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.

Monday, April 20, 2009

On Corruption, Good Governance, and Effective Leadership

Three thought provoking articles on ways to overcome J&K's uncertain future

Fighting Corruption

Bashir Ahmed (Greater Kashmir)

The officialdom in Kashmir has strangulated the process of our progress and development. It is responsible for the miseries of the common man. It is no wonder that the common man is completely disillusioned with the Government and the system of governance. He has never got justice from the Government and its officialdom, whether it was pre or post 1947 era. He has always been disgraced, bruised, brutalized, repressed and exploited. He does not find any compassion, sympathy or understanding of his plight from the Government or its administration. Change of Government does not make any difference to the common man. Common masses are always on the receiving end of this misgovernance, the beneficiaries, the favorites are almost the same in every Government. These are wonderful people, they know the art of survival, adjustment, winning the favours and protection of their bosses……they put the chameleons of the animal kingdom to shame. You see them on television, strutting, bragging, hogging the headlines of the news papers, making tall claims of their achievements……….but you know that mostly it is hollow and what ever little they do it always revolves around their own selfish interests.

The Government, the politicians, the policy makers, the senior bureaucrats who think on behalf of the Government have failed to deliver justice to the people, they have failed to devise and frame policies, laws and rules, establish institutions, to hold the officialdom accountable. No thinking has been done, no analysis or study has been conducted of the reasons of the ever galloping misuse of authority and corruption by officialdom. No thinking/study and analysis has been carried out whether the present institutions have been effective to deliver justice, curb misuse of authority, corruption, nepotism and cronyism. It is a highly disturbing situation.

There is only one institution: ‘Vigilance Organization’, which works under the J and K Prevention of Corruption Act to curb misuse of official position, corruption and amassing of illegal wealth. This institution has miserably failed to carry out its mandate because of a host of reasons. The cases registered and investigated by it (if at all these are enquired into rightly) take an incredibly long time, some times five to ten years from the enquiry to the finalization of the trial, ultimately invariably fail to prove the guilt against the accused. The responsibility for the delay in the enquiry and investigation lies with the Vigilance Organization but failure to prove the cases is not entirely its fault. The J and K Prevention of Corruption Act empowers the Vigilance Organization to register the cases with the aim to prove the offences of misuse of official position/corruption punishable by sentence of imprisonment for varying periods of time. The conviction for the commission of these offences requires presentation/marshalling of unequivocal evidence in the court at the time of trial. The evidence collected by the Vigilance Organization is both documentary and oral. Authenticity of the documentary evidence is some times also required to be proved by oral evidence. Because of the lack of consciousness of the implications of their statements in the court and because of lack of confidence, cynicism which the law enforcement and judicial systems and general governance have generated over a period of time, the witnesses most often fail to depose before the courts as per requirement. They are subject to lot of inducements, pressures to change their stand during the trial. The net result of these circumstances is that almost every accused gets scot free and are acquitted by the courts and whole of the exercise comes to a naught. The corrupt officials involved in multi million scams continue in the service, never think it prudent to restrain themselves, they subvert and wreak havoc with the functioning of the departments they handle.

It has never occurred to our policy makers and the people who matter in the Government and the administration to study and objectively analyze the problem and the implications it has got for the governance, development, welfare of the people and social justice. It is rightly generating hostility of the people towards the Government, administration and the political leaders. The political leaders make all sort of claims, promises to the people during public meetings at the election time but are not able to deliver any thing. The common masses feel rightly cheated. In my opinion the answer to this grave crisis lies in the form of an effective and adequately empowered Accountability Commission.

Accountability commission has some attributes of a court as it also acts on the evidence presented before it and gives adequate opportunity to the accused to defend themselves. But instead of irrevocable evidence asked by trial courts to base their judgment upon, the accountability commission requires only convincing evidence to pronounce its judgment. The judgments of Accountability Commission involve the recommendations to the Government for: removal from service, down grading in rank or the registration of a cases etc. against a Government servant. The recommendations of the Accountability Commission have sanctity, legitimacy, legal backing and these are made after giving adequate opportunity to the accused under principle of natural justice. Its recommendations if accepted by the Government cannot be dubbed as political vendetta and the Government cannot be accused of victimizing the favorites of its political opponents. In the past there has been some exercise of prematurely retiring of some Government servants, but it has been dome arbitrarily. The Government officials have been retired prematurely on the pretext of being ‘dead wood’ on the recommendations of their corrupt and arrogant administrative bosses.

