Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It is Official - J&K is the Third Most Corrupt State in India

Transparency International (TI) announces its "Merit List

Most corrupt states: J&K at No: 3

Syed Junaid Hashmi (Kashmir Times)

JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir retains the dubious distinction of being among the top ten most corrupt states of India with fig leaf type relief that in the list, it has been overtaken by Assam and Bihar at number 1 and 2 slots respectively. This less than nominal change in the dubious order is known to be more because of the higher qualification of Assam than an improvement in the standard of administration and public life in Jammu and Kashmir.

These facts brought out by Transparency International India and the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) Delhi in the India Corruption Study 2007 make a mockery of the erstwhile coalition government's claim of having cleansed public life from the menace of corruption in the state. Interestingly, this is one of the frequent theme songs of former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and patron of People's Democratic Party Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Jammu and Kashmir achieved the dubious distinction of being 2nd most corrupt state in the country in a similar study conducted by the same agency in the year 2005. Both the former Chief Ministers vehemently claim of having reduced the level of corruption in the public life but the study points towards the continuation of the state's drift towards being crowned as the most corrupt state in the country.

This drift is alarming in the wake of the state's government's claim of having reduced the corruption to the lowest ebb during the last six years. Moreover, the study has been conducted between November 2007 and January 2008. It is the same period when former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's cleansing operation in the forest and other departments was nearing conclusion. It is the same period which saw resignation of former Minister for School Education and Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed from both the posts. He was forced to resign after MLA Sangrama Shoaib Nabi Lone accused Sayeed of taking money from him for sanctioning an ETT college. Azad had then claimed that "state has done remarkably well in reducing corruption from the public life". But the study of the transparency international belies the claims of the former Chief Minister.

The study, like the earlier ones, is based on CMS PEE (Perception, Experience, Estimation) model where the scope is not limited to perceptions about corruption in general, but perception in specific context of a service and, more importantly, actual experience of paying bribe by BPL households in availing one or more of the 11 selected public services in Jammu and Kashmir. Depending on the frequency of interaction, the eleven services have been divided broadly into "basic services" (Public Distribution System, Hospital, School Education, Electricity and Water Supply Services) and "need based services" (Land Records / Registration, Housing, Forest, NREGS, Banking and Police Service).

The study does not include operational irregularities in the system and any corruption that does not involve citizens, directly. Except Government Hospital and Rural Finance Institutions, most other services rank among most corrupt services in the country. The police rank the highest on the corruption index. This is followed by the Housing and land records/registration.

The study says that in these services, the percentage of those who think corruption has increased in the previous one year is also high. It further affirms that these services are monopolistic in the nature, with more scope for discretionary decision making and also because the money involved in these transactions is higher. State government has made some degree of improvement in reducing corruption in the last one year in the case of School Education and Banking services.

The study points towards the fact that despite claims and some initiatives for redressal of complaints in services like Police, they have not helped either in reducing perceptions nor experiences of corrupt practices in the public life. Within State among the various Departments in the State, 78 percent of the respondents conceived Police as the most corrupt department, followed by Housing (70 percent) Land Administration (69 percent), Public Distribution System (54 percent), NREGS (47 percent) and Hospital (46 percent).

It is important to mention here that Jammu and Kashmir has been the only state which passed a bill to attach the assets of corrupt public officials when there is prima-facie evidence against them, pending investigations and prosecutions.

However, the study affirms that corruption has remained unaffected and Infact, increased to alarming levels in the Police Services and Land Records / Registration. Two other notable features which came out in present have been that petty corruption was markedly less when technology was used for delivery of the service and when Civil Society Groups were involved in assisting citizens.

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