Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Monday, February 16, 2009

Corruption in Pahalgam

Basharat finds Pahalgam's cold weather has frozen the anti-corruption drive as well

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 29, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

Pahalgam land scam: Big fishes still free

Srinagar: The government's much hyped 'tough stand' balloon against corruption has been deflated by none other than its├┐own administrative set-up, which has so far failed to take a disciplinary action, against the revenue officials including an Assistant Commissioner-the main accused in a recently surfaced multi crore land scam in Pahalgam.

Meanwhile rubbing salt to the injuries of the victims of this scam, Ghulam Mohammad Itoo (Patwari) one of the three accused revenue officials who were arrested by the Vigilance Organization (VO) has been released on bail granted by an anti-corruption court. When contacted, Deputy Commissioner Anantnag Gazanfur Hussain said that since the golf-course land scam is a criminal case, the district administration can only suspend the accused officials after they remain detained for more than 48 hours.
When asked about the detained Patwari, the DC said that it was not upto him but the immediate officer who is Tehsildar who can take the action. Asked about the accused ACR, Hussain said, "The accused ACR is not working in Pahalgam but in Pulwama."

Interestingly, the two Patwaris were arrested by VO on February 4, and out of these two, Ghulam Mohammad Itoo, got bail on Feb 12 only. Going by the DC's "48 hours" deadline for a disciplinary action against the accused officials, one of the arrested Patwaris has passed over 216 hours under detention and the second passed 192 hours in lock up before getting released on bail.

The three accused who were arrested are Patwari Ali Mohammad Itoo, Patwari Ghulam Mohammad Itoo and one land owner Mohammad Ramzan Wani who owned 19 Marlas land at Laripora-Pahalgam but got the compensation for 10 kanals and 19 Marlas. The revenue officials, hand in glove with Wani, had drawn Rs 56, 66,625 for 10 kanals and 19 Marlas instead of Rs 4, 91,625.

Although VO acted swiftly in registering a First Information Report (FIR) number 01/2009 in this scam and arrested two Patwaris and a land owner but the main accused which includes a Section Officer (SO) Dawood Ahmad Khan posted at deputy commissioner's office in Anantnag and the then collector land acquisition presently posted as Assistant Commissioner Revenue (ACR) Ghulam Mohi-u-Din Rather in Pulwama are still out of Vigilance net.

The SO according to sources is absconding since January 22 and the influential ACR, the protagonist of this big fraud, being patronised by a senior IAS officer in CM's secretariat, has got an anticipatory bail from the court. However, sources in VO said that it will contest ACR's anticipatory bail in the court on February 19, and more arrests are expected.
Reliable sources revealed that the senior investigating officer at VOK has written to the Commissioner vigilance recommending him to take up the case with government for a speedy disciplinary action against the accused revenue officials.

Sources said the Vigilance authorities have also written to the settlement commissioner for constituting a special team that will measure the actual land acquired by the government for the expansion of golf course at Laripora in Pahalgam. Sources said that Vigilance's probe in the scam has found that on July 3, 2008 two cheques worth Rs 18 lakhs were credited in favour of Pathwari Ghulam Mohammad Itoo and SO Dawood Khan in Urban Cooperative Bank Mehndi Kadal Anantnag.

Earlier, feeling the heat the land owner Ramzan Wani had deposited a cash of Rs 25 lakh at collector's office in Anantnag. Sources revealed that a departmental inquiry was also conducted soon after an upright officer forwarded a report about the scam to his higher authorities. But the result of this inquiry was kept under carpet and the case was hushed up. According to sources, some high level officers including a senior IAS officer are also involved in the scam. But nobody dares to touch them because of their position.

It is pertinent to mention here that VOK has registered an FIR No. 01/2009 U/S 5 (2) P.C Act 2006 r/w 120-B. 420, 467, 468 against revenue officials of district Anantnag for large scale bungling in the disbursement of compensation in this case. Initial investigations have revealed that land measuring 19 Marlas situated at Laripura Pahalgam was recorded under Khasra Number 1168/224 in the revenue records of Pahalgam, which was identified for the acquisition for golf ground.

But the measurement entry of land in revenue records was manipulated and changed from 19 Marlas to 10 Kanals and 19 Marlas by the accused who had drawn a compensation of Rs 56, 66,625 for 10 kanals and 19 Marlas instead of Rs 4, 91,625 for the actual acquired land.

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