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, August 19, 2011

Tales of Travesty

Kashmir suffers a hangover from an overdoze of cocktail laced with indisciple, poor ethics, greed and corruption. All seven (7) investigative stories below cropped up within a period of just 3 days. Following those reports is a related editorial and a letter in the Greater Kashmir penned by the author

Rs 53 Lakh Fraudulent Withdrawal Under CM's Gold Medalist Director

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar: Sizable amount of Rs 53 Lakh has been fraudulently withdrawn from Technology Mission account of Horticulture Department days before Director Horticulture Kashmir, Dr Ghulam Hassan Shah, was declared by Government of Jammu and Kashmir as recipient of Chief Minister's gold medal on the eve of Independence Day on August 14th. How officials have been ruthlessly swindling Rs 200 Cr worth funds, provided for Technology Mission under Prime Minister's special economic package, became clear when a recent fraudulent withdrawal, to the tune of over Rs 60 Lakh, surfaced in Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipore district in Kashmir and Reasi district in Jammu division.

During an investigation, Early Times discovered that some unscrupulous elements have got their "fruit nurseries" registered with Department of Horticulture in Kulgam area of South Kashmir, particularly when local politician Abdul Aziz Zargar functioned as the Minister of Horticulture in the previous coalition government. Soon they began receiving orders from District Horticulture Officers (DHOs) for supply of fruit plants and other material. Exorbitant rates, as compared to market rate, shortage in actual supplies and inferior quality used to be the key features in the beginning. Over the years, making insertions in cheques and huge fraudulent withdrawals were meticulously employed by the actors.

When the lid was taken off dramatically by some insiders, DHOs lost no time in filing FIRs at different Police Stations, taking the stand that the forgery and fraudulent withdrawals were the handiwork of either the payee suppliers, or staff of J&K Bank or both. Though the embezzlement spreads across districts and provinces and thus merits a comprehensive investigation by Crime Branch, Police Stations of Handwara, Bandipore, Sopore and Reasi are currently holding separate inquiries into the Technology Mission scam.

Interestingly, Director Horticulture Kashmir, Dr Ghulam Hassan Shah, was among six public servants who were declared by Government of Jammu & Kashmir as recipients of Chief Minister's gold medal "in recognition of their honesty/integrity and meritorious public service" on the eve of Independence Day earlier this week. The award comprises a gold medal, cash prize of Rs one Lakh and a citation.

Handwara-based DHO Kupwara is learned to have issued four cheques to purported suppliers for an aggregate amount of Rs 1.30 Lakh. The purported suppliers have withdrawn amount of Rs 33.30 Lakh against the same cheques at Khudwani branch of J&K Bank Ltd. DHO Kupwara has issued cheque No: 26470171 for Rs 14,700 in the name of "supplier" Ghulam Mohiuddin Bhat son of Mohammad Ismail Bhat resident of Nawpora, Kulgam. After two insertions, purportedly attested by DHO, amount of Rs 6,14,700 has been withdrawn on this particular cheque. SHO Handwara, Sajjad Ahmad, confirmed that Police went from door to door in Nawpora but found that no person by this name exists in the village.

Similarly, DHO Kupwara has drawn cheque No: 26470147 for Rs 10,500. Payee Mohammad Yaqoob Mantoo son of Gh Mohammad Mantoo of Muttanhama has drawn cash of Rs 10,10,500 from J&K Bank against the same cheque. Cheque No: 26470133 has been issued for Rs 24,150. Payee Abdul Majeed Lone son of Fareed Lone resident of Hawora, Kulgam, has been paid Rs 10,24,150. Another cheque, bearing No: 26470132, issued for Rs 80,850 has been encashed at Khudwani branch of J&K Bank for Rs 6,80,850. Thus an excess payment of Rs 32 Lakh has been made to four "suppliers" including one non-existent.

SHO Handwara initially maintained that the file was in a court but subsequently confirmed that case FIR No: 152 of 2011 (under sections 409, 109, 420, 468 and 471 RPC) dated 23-06-2011 had been registered at Police Station Handwara. He elaborated that DHO had initially filed a report, seeking registration of FIR against the payees but, after investigation, Police added other sections and now payees, Horticulture officials and the bank staff were all under suspicion. According to him, no tape was found pasted on the initially written amount and requisite spaces were left in a way that insertions after insertions became possible. One or two insertions of the amount were purportedly attested by DHO.

