temples for instance keeping the temple premises clean. I went to Mahadeshwara Swamy temple in 2002 and I have yet recover from the shock of seeing so much filth (dirt and squalor), beggars acting out their most pitiable acts and temple administrators acting like ’sphinx’ amidst all these…Make visiting temples a wonderful experience not as some hardship and temples being accessible only to VIPs as in TTD–incidentally Yeddi’s favorite :(
DB – I agree with this line of argument. Even so, it would take somebody who loves Temples to bring about the change you (we all) desire.
One more thing; I think Yeddi must manage his PR much better. All that he does can carry a powerful message.
I side with Yeddi and the cheddis who are supporting, for a change. Why? atleast yeddi is taking out one Arch from “Nagpur” Arsenal, with his loot of Tax Money on Mutts and darshans.
During the most lucid moments in life your postings are hard to understand. Your latest post is an enigma wrapped in a burkha!
Hindu bashing is the hallmark of Indian journalism and you are seeming to gain a master degree in it!
Continue to do hindu bashing. God bless you.
(If you have anything in you whose meaning is conscience, then try to understand what Dharma means! This kind of journalism may earn you accolades from morons and retards and also anti-nationals, but you will only be stooping to lower/cheaper levels of journalism. You’ll only grow-down and not grow up.)