RTI activist is one-man army against Meira Kumar 

At this moment, the “United Opposition” Presidential candidate Meira Kumar must be having another look at what one man can do. He is noted Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal (67). A one-man army, Agrawal, over the years, has collected vast valuable “official data” through his RTI applications, which is enough to put Meira in a difficult situation.

Her opponents have been knocking on the doors of his Chandni Chowk home to access the vital information against India’s first woman Lok Sabha Speaker and daughter of one-time Dalit icon Babu Jagjivan Ram. Agrawal has no political leanings. He has politely declined to part with the information. He has decided to put it in public domain through social media. “I have nothing personal against her” Subhash told The Sunday Guardian.

It was while pursuing his RTI passion that Subhash Chandra Agrawal stumbled upon facts related to Meira Kumar, first as a Union Minister and later as the Lok Sabha Speaker. He was intrigued by the establishment of “Babu Jagjivan Ram Smriti” at 6, Krishna Menon Marg, a huge Type 8 bungalow in the Lutyens Zone, despite a Cabinet decision by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government that no official bungalow would be converted into a memorial after the death of a leader occupying it. Kumar used to live with her father at this huge property.

But Meira continued to remain in the possession of 6, Krishna Menon Marg, even after Jagjivan Ram’s death in July 1986. First, it was allotted to Babuji’s widow, Indrani Devi, though she was not a politician or a sitting Member of Parliament. Babuji was Deputy Prime Minister in the Janata government. So, Indrani Devi was not entitled to live in this bungalow.

On records, the bungalow was “unallotted” for more than a decade. The Ministry of Urban Development did not send the file to CAG despite repeated reminders, when the audit watchdog wanted to enquire for keeping a prime property “unallotted” for so long without any reasons.

According to Agrawal, after Indrani Devi’s death, the bungalow got “converted” into “an unauthorised memorial” in the father’s name. Agrawal points out that Rs 1.98 crore “rent” due from this property was “waived off” by the Manmohan Singh government and the property was “leased” out to the Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation for 25 years in last days of UPA regime.

Significantly, he says, this Foundation was set up by Meira Kumar when she was the Minister for Social Justice.

“Surprisingly annual-returns have been removed from the Foundation’s website after word spread about possible issues in setting up of the Foundation,” says Agrawal.

There are “many more tales” that emerged from Agrawal’s relentless efforts to fetch information from the Estate Department, Central Public Works Department, Ministry of Urban Development and the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

RTI is Agrawal’s 24×7 passion

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal. Although Subhash Agrawal has been in the news for over a decade for exposing big scams through his RTI skills, not many people know about his personal life.

His story began when, as a young student at the Delhi College of Engineering (that time at Kashmere Gate) in 1967, a DTC bus conductor refused to give him a ticket after pocketing a 10 paise fare. Agitated, he wrote his first “Letter to the Editor” to the Hindi Hindustan, describing the incident. Two days later, the letter was published. When he went to college, he saw a jeep carrying some persons in khaki coming inside. Moments later, a peon came looking for him. Thinking that the “police” had come to arrest him for complaining against the DTC conductor, he ran home. The next day, the principal summoned him and told him that the DTC officials had brought the “conductor” as he wanted to apologise. Realising the power of his letter to the newspaper, Agrawal began writing one letter daily to various newspapers on a wide range of subjects affecting the common man. Within a few years, he became a Guinness record holder in this field, breaking a Pakistani’s record. Today, his wife Madhu (66) is also a Guinness record holder in the “Letters to the Editor” category.

When the RTI Act was passed in 2005, Agrawal began filing one application daily to find out the truth about various scams that hit the UPA’s two-term regime, whether it was 2G or the Commonwealth Games.

Soon after their marriage in 1975, Agrawal and his wife had taken a bold decision of not to have a child. The cheating in the family’s wholesale cloth business by his kin made him rise above the materialistic world, and he started liking the philosophy of the Parsi way of life—work for the society, and not for yourself. His wife supported him in adopting the “no-child” policy. From business, he began sparing a few hours daily to pursue his RTI queries.

Today, RTI is his 24×7 passion. In his opinion, “No subject is too trivial—small-small corrections in the society can make a big difference.”

When the RTI Act was passed in 2005, Agrawal began filing one application daily to find out the truth about various scams that hit the UPA’s two-term regime, whether it was 2G or the Commonwealth Games. 

Hindu Deities are found In Japan

Deity of Saraswati Yoshiwara Jinja in Tokyo.Most people are not aware that a score of Hindu deities are actively worshipped in the land of the rising sun, Japan. There are hundreds of shrines to Goddess Saraswati alone. There are innumerable representations of Lakshmi, Indra, Brahma, Ganesha, Garuda and other deities. Deities whom we have practically forgotten in India, such as Vayu and Varuna, are still worshiped in Japan.You can see the Indian deities in Japan at an amazing photo exhibition which was opened at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Saturday evening by General (Retired) V.K. Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs. Titled “Hindu Deities Worshipped in Japan”, the exhibition has been organised jointly by the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Japan Foundation.

