Archive for November 28, 2006

Quest for answers – Part III. End game.

Change is the only constant, they say. How much ever I may want to believe in this universal law, the bureaucratic administration ensures that it deviates from the norm and keeps me guessing. So, it seems, they would want to go out of their way to establish their independence outside of the natural course.

The reply to the RTI filed on 14 November is now considered complete, well at least the process is. Last night I received the final piece of official documentation, which should have sufficed my nagging thirst for information.

Even though I was forewarned of the impending disappointment, the new found optimist in me hoped for the better. I was wrong, and how!

The general character of reply is evasive, as you can see below. What is shocking is the assumption that by categorically refusing to answer it would not amount to a follow up. Here, there is not even an attempt to provide explanation why the question cannot be answered. As though, a return visit to clarify the mysterious cryptic message is a given.

The circulars enclosed with the letter do not provide with much information, only that which is already known.

As a citizen, am I supposed to understand the departmental problems and bureaucratic hurdles that do not allow the PIO to do his job? Am I expected to empathize with the registrar, shackled by the system and bogged by the enormity of his task of seeking information from the big bad policy makers? Or should I, as any normal or delusional person, depending on your perspective would, expect a response close to reality?

The most common reaction to this would be the quintessential ‘I told you so’. Yes, you were right, I knew that already and still I went ahead with it. I want to know what next?

Is there a point in pursuing this cause? The people to whom this should matter seem the least interested in knowing what governs their collective academic destiny.

*****

For the complete application and previous progress see :

  • RTI Application
  • Previous answers
  • Dated 28th November 2006.

    This has reference to your application for seeking information under the RTI, 2005, dated 14 Nov 2006.

    1) A circular no. UG/380, dated 25th September 2006, is enclosed herewith for your perusal. (Regarding eligibility to admissions, aptly answered)

    2) A circular no. PG/1/2170A, dated June 2005, is enclosed herewith for reference. Regarding plan to increase the number of seats in the MSc biotech course PIO is unable to answer.

    3) Permission for starting any new course is given by Higher and Technical Education Department, Government of Maharashtra. (Not enough information, the general passing the buck observed)

    4) The list of colleges which offers MSc Biotech course at present is attached herewith. (Answered)

    5) To 9) PIO is unable to give information in the matter. ( No further explanation provided as to why this cannot be answered)

    Mumbai University Msc degree course in Biotech, Vidyanagri Campus, Kalina

    List of colleges affiliated to Mumbai University

    1) Birla College, Kalyan

    2) G.N. Khalsa College, Kings Circle.

    3) C.K.Thakur College, New Panvel

    4) Vaze College, Mulund (East)

    5) Institute of sciences, Fort, Churchgate

    6) Jhunjhunwala college, Ghatkopar

    Inherent conflicts – I

    “There are two tragedies in life. One is to loose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it”

    George Bernard Shaw


    Journalism ensures that a person is subjected to both of these divergent life experiences and often at the same time. The crux of the paradox is the functioning of the institution itself, which demands compliance and rebellion in unison. A feat uncannily achieved by stalwarts of the field or as I like to call them ‘survivors’.


    As I explore my own sensibilities, perceived truths and judgment about many a “facts” I feel ill-equipped to understand them. Not due to lack of initiative or interest but solely because of the mistrust in what is being disseminated as relevant information. The act of reading, with time morphs into an exercise in extreme skepticism, following which one feels even more distraught than before.


    Media is a unilateral institution, a corporate enterprise in the current context. The agenda of a media company is set by the benefactors and collaborators, which is quite obvious. The advertisers, corporate compulsions, the publisher’s personal beliefs, political affiliations et al are vital to what is presented before the unassuming public. The product that is sold in media is not the medium but the ‘audience’. If you look closely at the structural organization of this entity, it is very clear who the buyers and sellers are in this trade. And the commodity, the audience is certainly at a loss, as it is completely alienated from realizing what is perceptual as against what is real.


