(Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, 33, was born in Wathoora village in the Budgam district and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial High School in 1993. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Dental Surgery from from the Karnatka University in 2000. He has a private dental practice in Chandoora and is a social activist dedicated to educating public on the Right To Information legislation.)
Official website of Jammu and Kashmir
Among the many thousands of people, who no doubt, turn to the state's official website across the world, there must be many international travellers looking for information to the possibility of visiting Kashmir. Their first impression must be most discouraging. We are already being labelled as backward, illiterate people. We seem determined to encourage such impressions.
The official website of the Jammu & Kashmir government (http://www.jammukashmir.nic.in/) is a good indicator of the state government's performance in the entire information technology (IT) sector. On the very first page of the site is a small column marked "what is new". Clicking it, one finds the final list of candidates for the municipal elections of 2005, the new industrial policy of 2004 and other events and programmes that took place three to four years ago. That is how recently the site has apparently been updated.
It is a crying shame. For the IT sector is driving the high end of the global village, which is bursting with opportunities and potential for prosperity. We have a full-fledged Information Technology department in Jammu & Kashmir and our state government spends millions on the development of this hi-tech sector. The result on the ground - virtually nothing. Most government officials do not seem to know the existence of internet, email etc.
The condition of the state's official website is not unique. That sort of apathy is common in most of the websites of the state government. Worse, almost none of the top government officers whose email contacts are shown on the website respond to mails from the public. Even our Chief Minister and chief secretary, who have batteries of personal and other assistants at their beck and call, do not respond to emails from the public. No doubt, these include computer operators – all of whom are paid from public funds. Yet, as if to rub salt on wounds, there is a separate column on the official website of the state government that invites one to contact the CM or the chief secretary, but a score of mails to both over the past five years elicited not a single response.
Surely, it would not be too much to designate officials to read emails to the CM and Chief Secretary, place grievances and issues before them and, once action has been initiated, respond to the sender. As it happens, however, only a few officials respond to mails. These include the principal secretary, GAD, the secretary health, the IG CID and the DC Baramulla. Kudos to them but one wishes their colleagues take a lesson from them.