A film on the same subject was also shown. It won seven awards at international film festival awards in 2016. The Japanese version of the film had been shown by the Indian embassy in Tokyo before PM Modi’s visit to Japan in November last year. Among many dignitaries present were Colombia’s ambassador, Monica Lanzetta, and Costa Rica’s envoy, Mariela Cruz.

At the time of going to the press, we were told that President Pranab Mukherjee was expected to visit the exhibition. The 82-photograph exhibition will remain open for public till 8 July (Monday closed), 10 am to 4 pm.We are pleased to feature once again Benoy K. Behl (60), the photographer who “discovered” these Hindu deities in Japan. In this column last Sunday (25 June), we talked about this filmmaker, art-historian and photographer as the “yoga ambassador” who went to South America to shoot for his mega documentary. “I found that Japan has preserved ancient Indian traditions, even when they may have changed in India. In Japan, Saraswati is depicted and venerated not only with the veena, but also remembered for her association with water.

One may recall that Saraswati is originally the personification of the river by that name. Therefore, she is also worshiped in pools of water in Japan,” Behl told The Sunday Guardian. Behl was delighted to find continuance of the tradition of homa (havan) in some of the most important Japanese Buddhist sects, who call it goma. According to Behl, many words in the Japanese language are from Sanskrit. Sanskrit was also the basis for the formation of the Japanese alphabet “Kana”. In the supermarkets, a major brand of milk products is called “Sujata”.The company personnel are taught the story of Sujata who gave sweet rice milk to the Buddha, with which he broke his period of austerity, before he gained Enlightenment.The exhibition was possible with the support of a Japan Foundation Fellowship in 2015. Kaoru Miyamoto, director general of the Japan Foundation, said, “We were delighted with Behl’s excellent research which led to this exhibition and a film.” Indian Ministry of External Affairs also sponsored this film. The exhibition and the film have highlighted the deep cultural ties between India and Japan.

Modi is the World’s most important Prime Minister: Israeli newspaper

Israel is excited about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit beginning 4 July. Why not, as this will be the first visit of an Indian PM to the Jewish nation. A prominent Israeli business daily the Marker has described this historical event as, “Wake up: the most important PM of the world is coming!” The Marker, in its Hebrew edition, while discussing India-Israel ties says that Israelis had set up huge expectations from US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Jewish state, but “he didn’t say much”, while Modi, a leader of 1.25 billion people enjoying massive popularity and representing one of the fastest growing economies of the world, deserves a lot of attention. The Jerusalem Post has even created a separate link, “Modi’s Visit”, where it has put up stories related to India. Most of the local commentators have emphasised on Modi “skipping Ramallah” and are stating that it is a standalone visit focusing only on India’s ties with Israel. A leading newspaper has said that unlike most world leaders, Modi, who governs the world’s largest democracy and second largest nation, has apparently refused to visit Ramallah during his Israel trip, and will not schedule meetings with Palestinian Authority (PA) chief Mahmoud Abbas or other PA leaders. Indian diplomatic channels point out that Modi met Abbas during the PA leader’s trip to India in May, and senior Indian officials have visited Abbas at his Ramallah residence during their trips to Israel.

The excitement about Modi was visible at the third International Yoga Day celebrations in Israel on 21 June. The largest yoga event in Israel took place at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Thousands of individuals had come to partake in multiple forms of yoga led by Dr Rohit Sabharwal, a renowned yoga teacher from the Art of Living stream of yoga. Around 4,000 people of Indian-origin would be attending an address by Modi on the evening of 5 July in Tel Aviv. The Israeli embassy in New Delhi says Modi is visiting Israel at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. It will include a call on the Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, and a working meeting and dinner with the Israeli PM. It will also include high-level bilateral meetings and other various components that reflect the fabric of the Indo-Israeli relations. This significant visit takes place in the backdrop of marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between India and Israel, and will further upgrade the ever growing partnership between the two countries. Netanyahu and Modi have already met twice on foreign soil on the sidelines of UN-related events and are said to be constantly in touch with each other over the phone.

A $40 million joint fund is likely to be established to encourage Israeli and Indian business cooperation, agreements permitting and extending incentives to Bollywood filmmakers looking to shoot in Israel, efforts to promote growth in tourism, and a joint government project in the fields of water and agriculture.

The defence ties between India and Israel have often drawn worldwide attention and acquired strategic dimensions. Modi’s visit has been preceded by several other high-profile visits, including the trip of National Security Adviser Ajit Dhoval, and Navy Chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba’s five-day visit earlier this month.


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