    The establishment of these co-conspirators, if I may, makes it increasingly difficult for any of the units to deviate from the determined agenda. Now this is truly the disturbing part of the profession. The institution mandates that one must conform to the values of the ‘interests’ on which it depends, else your survival is unlikely. But, the perceived success in “true reporting” is in being anti-establishment, going beyond the generic and routine. The likely clash of interests here can be verified in those numerous worthwhile stories and ideas that go uncovered as they are not within the ideals upheld by the organization.


    Also, the system ensures that those who reach a point of relevance in the social order to take decisions and determine opinion of the institution have imbibed those principles that are plausible and acceptable. It acts as a filtering mechanism, where a voice of dissent against its own is castrated to a point of submission. Hence, the editors and the news makers which are considered to be the key-opinionators have reached those positions because they choose to and have eventually conformed to the system. (As ably argued by Noam Chomsky)


    Herein lays my predicament, the fact that I have to internalize the values of an institution to “succeed” in the traditional sense of the word, despite it incapacitating those very instincts which make it possible to function in this field. This logically extends to the widely held belief that one can be a good journalist or a successful journalist, not both.


    At this point I do not know which one I aspire to be.

    Khairlangi protest – A reflection

    As a protest rally is underway at Azad Maidaan today, 20 Nov, by the Dalit community to protest against the gruesome khairlangi massacre, and demand Deputy CM, R.R.Patil’s resignation, I am compelled to reflect on the recent agitation that I was a part of on Thursday. Especially when political parties are trying to derive maximum mileage out of the situation, the significance of that apolitical platform is now apparent.

    On 16th Nov, under the banner of “Khairlangi Hatyakaand Virodhi Sarva Dharmiya Ekta Samiti” social activists, citizens, young professionals from diverse fields came together to condemn the Khairlangi massacre. A one day fast was observed by a courageous few disturbed by the lax and casual attitude of the authorities towards such a heinous crime.

    This inter-religious, multi cultural inclusive agitation served as an apt opportunity to understand the importance of voicing one’s dissent in a society to condemn a crime against humanity. The purpose was to focus on the core issue of ensuring speedy justice for the sole survivor of the Bhotmange family, Bhaiyyalal. Also, to urge the administration to formulate long-term policies to ensure such atrocities do not take place in the future.

    Although I was acutely aware about the concept of ‘people’ being the primary institution in a polity, capable of initiating change, the practicality of the notion eluded me. So, this premise was a little unknown and hence a novel experience.

    Initial skepticism aside and driven by my derision towards such ghastly acts, I decided to be a part of this cause.My friend Behzad Mulla, a quiet fun loving Parsi employed in Merchant Navy and my designated photographer for the day, agreed to join me. It is necessary that every person must be aware of the on goings in one’s immediate society, however disconnected we may feel.

    I met Ronald Rebello, a social activist who was the key motivator of the agitation, at the ground. As we were conversing about the various aspects of the issue and how we can effectively mobilize people and create awareness among them, a lot of questions crept in my mind. The most obvious one was the motivation that urged these young and talented individuals to be actively involved in social work. As the day progressed, the answer slowly but unwaveringly revealed itself.


    In the FIR filed by the local police the fact that the two women were mercilessly raped is not even mentioned. The case is noted as a simple murder case, with post mortem reports aptly “cleaned” to suit vested interests. The possibility of liberal gun license policy for protection of Dalits, as suggested by certain leaders was discussed. But the probability of misuse of this freedom by trigger happy citizens and anarchist naxalities is immense for such a blanket dictum to be adopted. Also, it may lead to further marginalization of the community due to harboured mistrust.

    The folk songs were one of the interesting aspects of the day, sung in harmony and one voice. A reflection of the contemporary the socio-political scenario, it was the glue that bound people gathered together, reminding them of the task ahead. Their rustic charm coupled with sharp lyrical content has an appeal which one cannot ignore. They compel you to think, look within and eventually be in unison with the rhythm that captivates your mind and spirit.