A universal modus operandi from Reasi to Kupwara, besides payment to dozens of profusely inserted and obliterated cheques, was an indication of the staff of both organizations being hand-in-glove with the payees. SHO Handwara revealed that one Rayees Ahmed Lone of Hawora, Kulgam, who according to Police was kingpin of the racket, had been arrested and he was currently on judicial remand in Sub Jail Kupwara. He said payee Iftikhar Lone was Rayees' brother and payee Abdul Majeed Lone was his father. Payee Gh Mohiuddin Bhat was a fake name.

SP Bandipore, Bashir Ahmad Khan, confirmed that Police Station Bandipore had registered case FIR No: 146 of 2011, under sections 467, 468, 471 and 120-B) on the complaint of DHO Bandipore. A cheque, issued for an amount of Rs 60,000 was found to have been cashed by the payee, namely Ghulam Hassan Lone S/o Mohammad Shaban Lone of Hawora for Rs 7,60,000 with the excess payment of Rs 7.00 Lakh. Mr Khan said that Bandipore Police had got equal amount of money sealed in one of the payee's accounts and the investigation was still underway.

Sopore-based DHO Baramulla has got yet another FIR filed at Police Station Sopore. Police sources confirmed that excess payment of Rs 14 Lakh by fraudulent means, forgery, impersonation and conspiracy had been drawn from the bank. Some of the cheques have been produced at Pahloo branch of J&K Bank and the money has been credited to the payees' accounts at Khudwani branch.

In addition to the excess payment of Rs 53 Lakh in Kashmir, Early Times discovered during its investigation that another fraudulent payment of Rs 8 Lakh had taken place in Reasi district of Jammu division. Additional SP Reasi, Anita Sharma, as well as SHO Reasi, Jitendar Sambyal, confirmed that DHO Reasi had issued a cheque for Rs 8,881 but payment of Rs 58,881 had been drawn from the bank. In all, 23 cheques have been found to have been forged and paid with huge excess amounts.

SP Kulgam, Mubassir Lateefi, said that according to his knowledge J&K Bank had seized several accounts of the payees containing Rs 37 Lakhs. He said that Kulgam Police was not part of the investigation.

Sources in J&K Bank, wishing anonymity in absence of approval from headquarters, said that the bank had got five particular accounts frozen at Khudwani, Kaimoh, and Pahloo (Kulgam). More than Rs 35 Lakh was the balance in these accounts when the action was taken. They asserted that all the cheques had been processed for payment as all the insertions had been "duly attested" by the account holder DHOs. Bank's own investigation was still in progress.

Reached over telephone for his comments, Director Horticulture Kashmir asserted that it were the DHOs who had themselves lodged the FIRs after learning that excess payment of around Rs 53 Lakh had been drawn. According to him, bank should have seized all the cheques with excessive insertions, overwriting and obliteration and stopped the payment for verification with the DHOs. "This is a matter between the payees and the bank. Excess amounts of Rs 53 Lakh have been illegally drawn from our accounts. I have written to Chairman J&K Bank and asked for restoration of our bank position. I hope bank will deposit the illegally drawn amount back into our accounts in a couple of days", Dr Shah said.

However, officials in the bank maintained that an identical modus operandi, and the cheques having been issued without tape on amounts, was a clear indication of a truck between the payees and the Horticulture officials. They believed that reality would unfold during Police investigation.

Multi-crore SSA ‘Irregularities’ go Unnoticed

Faheem Aslam

Srinagar: Reports of alleged large-scale frauds, mismanagement and kickbacks in the implementation of much-hyped flagship programme Sarva Shikshsa Abhiyan in Jammu and Kashmir have largely gone unnoticed over the years. This is notwithstanding official documents which have many times corroborated ‘irregularities’, primarily with regard to construction of school buildings under the programme.

Official documents in possession of Greater Kashmir reveal communication between officers in the School Education Department and the SSA authorities with regard to use of ‘sub-standard material’ in the construction of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalas (KGBVs)—the residential schools providing education from Class 6 to Class 8, especially for girls belonging to marginalized communities under the SSA.

