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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Report that the State Assembly Refuses to Discuss

The latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is out and highlights mismanagement and corruption in the State compounded by unethical politicians and senior bureaucrats. Would politicians discuss that fiasco in the State Assembly or the 8% drop in patronage jobs that they lost control over?

CAG Flays J&K for Rs 71,088 Crore Mismanagement

Jammu: Criticizing Jammu and Kashmir for poor fiscal management, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said the state administration has been continuously failing to "regularize" a whopping Rs 71,088 crore expenditure incurred cumulatively over the period from 1980 through 2008. "The excess expenditure amounting to Rs 71,088.66 crores incurred during 1980-2008 are yet to be regularized (approved) by the state assembly," said CAG report for the year ended on March 31, 2009.

The report, which was tabled in the Assembly today, further revealed that as per the Constitution, it is mandatory for any government to get its excess grant/appropriation approved by the legislature.

Although no time limit for regularization of excess expenditure is prescribed in the statutes, regularization of excess expenditure is done after completion of discussions of the appropriation accounts by the State Assembly, CAG said.

The report further said the State Finance department has been continuously failing to follow the advice of the Principal Accountant General during these years. It also pointed out that it has not been even getting the demand for grants approved by the Assembly.

Case in Point: Department of Social Welfare

The Department of Social Welfare is in news and as usual again for wrong reasons. Even though this department is already notorious for being ‘good for nothing’ owing to its failures to live up to its mandate and people’s expectations, but now the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) too has gathered formal evidence to pull it up for failing to successfully implement its flagship schemes in the state. The annual CAG report for the past year has cited financial mismanagement, non-adherence of eligibility criteria, lack of monitoring and proper planning as some of the lacunae that resulted in Social department’s failure in implementing various state and centrally sponsored schemes.

The report also points out that the programmes largely failed to meet the expectations with one major scheme failing completely. CAG has also pulled up departmental bosses for unnecessary retention of huge undisbursed money in bank accounts and for delays in finalizing rate of contract in nutritive items under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) for instance. The report clearly states that lack of proper planning, non-release of funds, non-adherence of eligibility criteria and lack of supervision and monitoring are rampant in the department. It also points out that the targets for the National Social Assistance Programme, a centrally-sponsored scheme for old-age persons, were not achieved at all and same was the case with implementation of Contributory Social Security Scheme, aimed at benefiting marginal workers in 20-50 age group.

The CAG said there was extremely low percentage of achievement which indicated the dismal performance of the scheme in the state. As against the target of 53,300 marginal workers, the department could achieve a target of just 3427 workers with 94 percent shortfall in achievement of targets in 2008-09. Similarly, against a target of 13,300 workers, department could only implement scheme for just 1,889 persons with 86 percent shortfall in achievement of targets in 2007-08 and 75 percent and 86 percent shortfall in targets in 2006-07 and 2005-06, respectively. The District Social Welfare Officers retained assistance of Rs 78.15 crores for a period ranging from 7 to 366 days despite recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee to evolve a mechanism for timely disbursement of assistance under the schemes. It also pulled up the department for its failure to submit utilization certificates for an amount of Rs 27.67 crores under various schemes and pointed out huge unspent balance at the end of each financial year. The supplementary nutrition under ICDS was not provided to all beneficiaries from 2005-09 and shortfall ranged between 7 to 40 percent, it said adding the health check-up and other referral services were not provided to Jammu division at all.

Even though this report was tabled in the State Assembly, not much has been said by the government about this huge list of failures of the Social Welfare department. Now that the CAG has meticulously pointed out the specifics of failures and even identified the reasons, it remains to be seen if at all the government will initiate any action against those who are responsible for these failures. In fact one can say without any fear of contradiction that fixing responsibility on its officials to hold them accountable for failures is not in the governmental culture here. Had it not been so, then obviously the overall work culture in government agencies would have been far more healthy. Taking CAG reports as basis, it is high time that government takes those responsible for the failures of various schemes in Social Welfare department as well as in other departments to task. There cannot be a better reason to initiate such a culture of accountability in the working of the government and its agencies than the one provided by the annual CAG reports.

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