    The people from different social groups and causes had converged to demand justice in this case. As the day was reached its conclusion, notably none of the major broadcasters or even main stream print reporters chose to give voice to the cause. Local and regional newspapers acknowledged the importance of the protests. The DCM and his principal Under Secretary were away, apparently dealing with the violent protests in Amaravati. So, a letter which staunchly condemned this act along with other suggestions and demands (see below) was sent to the DCM via the police present there. Also, a meeting with the DCM was scheduled at a later date for follow up.

    Initially I was a bit disheartened that no major authority took cognizance of the fact that a multi-religious demonstration, a first in this case, was held. But then again as Ronald put it “In a democracy it is important that one’s voice is heard. We have made our point and will monitor the progress of the case.”

    At the end of the day, we formed a circle, to take stock of what we have achieved and learnt from the day’s protest. A senior activist affirmed the necessity to adhere to “ahimsa” and not get carried away. The media and the administration, by ignoring such non-violent protests are giving credence to the notion that to receive justice or merely be heard one has to resort to jingoism and violence. To awaken the lethargic and indifferent government, the people must come together and demand answers.

    *****

    The demands / suggestions made by Khairlangi Hatyakaand Virodhi Sarva Dharmiya Ekta Samiti in a official letter to the Deputy CM R.R.Patil, also the Home Minister of Maharashtra:

    1. Speedy justice to Bhaiyalal Bhotmange. The case must be moved to a fast track court.
    2. Due to a lack of witnesses in this case, the indicted persons must be subjected to a Norco-Analysis test to determine the truth.
    3. The ‘status report’ of the case, which has now been given to the CBI, must be made public.
    4. Awareness should be created about The Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989, which empowers the under privileged sections of societies and helps them fight social evils, via media platforms like radio, T.V., newspapers etc. The district officials, tehsildars, police officers and other local authorities should be educated in this context.
    5. A policy devising a concrete witness protection programme for the safety of witnesses like Surekha Bhotmange (who was brutally murdered), to avert such situations should be formulated.

    Signatories:

    Ronald Rebello ; Muskaan Shiekh ; Gorkhnath Avaadh

    Rajendra Laxman Kathkar ; Archana Pale; Shoobha Sutar

    Naseem Banu; Hemant Morajkar; Ganesh Sodaye

    Shaheen Shiekh; Shabaana Shiekh; Maneek Prabahvati

    Quest for answers – RTI update

    Quest for answers – Part II
    RTI update.

    Surprise! Surprise! …

    After a long day of agitating at Azad Maidaan (See paradox paradigm ), I came home tired and demoralized. The protest rally was not as successful in terms of evoking an administrative reaction, as I would have liked it to be. But then again, in a democracy the important point is to ensure your views are heard.

    At about 10.20 pm, yes at night, on 16 November, 2006, I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door, and then I was stunned and at a loss for words. I actually did not utter a word, only nodded my head to confirm the name and address. A man from Mumbai University was hand delivering a reply (marked urgent!) from the registrar regarding my RTI application. It was just two days ago that I filed my RTI application. Could this be a prank by my cynical friends to drive home the generally perceived futility of trying to get answers from the bureaucracy?

    What if this was true………………………………..and it was!

    I managed to knock myself out of the momentary stupor and sign on the receipt. In my exhausted (and exasperated) state, I forgot to ask the gentleman his name.

    There it was, nestled in my disbelieving fingers, glowing in its formal brown aura. It was heavy, at least my application was not rejected out right, I guessed. I opened the package and a letter fell out.

    It was a reply to my first question… see my draft RTI application

    Q…To which Post Graduate (PG) courses offered by the Mumbai University and its affiliated colleges in Mumbai can a Biotechnology graduate (BSc) apply? Please provide a detailed list of these courses and the colleges which offer them.

