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, July 22, 2011

"Explosive Bombshell" by the SFC

The State Finance Commission (SFC) says that J&K is neck deep in corruption

‘Bribery All Pervasive,Omnipresent In The State’

Muddasir Ali (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Observations by a quasi-official body on prevalence of corruption in Jammu and Kashmir has warned that the illegal practice has become “all pervasive and omnipresent” in the state with conventional laws hardly proving effective.

In its report submitted to government, the State Finance Commission has termed certain public offices as “citadels of corruption and festering sores,” asking government to take “special care” of them by installing close circuit cameras in such places.

The report has noticed that laws to deal with “rampant graft and blatant embezzlement of public money” are falling short of the need and the existing apparatus to deal with corruption has not touched the “subjects beyond the fringes.”

“Corruption is so all pervasive, omnipresent and ubiquitous in J&K that very few nooks in corridors of administration will willingly countenance discussion on it,” the Commission has warned in chapter VIII (volume II) of its voluminous report.

The 3-member panel, headed by former bureaucrat Dr Mehmood-ur-Rehman, was constituted in 2007 to suggest measures for bringing reforms in the administration and for equitable development of all the three regions of the state.

A study by global organization Transparency International had rated J&K as the second most corrupt state in India in 2005 while in 2008 another study by the organization rated J&K as “alarmingly corrupt.” Though government has taken certain initiatives to deal with the concern in form of implementation of the Right to Information Act, however constitution of State Vigilance Commission and re-constitution of State Accountability Commission still remains a distant dream.

The SFC report highlights that the corruption, in its multi-faceted forms, has overtaken society so deeply that the government could not remain unaffected by the “virus.”

Citing examples, the report mentions that role of ethics and pubic morality in allotment of public contracts, procurement of material, engagement of public servants, disposal of business in offices and courts, issuance of permits and licenses, manufacturing of goods and pharmaceuticals, and even plying of vehicles on the highway is “depressingly poor.”

On “citadels” of corruption, the report mentions: “We are compelled to name the offices. These are offices of Regional Transport Officers in Jammu and Kashmir, and their sub-offices in the districts, office of excise commissioner and offices of excise and taxation officers, office of sales tax commissioner and sales tax officer, all traffic postings and office of traffic commissioner.”

The report questions government policy to “extend largesse” in form of medals, out of turn increments and promotions, saying it is invariably proving counter-productive and must be avoided. The grant of plethora of permits, licenses, release of salaries, stipends and permission must be made transparent, the report stresses. “At present nothing can be achieved without greasing the palms.”

Postings to lucrative jobs, the report mentions, should be made after due scrutiny of names and the officials who always hanker for such jobs must be avoided.

The report highlights that pace of investigation in corruption related cases, filling up of cases in the anti-corruption courts and their disposal is “tardy” and the investigation mechanism is dilatory and the methodology adopted for it is time consuming, yielding no results.

On role of anti-corruption body, Vigilance Organization(VO), the panel says it is not working independently and has invariably been part of police organization, thus finding it difficult to work beyond confines of police regulatory system.

The VO, the report proposes, should be directly reporting to the Chief Minister on all matters pertaining to public servants, and the issue pertaining to vigilance and corruption requires a close scrutiny.

“We recommend that a very eminent person with impeccable track record should be given the freedom to advise the government on functioning of the Vigilance Commissionerate to deal with corruption.”

The panel goes on to recommend that the Chief Minister should discuss the pendency of the corruption cases with the Chief Justice once a year.

However the report mentions that incidentally some conscientious officers are discharging their duties honestly but their number is ‘few and far between.’

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