Wednesday, July 6, 2011



I have received a number of questions from readers regarding the recent decision of the Government to totally exempt the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from the operation of the Right To Information Act. Previously, for four years, the CBI did not enjoy such exemption. This sudden decision of the Government to grant a total exemption to the CBI has been sought to be justified on grounds of national security. There has been criticism of the Government action from advocates of greater transparency in the functioning of our intelligence and investigation agencies. I have tried to answer the questions to the extent possible:

Question: Is the CBI a national security organisation such as the Intelligence Bureau and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) are?

A. It is not, but it does have a national security role to a limited extent. It is essentially an agency for the investigation of criminal cases entrusted to it. These cases fall into two categories---- cases of corruption and other common law crimes of a serious nature and cases of terrorism and related offences such as the counterfeiting of currency notes. After the National Investigation Agency (NIA) came into existence in 2009, the responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases of a specified nature was transferred to it from the CBI. Despite this, the CBI continues to have a responsibility for follow-up action on cases registered before the NIA came into existence. The CBI played an important role in the investigation of the March 1993 blasts in Mumbai and other important terrorist attacks. It continues to have responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of important cases involving mafia groups and their nexus with terrorist groups. When the NIA gets going completely, the CBI’s responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of cases relating to terrorism and mafia activities will be considerably reduced and it will focus almost entirely on the investigation of corruption cases and other common law crimes not necessarily having an impact on national security. However, the CBI cannot be treated on par with the IB and the R&AW because it is not a clandestine organisation operating covertly. Whereas the IB and the R&AW are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny, some aspects of the CBI’s work such as its budget are subject to scrutiny by relevant committees of the Parliament such as the Estimates Committee. Thus, to treat the CBI on par with the IB and the R&AW for giving it the benefit of total exemption was unwarranted.

Q. What must have made the Government bring the CBI under the totally exempted category after having kept it out of this category for four years?

A. It is difficult to answer this question categorically in the absence of details. Advocates of Right to Information should examine whether there is scope for forcing the Government to disclose these details which made it reverse its earlier decision not to exempt the CBI. Vague answers such as “national security grounds” should not be accepted. The apparent suddenness and abruptness with which the Government took this decision would indicate that the CBI was probably in receipt of a request under the Right to Information Act for some information which it was not in a position to legitimately deny. The Government, therefore, decided that instead of denying the specific information requested for which could have put the Government in an embarrassing position, it would totally exempt the CBI. One example of such information that I could think of could be relating to the past investigation in the Bofors case. There could have been other similar cases.

Q. Why is the BJP supporting the Government’s decision to grant total exemption to the CBI?

A. One possibility is that the BJP genuinely feels that since the CBI had in the past investigated terrorism-related cases and now continues to investigate mafia-related cases, it should have the benefit of total exemption.

Q. Is granting total exemption to the CBI the only way of preventing disclosure of information relating to cases with national security implications such as terrorism, mafia activities, counterfeiting etc?

A. No. Without including the CBI in the list of totally exempted organisations, the Government could have suggested to the CBI to take advantage of those provisions in the Act for denying information in cases having a bearing on national security on a case by case basis. The public has a right to a lot of information relating to the CBI such as its administration, methods of recruitment and training, budgetary control etc. At the same time, it should not have the right to seek information relating to investigation of on-going cases---- whether of corruption or of other common law crime or terrorism-related. These two requirements could have been easily met by continuing to keep the CBI in the not-exempted category. ( 6-7-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter @SORBONNE75 )



His Holiness the Dalai Lama is 76 today. Happy returns of the day Your Holiness.

2. The day passed off without any incident in the so-called Tibet autonomous region of China, in the Sichuan province and other Tibetan-inhabited areas.

3. In the past, the Tibetan followers of the Dalai Lama used to close their shops and other establishments on his birthday as a mark of respect to him. The Chinese did not interfere with this.

4. However, for the last few years, they have made it illegal for anyone to observe the birthday of His Holiness. As a result, people are forced to observe it in the privacy of their homes. Reports received from the Tibetan areas of China indicate that they did so this year too. In addition, Tibetan monks in monasteries held special prayers on the occasion.

5. The Dalai Lama’s 76th birthday was preceded by anti-China protests in the Kardze and Ngaba prefectures in recent weeks. The local official newspaper “Ganzi Daily” reported on July 5 that Liu Daoping, the party chief in Kardze, had called for harsh measures against any “secessionist activities.”

6. On July 5, the Government-controlled Xinhua news agency disseminated extracts of a special commentary carried by the Party-controlled “People’s Daily” on His Holiness. The Xinhua despatch said:

“The People's Daily, flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC), ran a commentary on Tuesday, saying the retirement of Dalai Lama will not save the Dalai "clique" from failure.