    Answer:

    Course list available Room 18, Ground floor, University Building, Publication Section, Fort Campus, and onwards list enclosed for your information.

    Wherever mentioned “any faculty” in the course, a student is eligible for the course.

    Further I am to inform you that point 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9 will be get information in the PG section.

    Signed – Registrar


    I know it sounds like I got the old ‘not my department’ from the wily registrar. The enclosure is a “detailed list” (as I had worded in my letter) of various courses – certificate and add-on courses that I never knew existed.

    I wonder if the fact that he asked me to go and see the list put up in the University when I had clearly made a demand of a detailed list, could be challenged as avoiding his duty.

    Also, I have been warned that they overload applicants with excess information (in this case I clearly dug my grave with the word “detailed”) to discourage them from filing RTI petitions.

    I will follow this up with the relevant authorities this week as I check up on the status of the remaining 9 questions.

    The quest continues….

    *****


    Some of the certificate courses enlisted in the reply are as follows. This list is indicative and not exhaustive. FOR COMPLETE DETAILS E-MAIL ME.

    r. No.

    Course

    Eligibility

    Duration

    1

    Forensic Biochemistry

    Regular student along with his/ her BSc or MSc course.

    T.Y.BSc onwards

    12 weeks

    2

    Drug Discovery and development

    — same —

    F.Y.BSc onwards

    12 weeks

    3

    Industrial Biochem

    —same—

    12 weeks

    4

    Diploma/ Advanced diploma in Vocational Biotechnology

    Simultaneously with BSc

    3 years

    5

    PGD in environmental laws and practice

    Graduate: BSc

    1 year

    6

    PGD in human rights and laws

    Graduate : BSc

    1year

    7

    PGD in Intellectual property rights (patenting)

    Graduate

    1 year

    8

    Certificate course in Horticulture

    HSC passed

    3 years

    9

    Food and Nutrition

    —same–

    3 years

    10

    MSc course in Herbal Science

    Biological sciences 50% + and entrance test

    2 year full time

    11

    Research methodology

    Simultaneously with BSc or MSc

    F.Y.BSc onwards

    12 weeks

    Solidarity rally at Azad Maidaan

    At 11 am tomorrow [16 November 2006] a solidarity rally is being held at AZAD MAIDAN, CHURCHGATE, MUMBAI, in protest of the brutal massacre at Khairlangi.

    It is an apolitical rally of students, social activists and professionals who refuse to be oblivious to such heinous acts.

    A one day fast is being observed tomorrow at the rally by a courageous few in order to express solidarity with those who were wronged.

    The perpetrators of this act must be prosecuted.

    Be a part of the peace rally. Be heard.

    ****

    If you do not have an idea as to what this rally is about read the previous post. Also please go through the links at the bottom [Tehelka.com, for comprehensive information] to get a fair idea of what has happened in Khairlangi.

    The question that comes to mind is that a majority would have a fair idea about ‘justice for Jessica’ and the Priyadarshini Mattoo case. Has the media played its role in this event. Where are the candle light marches, where is the public angst?

    In the same breath I would also like to add that a lot of negative connotations are being associated with the people who genuinely feel wronged and want to voice their protest. I do concede that certain elements do want to create chaos and generate political momentum out of this brutal murder. But that does not by any means should take away from the core issue here that four people were murdered in cold blood. And such acts of cowardice must be vociferously condemned.

    It has been a month and a half since the incident. Two women were wronged in the most gruesome sense of the word.

    “(On sept 29, 2006) By now, men allegedly from the entire village of about 150 Powar and Kalar families had collected. Some shouted to the sarpanch to allow them to sexually assault the women. They raped the women and killed all four, even as their womenfolk looked on, mute spectators to a form of justice reserved for castes lower than theirs.