This, as has been reported by this newspaper in 2010 as well, is risking the lives of thousands of young girls studying in the KGBVs. The SSA is Government of India’s much-hyped flagship programme aimed at universalization of elementary education (UEE).

Documents reveal serious lapses in the construction of KGBV buildings during 2010 and 2009. This, the documents reveal, include dilution in the type, design and estimates thereof without any approval from the competent authority.

In one of the letters, a former State Project Director and SSA’s Accounts Officer reveal that “Engineers have furnished the work-done statement placed across the file of various KGBV buildings of Kashmir division for release of payments thereof. While verifying the claims of these work-done statements, it has been observed that the estimates enclosed with the bill have been prepared by the JEs and signed by the Executive Engineers which is against the codal procedure. The estimates should have been got prepared by the Drawing Branch (Draftsman) and then approved by the Executive Engineer and the State Project Director since the latter is the drawing and disbursing officer of the SSA. The DDO powers rested with the Executive Engineers is a misnomer and no such powers have ever been delegated to them.”

Interestingly, the issue also came to fore in 2010, with the Minister for Education, Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed, assuring probe into the allegations. However, according to sources, the inquiry was conducted just for the heck of it and some of the engineers just did some “minor repairs” in the KGBVs to get the payments released.

On 30 April 2010, the then Commissioner/Secretary, Education Department, GA Peer, shot a letter to the SSA’s State Project Director after the former received a complaint against then executive engineer, SSA. “This department is in receipt of a complaint submitted by JE, SSA, District Anantnag (Islamabad). The allegations levelled against the Executive Engineer are of grave nature. You are advised to investigate the matter and issue show-cause notice to Executive Engineer and furnish report alongwith your comments within a week,” Peer wrote vide letter No Edu/PS/Secy/11/10.

On May 21, the SSA Project Director issued a ‘show-cause notice’ to the Executive Engineer asking him to explain his position. “Whereas JE has levelled the allegation that a cut of 13.5 percent used to be made by Executive Engineer, Draftsman and Data Entry Operator for release of the funds for construction of KGBV buildings and Rs 6 lakh were retained by the Executive Engineer ever after certification,” he wrote vide letter No Edu/SDP/SSA/467/25685-95/10. “You are hereby asked to explain your position in this behalf failing which action under rules shall be initiated against you.” But the explanation hasn’t evoked any response.

Interestingly, on the same day (May 21, 2010), the then SPD SSA ordered a probe against the Junior Engineer who complained against the Executive Engineer. “A committee is constituted to probe into the conduct of JE associated with the construction of the KGBV building in Zone of Qazigund, Srigufwara and Achabal, in view of the discrepancies observed in construction of these KGBV buildings during the visit of the SPD,” read the order no. 136 Ujala of 2010.

Official documents also revealed that material amounting to lakhs of rupees has been purchased from the open market without observing codal provisions.

“In most cases the purchases have been made at connivance from the suppliers who appear to be in a malafide league with the purchases. Financial prudence demands that the purchases should have been made after observing codal formalities like invitation of tenders, quotations which does not seem to have been done and the purchases have been made at the whims of the Junior Engineers,” the Accounts Officer, SSA mentioned in one of his missives last year.
“Material at site account has not been enclosed with the bill and it is inferred that the same has not been prepared at all. Same is the case with stock register. Though the guidelines have been issued in December 2009 and the works have been executed earlier but the guidelines which are synonyms with the public works code should have been adhered to. Material such as wood and iron should have been purchased from the IKSFC and SAIL but the same has been managed privately.”

The officer has asked the SPD to conduct an on-the-spot assessment of the works executed. “It would also be advisable if the works executed in the entire Kashmir division are got evaluated by a third party to give its assessment of the works executed besides the material required/consumed vis-à-vis the maintenance of the quality work done. The payment, if it is to be released, can only be made after the evaluation report of the third party,” he writes.

In December 2010, when this newspaper carried stories about SSA bunglings, the Minister assured action. But it has been reliably learnt money was later released in most of the cases.

In July this year the Jammu and Kashmir Teachers’ Forum chairman, Abdul Qayoom Wani, urged the Government to evolve a proper mechanism for assessing the utilization of funds being provided under centrally sponsored schemes like SSA and RMSA to the School Education Department in the State.