There has been an Accountability Commission in the state for some time, but it has not been much heard of. The Government servants posted to the Commission must be competent, enthusiastic, with a high sense of commitment and non compromising on principles. The Accountability Commission in its present form lacks resources to carry out its task effectively and in a comprehensive manner. A common man who knocks at the door of the Accountability Commission is not aware of the whole gamut and scale of corruption. His encounter with revenue or a police officer or a junior engineer compels him to make a complaint with the Accountability Commission. He does not know about multicrore scams and scandals which are a common feature of the working of Government departments. The Accountability Commission needs to act on its own also on the information it may collect from news paper reports or otherwise. For this it requires an investigative wing of competent officers with a high degree of integrity and efficiency to enquire into the complaints made before it or otherwise, so that full picture of frauds, scams, misuse of official position is laid bare. It is a small step for the Government to take and may involve a little expenditure, but it may make a big difference with the quality of governance, development and justice to the common man.

Get the right men

Dr. Sadaqat Ali (Rising Kashmir)

The present transfer policy of deputing officers to Protection Force from Forest Department adversely affects things as it helps them to form a nexus quickly. Also it makes Protection Force lose its independent character and is against the basic principles responsible for its creation. (since as per present delegation of powers all powers to take action against smugglers are vested with territorial authorities so a mechanism is to be evolved to check misuse of authority by the territorial authorities.) The need of the hour is to spell out independent duties and

responsibilities for these two departments to check smuggling which may include transfer of forest check posts to Forest Protection Force. If this proposal is found feasible it could help Forest Department to utilize its personnel in safeguarding forests to minimize damage there. it is most important to stop damage from taking place in the first instance rather than seizer of smuggled timber which is of secondary nature. Simultaneously, it will also limit the role of Forest Department officials in helping movement of smuggled timber. By introduction of two agencies in the field the smuggling will become difficult and less lucrative. Any smuggled timber seized outside a forest area should be basis for calling explanation and taking action against the concerned in-charge of the Compartment and Range from where it has been smuggled out. However, this can be effective only when Forest Protection Force is controlled by officers who have independent existence and are ready to confront officers of Territorial Forest Department.

Similarly all extraction, and transportation works together with sale of timber of all types (including in concessional zones) should be managed by Forest Corporation. Timber to be used in all government works need to be supplied by it. It should be made mandatory for all government works to allow cost of timber only as per bills provided directly by corporation. The idea is to minimize scope for sale of smuggled timber. Conditions are to be created to make it less lucrative whereas simultaneously efforts are to be made to create hurdles in smuggling of timber from forests. Fool proof system is to be devised to minimize misuse of supply of subsidized timber.

All the three sub departments should be given powers and made accountable for checking smuggling of timber which can be checked and counter checked. For this first step will be to make timber available to common citizens of state.

Deputation of forest officers from Forest Department to Forest Corporation and vice versa, as was ordered by previous government needs to be examined as it has not shown expected results. The previous government had taken this initiative to address lack of coordination between officers of Forest Department and that of SFC; it was a good idea but was implemented badly, rather mischievously. State Administrative Council had shown serious concern over poor performance of SFC during the year 2008-09, when the performance of SFC was reviewed. The financial health of SFC together with its assets is fast depleting. Corporation has been able to sustain as it had accumulated good reserves up to 2007 which have been consumed during 2008. Since the Governor Administration was on its fag end it had recommended that “the obtaining problems and inadequacies should be brought to the notice of Minster in-charge Forest Department of the incoming elected government”. Some of the officers deputed during 2007 have been repatriated. This is an important issue which unfortunately has not attracted due attention from the concerned Minster. As on date seven more posts of Divisional Managers are lying vacant, how can an organization sustain in such atmosphere, is to be observed. Only those officers should be deputed to Corporation who can put in efforts needed for running a commercial organization, for this time bound targets for each Division, Circle need to be fixed which should cater to demands of timber requirements in State. Failures in achieving the targets should be viewed seriously and the defaulters taken to task as it can cause problems for common man of the state. Good workers need to be appreciated and encouraged.