    Surekha and Priyanka were stripped, paraded naked, beaten black and blue with bicycle chains, axes and bullock cart pokers. They were publicly gang raped until they died. Some raped them even after that, and finally, sticks and rods were shoved into their genitals. In the meantime, Sudhir managed to contact the police from his mobile phone, but his phone had been smashed. Its pieces are now circumstantial evidence. Roshan and Sudhir were beaten up, their genitals mutilated, faces disfigured and their bodies tossed in the air, before they lay dead on the ground. Hiding behind a hut, Bhaiyyalal helplessly watched his family’s gruesome end. There was no one to call for help. Kherlanji had only two Mahar families; the rest were either perpetrators or spectators. An hour later, a village meeting was called and a diktat issued: no one was to say a word about the massacre.”

    Why are the women empowerment groups not speaking out against this atrocity? Are women rights only for a representable few?

    Also, a competent witness protection program must be in place. The prime reason for this act was the fact that Surekha Bhotmange who dared to protect her land and voiced dissent against the upper caste hegemony was a witness in a case. The laxity in this dimension lead to her becoming an easy mob target.

    Quest for answers – The Beginning

    I filed my RTI draft yesterday, 14 November 2006, aptly on children’s day as the questions in the draft (can be read in the previous post) if answered with complete honesty might just help those who seek a career in this field via academics.

    It was relatively simple. I prepared the draft and after a day long hunt for a court fee stamp which incidentally can be bought with minimum hassle (at Simla stationary, opposite Mumbai University road, towards Regal) I was ready to undertake the quest for answers.

    Here it gets tricky. One must know before hand where the draft is to be filed, with which PIO. Mumbai University has 20 registrars for various departments which act as PIOs.

    To make things simpler, file your RTI application at the INWARD SECTION at the Mumbai University campus, Fort, Churchgate. It is the duty of the relevant department to answer questions pertaining to their section and forward the RTI to the other departments. It does help of your queries are all directed to a single department for a single matter, say finances, the probability of getting a answer increase drastically this way. But it is seldom the case.

    Most people perceive filing an RTI as some sort of a battle with the lethargic and highly secretive system where answers are seldom provided. This application too may be dispensed by the relevant authority citing technicalities, like information is not yet documented or available, it is not of the relevant department, etc.

    Despite this, the truly unfortunate part is that this act is seen as something alien, most are still not comfortable with the idea of filing an RTI. The perennial ‘what’s the point’ syndrome stifles any inclination towards seeking relevant answers to equally relevant questions.

    I am of the opinion that this act of questioning authority to derive vital information from them which might affect the course of one’s career or life itself must be an inherent act. It must emanate from our basic thoughts and the urge to go beyond what is generically said, not only in Biotech but in all spheres of life. This might sound idealistic and it is to a large extent. But it is a start.

    The primary point here is that asking questions and persisting till they are satisfactorily answered is a requisite. If not then it must be, at the least, a significant and viable alternative to internalizing generic information. The option is always there.

    Khairlangi Massacre – Justice denied

    “The city police today foiled the bid by Khailangi Action Committee to stage their ‘Nagpur-Khairlangi’ protest march…over 224 people were detained…..”

    Indian Express, Nov. 13, 2006

    The brutal massacre of the Bhotmange family in the sleepy village of Kherlangi has exposed the deep rooted social dilemmas that we as a society have not been able to address. Vociferous protests to expedite the judicial probe and prosecute the responsible parties for this heinous crime seems to have fallen of deaf ears.

    Many theories have been floated recently indicating political motives behind the recent protests, the so called ‘dalit offensive’, to regain lost political ground. Also there is a perception that the issue will soon be engulf by a enthusiastic apolitical but equally hyper social activism. To add insult to injury the State home minister, R.R. Patil insinuated that the violent agitations have been perpetrated by naxalites and that some leftists and naxalites were fanning the incident after a month. These allegations not only lack credibility, but threaten to trivialize the fact that a four people were murdered by a seemingly all pervasive majority.