Addressing Forum office-bearers here, Wani said, “We fail to understand as to why there is lack of infrastructure in Government schools when sufficient funds are pouring in under SSA and RMSA. We need to constitute a departmental audit cell to conduct the audit of funds provided under the SSA to all schools from the last 10 years at all levels. We also need to ascertain the work and performance of the teachers engaged in SSA cells in district and zonal offices for distribution of funds and monitoring their utilization,” said Wani. “I believe that most of the private schools would get closed down if the Government constructs its own school buildings in Srinagar city and monitor properly the utilization of funds provided under MDM, SSA and RSMA.”

The incumbent State Project Director of SSA, Yasha Mudgal told Greater Kashmir that they are going for accounts audit of the SSA “to see if the expenditure has been rightly made.” “Every year we are supposed to do audit of accounts under SSA by a private firm. We are doing that to see whether codal formalities have been followed while making the expenditure,” she told Greater Kashmir.

She said they have now put in place an inbuilt mechanism to monitor different works undertaking under the SSA. “We have also constituted purchase committees at district levels to monitor the purchase of civil components. This mechanism I suppose has been put in place after certain complaints in press that codal procedure was not being followed,” Mudgal said.

She however claimed that the KGVB buildings were nicely made. “I have visited some buildings and found them accurate. But there is always room for improvement,” she said.

The SPD has already invited ‘expression of interest’ for the SSA accounts audit from reputed firms.

‘Blue-Eyed’ LC Official ‘Fudges’ DoB, Promoted 5 Times in 9-years

Srinagar: Throwing rules to wind, the Legislative Council authorities have promoted an official, who has allegedly fudged his date of birth, to the rank of deputy secretary, sources told KNS. The official happens to be the son-in-law of a senior Peoples Democratic Party leader and former minister.

According to a Crime Branch inquiry, Ishfaq Ahmad Wani, private secretary to the Council Chairman, had allegedly furnished a fake date of birth certificate at the time of his appointment as a reporter in 2001.

A CB letter (No CR/Pros/SR-78/07/10/10894 dated 28 October 2010) reveals that Wani had committed offences under section 420 RPC by submitting a fudged document.

“During the course of investigation, it has been found that on his appointment as reporter, Wani had furnished attested copies of his certificate indicating his DoB as 28-03-1975 which was subsequently found to be incorrect.

According to the CB inquiry, Wani had passed his matriculation examination in 1987 and his actual DoB was 28-03-1973. Obviously, he had furnished a fudged DoB certificate allegedly with the criminal intention of prolonging his service. “The criminal act of Wani has been even established by the in-house committee of the Council,” the CB investigation revealed.

The inquiry reveals that Wani had been given undue promotions and financial favors during his service. “From the post of reporter in 2001, he was elevated to Gazzated cadre within a period of four years. But promotions didn’t stop as one more upgradation to the grade of deputy secretary was accorded to Wani by the then Minister in-charge Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Finance who was friend and cabinet colleague of Wani’s father-in-law,” the inquiry reveals.

“The perusal of the records makes it clear that Wani has been subjected to undue financial benefits by the issuance of promotion orders,” it added.

A letter from the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (No LD (PAB) 2006/46-Part) dated 28-09-2010) to the Secretary of the Council states that despite the exposure of frauds allegedly committed by the official, quite surprisingly no action was initiated against him.

“It clarifies how the accused official has always been protected /shielded under a political umbrella till date at the levels of Legislative Council Secretariat, Civil Secretariat, Crime Branch and Vigilance Organization,” the letter reads.

NC Leader from Pahalgam Violates HC Orders, Constructs Huts in PDA limits

Ishfaq Tantry

Sringar: Despite clear cut directions from High Court and instructions from Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that no constructions shall be permitted in areas falling within the limits of Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) without court permission, a senior NC leader and former Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Altaf Ahmad Kaloo has been found violating the court directions by constructing huts at Veersaran Khalan, which comes under PDA jurisdiction.

The former MLC has been served a show cause notice by Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pahalgam while Principal District and Sessions Judge Islamabad, has already issued orders for demolition of illegal structure.

