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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New CM, Old Culture

Fighting Corruption takes a back seat in the new Administration

SAC existing only on proper

Syed Junaid Hashmi (Kashmir Times)

Jammu: Finally, the much hyped State Accountability Commission (SAC) has been rendered obsolete by inept and callous attitude of the state government. Functioning of the commission has come to a grinding halt since it neither has a chairman nor any members.

The institution exists in name and paper only, thanks to the coalition government's disinterest in filling up the long pending key vacancies. 20 days have passed since the last remaining member of the commission Justice Muzaffar Jan retired on April 15. Officials in the Law department assert that these appointments would be made shortly.

The story goes like this. Whosoever has retired from the commission, his replacement has been a major causality. If the law department is to be believed, judges are reluctant to take over the reins of this institution where common man has the power to get summons issued even on the name of Chief Minister.

"Now we managed some arrangement for this institution. An official announcement in this regard would be made soon," added a senior officer .of law department. "We are awaiting consent from the Election Commission of India," say the officials.

Ironically, it has no answer as to why the vacancies were not filled within a specified period of time and why this important institution was allowed to become redundant.

Ask the commission officials and they would tell you "Cases can still be filed with the commission. When the vacancies will be filled, they would be taken up." But the fact remains that both the coalition governments have preferred keeping the commission silent and restricted to penalising junior level officers.

Failure of the government to find replacements of those who were appointed and retired with the passage of time speaks volumes about how much significance the respective state governments attach to this commission where cases against two sitting Ministers including Peerzada Mohd Sayeed (Cong), incharge School Education and Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Taj Mohi-ud-Din (Cong) are to be decided.

Besides this, former Minister for Health, Mangat Ram Sharma (Cong), two PDP Ministers Tariq Hamid Qarra and Dillawar Mir of the previous coalition government are among nine ex-ministers facing corruption charges and their cases are pending in the State Accountability Commission.

250 complaints which were filed till June 2008 continue to gather dust in the offices of Commission at Jammu and Srinagar thereby rendering complainants further aggrieved, the sources said, adding that people have stopped filing complaints since they now consider it mere wastage of time since the commission's redundancy would mean that justice will continue to elude them.

Prior to Justice Muzaffar Jan's retirement, term of then "acting chairperson" of SAC Justice Girdhari Lal Raina expired on June 18, 2008. After Raina, Justice Muzaffar Jan carried out the functioning of the commission. Interestingly, state government has not been able to find a fitting replacement of the first permanent chairperson of the commission late Justice R P Sethi.

He was forced to resign under pressure and undue interference in working of SAC. It was during Late Justice Sethi's tenure that complaints were lodged against some senior ministers and bureaucrats of the coalition government. After his resignation, Justice Girdhari Lal Raina, who was until then a member of the commission, was appointed as the acting chairperson of the commission.

The appointment was made within days of the late Justice Sethi's resignation. Interestingly, the appointment of Justice Girdhari Lal Raina as the acting Chairperson of the commission was questioned in the court of law by some legal luminaries of Kashmir Bar Association but of no avail.

It is important to mention here that Justice Raina did not possess the qualification as laid down in the SAC Act for being appointed as acting chairperson of the commission. Even his appointment as member of the commission had come under severe criticism from the legal experts.

Justice Raina was accused of having fixed his salary on his own and some legal luminaries had even sought a vigilance probe into the issue. But the Law Department kept the issue in the cold storage until Justice Raina's term expired. On the other hand, SHRC is being headed by a retired session judge. Moreover, judges from within and outside the state have shown reluctance in accepting the offer of heading this institution. They have reportedly cited the ineffectiveness of this institutions in delivering speedy justice, for not accepting the repeated requests of the state government. Even the judges from within the state have been critical of the recommendatory nature of this institution.

However, if the officials in the state government are asked, their one liner reply is "it is because of the coalition politics". After having put the blame on the coalition politics, they desist from explaining the utility of keeping this institution headless. They further fall short of explaining the need for developing consensus among the coalition partners over the appointment of head of this institution.

Ask them if this is a political post, they say "Even if the post is not political, that does not mean consensus is not needed." However, it has been reliably learnt that state government has been awaiting a response from Election Commission of India for making the appointments.

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