    There are many issues which need to be resolved. The government has assured that all the demands made by social organisations will be considered. But the govt. noble intentions must manifest in actual action and not just on paper. The protests against this massacre have brought to light the little faith that people have in the government machinery.

    The complete details of the incident can be read at the following links:

    Tehelka.com:

  • Dalits like flies to feudal lords
  • Times of India:

  • Just another rape case
  • Indian Express:

  • IG probe says cops at fault
  • Right to know

    After three years of biotech education there are rudimentary questions which I deserve an answer to. Right to Information Act, 2005, empowers us to seek relevant answers from the institution which is ironically widely perceived as a alien entity with respect to our immediate reality.

    The following is a draft application that I will file under the act an try to get a few basic administration related answers. Although these questions may seem narrow as compared to the wider debate, it is a start.

    The PIO is expected to provide a substantial answer to these questions within 30 calender days. I will keep updating this space in my quest to extract cognizable information from the annals of bureaucracy.


    APPLICATION UNDER THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005.

    To,

    The Public Information Officer November , 2006

    Vice Chancellor’s office

    Mumbai University,

    Mumbai, Maharashtra.

    I… Full name of the applicant: HEMANT MORAJKAR

    II… Address: C-5/7, Jeevan Veer Coop. Soc., LIC colony, Borivli (west), Mumbai – 400103.

    III… Particulars of the information required:

    Subject matter of information: Mumbai University Biotechnology course details required.

    Period of which the information relates to: Information available up to date.

    Description of information required:

    1… To which Post Graduate (PG) courses offered by the Mumbai University and its affiliated colleges in Mumbai can a Biotechnology graduate (BSc) apply? Please provide a detailed list of these courses and the colleges which offer them.

    2… The ratio of number of seats in MSc Biotech course to the number of Under-graduate students who passes out is grossly skewed (140/1000). Is there a plan to increase the number of seats in the MSc Biotech course?

    3… Why is the permission for MSc courses at

    § SIES college of Arts, Science and Commerce in Sion and Nerul

    § Patkar College in Goregaon

    § RKT College in Kalyan

    § Pendharkar College in Dombivli

    as reported in Indian Express , Mumbai Newsline on 22/09/2006, being upheld?

    4… Provide a revised list of colleges, including newer colleges, which offer/will offer MSc Biotech course relevant to the academic year 2007-2008.

    5… Biotechnology is currently an unaided course at the Under-graduate level making it costly. Do you intend to bring it under the aided purview to make it more accessible to students?

    6… Are there any government recognised diploma courses related to Biotechnology that a BSc graduate student can avail of?

    7… Biotechnology is a ‘technical’ industry oriented course, but is found lacking in terms academic progression (after 12th Biology) and has none or little connection with industry requirements. Is there a plan to revise the curriculum to facilitate the same? If yes, then what are the changes being initiated?

    8… There is little difference in the BSc Life Sciences and Biotechnology courses that are being offered by the University in terms of inherent lab requirements and subsequent opportunities in academia or industry. Then why is the Biotechnology course so costly?

    9… Is there a plan to upgrade the Biotechnology, Life Sciences, Bio-physics laboratories at the Mumbai University, Kalina campus?

    IV… I state that the information sought does not fall within the restrictions contained in section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and to the best of my knowledge it pertains to your office. If for any reason, it pertains to any other department, the Right to Information Act places an obligation on you to forward the same or part of the application to the appropriate department and intimate me within 5 days of such transfer.

    V… Under the RTI, information shall be provided in the way it is sought. Hence, it is requested that the information be provided in question and answer format in the above manner.

    VI… To eliminate ambiguity or misinterpretation, please provide the required information in English.

    VII… The requisite fees for this information will be paid, if in accordance with rules.

    Hemant Morajkar

    E-mail: hemantmorajkar@gmail.com

    vnny20@yahoo.co.in

    Place : Mumbai

    Date: 13 November 2006.