Corporate working culture needs to be introduced in Corporation for which a delegation of power is important; by making it foolproof and target oriented, it is possible to streamline the working to encourage good performance. However the Corporation employees need to be given better service conditions which should be at least at par with those in Forest Department, if not better than them, as they are expected to work in difficult situations and circumstances, and the success of forest working is dependent on their efficiency.

Another important action should be to implement a transparent uniform rational, well-defined transfer policy. All officers having questionable integrity who have not been able to check activities of timber mafia need to be sidelined, the action should start from top not from bottom. Efforts are to be made to get those people who have little bit of self respect and professional integrity. Some time back there was a press report in local English daily wherein it was reported that transfers are being made as per paying capacity of a forest officer. It was alleged that those officers who can afford, manage good postings irrespective of their professional capacity and capability. Under the influence of money power senior and honest officers are sidelined, whereas juniors are given prime and plum postings. The transfer orders should have simple objective of better results and efficiency not political or monetary position.

All this can be done only if government is serious about protection of forests. Politicians of the State have not performed so well so far, and all of them without any exception have encouraged loot of our forests. Present government has a golden opportunity to reverse the trend, provided it has will to do so. It can effectively check manipulations of paid agents of timber mafia. This group has its sympathizers at important places who are well experienced to sabotage constructive efforts. Can this government deliver on this account, is a million dollar question. For the time being let us keep our fingers crossed. Up till now this government has not shown any encouraging signs.

Dreaming of a leader

Dr. Fayaz Ganie (Rising Kashmir)

As a conscious people Kashmiris can best understand the pain and agony, suffering and plight that a nation is subjected to when leadership is ineffective, corrupt, and devoid of any vision. The entire ummah is suffering at the hands of the leaders who have sold themselves to foreign powers for material benefits. Leaders are meant to lead a nation and act as torchbearers. They initiate social changes, and strive hard to make dreams of justice and freedom come true; this all they do for their nation. An effective leader is always selfless; he never aspires to assume power. Such a leadership combines the traits of charisma, pragmatism, and transformation in itself and change the destiny of people.

Whenever there are crisis and turmoil, people turn to them. They explain the situation for their people, talk about the grand vision and act as source of confidence and encouragement for their people. The best thing about a meaningful leadership is that it has a clear vision, and for the ideals that they set for themselves, they sacrifice everything. They never falter on this. An effective leader makes things move by the force of his persona. But while doing so he never imposes himself on people but takes them into confidence and always tries to gain their trust and respect. An effective leadership has its hand on the pulse of the nation, every time. Whenever there is a need to take a crucial decision they do it keeping in mind the aspirations of the people.

Leadership, in order to be effective, has to be dynamic, understanding the needs of changing time. But that doesn’t mean they keep on changing colors. They are rock-strong and stick to principles. The book named 'Leading People' compiled by a board of authors from Harvard School, aptly list four traits of an effective and successful leaders.
1. They focus on future, create a vision and stick to it.
2. They take calculated risks.
3. They are persistent and maintain a positive and focussed determination in pursuing a vision despite obstacles.
4. They maintain a cool head in times of turmoil and confusion.

Applying this yardstick who do we find in Kashmir worth calling a leader? Leave so called mainstream leaders apart, everybody knows about their role in sell-out, bloodbath, sex scandal, loot and plunder of resources, but who create the real confusion in the minds of people are separatist leaders. There words and their deeds are disconnected. They have no vision. They have opened up shops to conduct business in the form of numerous organisations. Some have build shopping malls and restaurants, some of them are busy creating spheres of influences. Some have got their wards admitted far away in US and UK. Some are acting as agents of foreign forces, some are projecting proxy candidates; these leaders resort to mud-slinging in public. They incite violence by provoking people to come on to the roads; themselves they go on foreign tours or arrange for preventive detention or house arrest, while hundreds of young men are martyred on roads.

If you really want to taste a positive change, change your leaders.

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