“The commentary said that no matter what objectives the Dalai Lama pursues, whether "Tibetan Independence" or the "Middle Way Approach," and no matter how he acts on stage or controls his puppets from backstage, he will fail.

"No matter who heads the 'exiled Tibetan government,'" its illegal nature will not be altered," according to the commentary.

“For the future of Dalai Lama himself, there is no other option for him than to abandon all secessionist acts and speeches and meet the central government's demands, added the commentary.

"The past 60 years since the peaceful liberation of Tibet witnessed serfdom being replaced by a socialist system, the rapid development of Tibet, a remarkable improvement of the Tibetan people's lives, and closer inter-connections between Tibet and other parts of China, and people of all ethnic groups have developed a deeper understanding of the reactionary nature of the 'clique'," said the commentary.

“The Dalai Lama announced his plan to step down as the political head of the "exiled Tibetan government" on March 10.

“The year 2011 marks the 60th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.”

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: .Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )



At a time when the office of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh is confused and hesitant in its response to the opportunities and challenges relating to the use of the Internet for improving communications with the citizens and for improving governance, it would be useful to study how China is responding to the new media. In this connection, a study published by the “People’s Daily” of the Communist Party of China on July 1,2011, under the title “How microblogging power shakes reality in China” is annexed.


( Text of the Article)

As more and more people are turning to microblogging as a means to participate in public affairs and to express their personal opinions, it has become particularly important for government officials to improve their media literacy.

Microblogging was introduced in China in 2009 and has quickly developed into a major channel of public opinions within less than three years. Many hot incidents were first exposed through microblog posts, including the accidentally exposed affair between a bureau director in Liyang, Jiangsu province and a local married woman, the Guo Meimei incident and a badly photo-shopped picture of Huili County government officials. There are more than 640,000 microblog posts concerning the Guo Meimei incident alone.

This has shown the great power of microblogging and made government officials realize that the Internet and reality are becoming increasingly intertwined, and so are public opinion platforms and social administration. Apparently unaware that his microblog posts could be seen by other users, the bureau director paid a heavy price for detailing his affair with a married woman via microblogging. After the badly photo-shopped picture was exposed, the Huili County government issued a quick apology using a newly registered Sina microblog account, successfully preventing the incident from escalating as the "fake South China tiger photos" incident did.

Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site operated by Sina Corporation, has attracted more than 1.4 million users alone. Objectively speaking, the fast rise of microblogging has enhanced the ability of local governments and leading cadres to communicate with the public and to respond appropriately to unexpected incidents.

Local governments, which were formerly unfamiliar and resistant, have now begun to actively utilize microblogs. Seeking advice from netizens via microblogs has become a popular practice among many local governments. Certain government officials in Guangdong, Zhejiang and other provinces recently attended special seminars on microblogging, and the Nanjing municipal government issued a directive requiring any emergency event in the city to be posted on microblogs within one hour. It is gratifying to see government officials using microblogs to improve governance.

However, according to the "Research Report on Microblogs for Chinese Political Affairs," only 1,700 government agencies and 720 government officials have verified microblog accounts as of March this year, which reflects that most officials are unfamiliar with microblogging, the new battlefield of public opinion.

Although some officials and cadres still cannot adapt to the new public opinion pattern of the microblogging era, it has already become an inevitable phenomenon that the people will participate in public affairs and express their opinions by microblogging. Topics regarding government policies, public administration, and cadres' words and deeds usually turn into hot topics very quickly.

In fact, most microbloggers' behaviors of "surrounding to watch" and "participating in" are ultimately out of their goodwill of caring about the work of local governments and their sincere desire to help local governments overcome shortcomings. The thing that makes microblogging a perfect platform for responding to concerns is goodwill and sincerity.

If governments can correctly and properly guide public opinions, use microblogging as a good platform to learn about public opinions and the wisdom of the people, and find and solve problems as soon as possible, forming a widely-participated, orderly and interactive microblogging public opinion environment is completely possible. Microblogging will also become a "release valve" of social emotions and the "lubricant" of government-public relations.

From the forum to microblogging, the people's enthusiasm and ability to participate in public affairs has greatly risen along with the Internet, which is developing at an unbelievable speed. After rumors frequently appeared on microblogs, some special anti-rumor plates, such as Rumor Grinder and Rumor-Refuting League, have also appeared. It reflects that microblogging is maturating and people's participation on the Internet has increased. However, some negative problems, such as privacy violations, radical emotions and rumor starting and spreading, still exist to some extent.

Under this condition, social administrators should especially adhere to the principle of "treating, using and managing properly" to improve the attainment of the media, pay attention to the public opinion platform of microblogging, respond to social concerns and guide the people's participation.

The innovation of social administration cannot go without the innovation of "virtual community" administration. If the governments realize it earlier, their work will become easy earlier.

By Shan Xuegang from People's Daily Online and the article is translated by People's Daily Online.