    Indian Bt regulatory process : Explained

    India currently has a three-tier regulatory system for GM crops:

    a) each research organisation must have an Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBSA), which assesses research proposals;

    b) a national Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) assesses field trials for environmental safety and allergic responses;

    c) the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) — part of the environment ministry — carries out environmental impact assessment, and approves multi-location field trials and commercial cultivation.

    Apart from this system, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) , under the Ministry of Science and Technology, India plays a vital role in regulating Bt trials as it has laid specific guidelines in doing so.

    Recently, DBT has sought constitution of an independent Biotechnology Authority on the lines of the Election commission of India, which would primarily deal with issues concerning the industry.

    Problems with the current set-up:

    1) A major issue with the current scenario is a clash of interests between stakeholders and regulators. A scientist from the agricultural research system that applies for clearance of a particular seed is part of the GEAC, whose chairman is not a scientist and changes frequently.

    2) Also it takes an inordinately long time to get a clearance for commencing field trials. Although this may be perceived as a cautious policy to ensure an informed and educated decision, usually the delay is due to administrative apathy or a conflict between concerned departments.

    3) The Indian Bt policy is tilted in favour of the industry and is exclusive in terms of a dialogue with the society at large. The fact that we have not undertaken field trials of GM crops on a large scale is mainly due to a negative perception of the technology. A deterrent which needs to be factored in the policy to assuage relevant vote banks. But, this is about to change by a mass media offensive in favour of the technology.

    4) India is lagging by almost a decade with respect to US and China, even though it has equivalent resources and a substantial domestic market. A liberal policy may help in reducing the time induced deficit, but the implication of such a decision would have a ‘ripple effect’ on almost all sectors of trade, FMCG, domestic markets, processed foods, agriculture, fisheries, etc.

    5) A clear demarcation of responsibilities and duties within the structure is necessary to ensure proper regulation.

    Relevant to this point, as quoted in the Indian Express:

    A task force headed by M. S. Swaminathan, said that India’s approval system was “lengthy and cumbersome” . It recommends creating an autonomous Agricultural Biotechnology Regulatory Authority to consider the approval of GM crops in the country. Under this body, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), not the GEAC, should be authorised to conduct and assess large-scale field trials and approve commercial release of GM crops. He also suggested that the three tiers remain but their responsibilities change.

    The major change that they recommend is to limit GEAC’s role to environmental clearance. The ICAR, rather than the GEAC, would decide whether GM crops could be planted for commercial purposes.

    The Monitoring cum Evaluation Committee should report to the GEAC on biosafety and environmental issues while post-release monitoring should be responsibility of Union Agriculture ministry and not the ICAR.

    It favours strengthening of the existing Seeds Act, 1966 and Environmental Protection Act 1986 to deal with illegal proliferation of GM seeds. It proposes single-window information on all aspects of bioethics and biosafety.

    See full article:

  • LINK
  • 6) I do not favour the institutionalised structure proposed here. A decentralisation of power is necessary. Through local committees, the citizens themselves, via consensus, must have the right to decide whether a GM crop should or should not enter their market. If a community decides, as a whole, that they do not wish to have GM foods in their locality, then the government or the industry must adhere to the decision.

    7) All GM food must be labeled to provide a choice to the citizen. A monitoring committee can be constituted to ensure its implementation and which would penalize industry offenders, by revoking their license to market their product. A monetary compensation here would undermine the necessity of choice.

    8) Similarly, the right of conducting field trials on a farm must lie with the farmer and not with a overriding authority. And proper precautions must be taken to ensure containment of the products of these trials to avoid mixing of the crop with the organic varietals.

    9) A lack of tranperancy in the trials leads to a general mistrust making it difficult to accept the results of trials. For example, the Bt cotton field trial results were never made public — despite protests. After pressure from civil society, Bt brinjal results have been put on the website this year.