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.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Missing Civil Society

Daya Sagar laments at half-hearted measures taken by the J&K government to root out corruption. Lack of a strong civil society only makes the situation worse

(Mr. Daya Sagar, 65+, was born in Udampur. He completed his schooling from SRML Higher secondary School in Jammu. He completed his post graduate degree in engineering (M. Tech.) in 1971. After a short stint in Larsen & Toubro, he joined public sector from which he retired after 30 years of service in 2003. He has held numerous consulting assignments. Mr. Sagar is a social activist and founder member of the Jammu Opinion Forum, the Vichar Kranti Manch International Jammu, and J&K Samaj Kalyan Kendra, an organization primarily dedicated to the welfare of physically handicapped members of the society. He is also an advisor to the International Human Rights Protection Council Jammu, and the Jammu Gamin Vikas Sanstha, working for the welfare of the rural people, mother & child health, and education. Mr. Sagar is a free lance scribe since 1988 and writes on various social, human rights and national issues in various news outlets in the State. His family has been politically associated with the J&K National Conference.)

Nabbing the Culprit

Like State Accountability Commission (SAC) AND J&K State Information Commission, the J&K State Vigilance Commission too has yet to demonstrate its purpose effectively. While SAC is even without a Chairman for last 3 years, for the Institution of Chief Information Commissioner two Commissioners are yet to be named. As regards the J&K State Vigilance Commission, the Act has formally got the approval of J&K Governor. But as regards the Chairman of Sate Accountability Commission there is still not news. May be some “suitable” choice is not still in view.

Earlier the offences of corruption and bribery against Government Employees were dealt under the provisions of Ranbir Penal Code (1932) and were investigated by Local police up to the year 1949. A separate Anti Corruption Wing was formed in 1949 under the State Crime Branch under J&K Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006 Bikrami (1949 AD). And it was in 1962 that a separate body by the name “Anti-Corruption Organization” was created. With the menace of corruption going unchecked “State Vigilance Organisation” was created with the incorporation of ‘Prevention of Corruption Laws (amendment) Act, 1983 A.D. State Vigilance Organization, J&K Public Men and Public Servants Declaration of Assets and Other Provisions Act, 1983 A.D was enacted and MLAs and Ministers were also brought under the purview of Corruption Laws and filing of Annual Property Returns was made mandatory for all public servants and public men. But Corruption on the public resources has further grown, had it not been so, the need for replacing J&K Vigilance Organisation with J&K State Vigilance Commission would not have been felt. So far there have been no signs of fulfilled commitments of war against the corrupt.

While replying on demands of his departments in the JK Assembly on 18 Mar 2010 Omar Abdullah had said that for curbing corruption his Government was contemplating for better earmarking the areas of jurisdictions of Accountability Commission and the Vigilance Organization. "While Accountability Commission will look into the complaints against political leaders the Vigilance Organization will deal with the cases of Government functionaries. We are also contemplating to convert the Vigilance Organization into a Commission giving it more teeth". Then also he had informed that Chief Information Commissioner and two Commissioners under RTI Act would be appointed soon. In response to a cut motion by PDP member Peerzada Mansoor Hussain he had informed the JK Legislative Assembly that 343 cases of corruption had been registered against government officials by State Vigilance Organisation from 1/1/ 2005 to 12/31/ 2009. Out of those 175 cases pertained to officials who were caught red-handed while accepting bribe. But the Chief Minister did not inform that how many had been stripped of their job, how many had been imprisoned and property of how many had been confiscated. It was most agonizing that recently it was reported that a very senior retiring IAS officer has been booked for alleged corruption on the money kept for the school mats for the “dust laden class rooms” of the students in government schools. It is not out of place to mention here that the said officer had got promoted to senior positions even when the case had already been detected during the days of his active service.

Earlier J&K State Accountability Commission was in news for being headless and without adequate teeth to get the corrupt government servants and public men punished. Then it was the J&K Sate Information Commission in news for being without any Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners. The J&K RTI Act and the appointment of Chief Information Commissioner had prominently appeared in the media during n January. In India the Commissions and Committees are seen more as the rehabilitation centers for retired senior bureaucrats, public men, men from others classes, even judiciary. Many even allege that it is less for the purpose and more to benefit some individuals. Any how recommendations for selection of CIC J&K were made on 27 January and have since been reportedly accepted by the Governor. RTI Commission was headless since long but the selection of two commissioners is still pending. The incomplete infrastructure of the JK Information Commission established under the RTI Act has consumed nearly a crore of rupees (formally constituted in October 2009) without doing any good to the people. JK State Accountability Commission has not held even a single regular sitting since second quarter of 2008. It has not delivered even half recommendations.

These institutions have not been provided the working heads and the teeth. Where should any one file a complaint against the non performance of those who had to provide the Heads to these institutions?

The Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission had sent recommendations for severest action against some political bosses, government officers - even for termination of services, forfeiture of retirement pension under Rule 30 of the J&K Civil Services - as back as 2007. But no immediate action, worth appreciation, was taken by the earlier government. Some of the accused obtained some orders from the J&K HC in reference to the recommendations of SAC. But no follow up worth appreciation was taken to get the notices from the J&K HC attended to on priority basis even by the present Government. The orders of SAC involved some officers who had allegedly looted even the common middle class subjects of J&K in association with the managements of co-operative housing societies.

The State Accountability Commission is headless since April/May 2008. Believe it, the J&K SAC Act provides for completion of enquiries / recommendation within six months and now it is nearly three years since there is no chairman in SAC. The complainants are just incurring expenditure of time and money by paying visits. Present government too has been no different than earlier governments in this regard.

Yes one thing surely has happened after 2008 with regard to SAC, and that is the concept for birth of J&K State Vigilance Commission Act (that would handle the complaints against government officers and not the SAC ). How far the Vigilance Commission would do some good for people can not be said at this point. But one thing is very sure that it would provide some relief to the Government Officers since they would be taken out of the purview of J&K State Accountability Commission for alleged non performance of duties and corrupt behavior. Although SAC has not been able to dig its teeth deep into the corrupt veins but surely it did create some worries for the corrupt government servants, that could not happen with State Vigilance Organisation so far. So it is also being alleged by some that the government officers are instrumental in cultivating the idea of an Act like J&K State Vigilance Commission Act where by J&K State Accountability Commission would deal the complaints only against the public servants, and public men excluding the Government employees.

Time has come when the social groups must rise at their own level to prove their strength. Otherwise the Commissions and Committees would remain more as the rehabilitation centers for the favorites of those in power seat without delivering any common good.

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