CEO, PDA Altaf Ahmad Mir in his letter No.CEO/PDA/BOCA/1334-39 dated August 6, the copy of which lies with Rising Kashmir, had directed ex-MLC to explain why the building structures should not be demolished.

“Whereas you have started to construct a hut at Veerseran-Kallan Langbal, Tehsil Pahalgam without proper permission from this Authority. The said area falls within the jurisdiction of PDA and all sort of illegal construction is strictly prohibited in the area as per the Master Plan Pahalgam (2005-2025)”, reads the show cause notice issued to former MLC.

It further states that High Court in PIL titled Pahalgam Peoples Welfare Organization and others has imposed a ban on all sort of constructions, renovations, alterations and repairs within the PDA Master Plan vide order dated 24.12.2010.

“One-man commission (PDJ, Islamabad) appointed by High Court has already issued orders to demolish the illegal structures. Now, therefore you are directed to show cause within 48 hours why the building structure should not be demolished at your risk and cost, failing which action as warranted under law shall be initiated against you,” further reads the show cause notice.

As per orders of Principal District and Sessions Judge Islamabad, CEO PDA was directed to carry out the demolition and show compliance within three days. However, as per reports the said illegal huts being constructed by NC leader have not been demolished as yet.

Asked to explain reasons behind delay in carrying out demolitions, CEO PDA Altaf Mir refused to comment.

“I have issued the demolition notice. But I will talk to you later,” he said.
On the other hand, police maintains that whenever it is approached for security, it will provide the security to the demolition team.

“The moment CEO PDA seeks security for demolition, we will provide it. But so far, we have not received any letter from PDA asking for security”, SSP Islamabad Ramesh Kumar Jalla told Rising Kashmir.

However NC MLC Altaf Kaloo denied that he has violated any court orders.

“The areas, where I am constructing huts do not fall under PDA’s jurisdiction. Veesaran, Khilan and Batkoot partly come under the revised Pahalgam Master Plan. However, the government has not so far notified these areas and issued no notice in this regard. These areas thus don’t fall within the jurisdiction of PDA”, Altaf Kaloo told Rising Kashmir.

He said a team, which visited the area, has maintained that these areas do not fall within PDA jurisdiction.

“Though court has issued demolition orders, but I have a copy of that report wherein the team says that these areas do not fall under PDA jurisdiction,” Kaloo said.

He claimed that he is being politically harassed. “There is no SRO for the said khasra wherein my huts are being constructed and it will specify that the land comes under PDA,” he said.

It is pertinent to mention here that High Court, which is hearing a PIL about Pahalgam master Plan violations, has already directed the five member expert committee to expedite the submission of its final report.

The constructions inside the areas falling under PDA jurisdiction have been banned by the High Court. However, it has given permission to government for carrying out public purpose works including laying of water pipes, electricity poles, toilets and small culverts vide its orders passed on July 11, 2011.

In the PIL titled Pahalgam Peoples Welfare Organization versus the State of J&K, it has been alleged that Master Plan constituted by PDA has not been made in accordance to its aims and objectives and for the interest of the inhabitants of Pahalgam.

Besides, it has also been alleged in the PIL that Master Plan has been changed to benefit a particular group of persons in the area.

On its part, High Court has already ruled that no constructions shall be permitted in the areas falling within the limits of PDA without the permission of High Court. However, it has allowed the local and original inhabitants of the villages falling within PDA to carry out minor repairs of their houses.

Balgarden, Nursing Garh Batamaloo Turn Industrial Areas

Mir Liyaqut Ali

Srinagar: The residents of Balgarden and Nursing Garh Batamaloo are aghast over the excessive presence of iron smith and metal sheet sellers in the area as it has caused drastic increase in noise pollution along with frequent power cuts. Locals said the otherwise residential area has witnessed mushroom growth of ‘unauthorized’ steel workers causing nuisance in the area.

The magnitude of noise pollution has compelled the locals to lodge a written complaint with State Pollution Control Board, Senior Superintendent of Police seeking immediate shifting of the business establishments.

However, locals said the complaints have fallen on deaf ears and neither SPCB nor police has taken cognizance of the issue. The residents continue to suffer due to the continued noise and alleged highhandedness of the iron smiths in the area.

“During last few years, the number of these iron workers has increased and have come up in the middle of the residential areas. They have managed to get illegal power connections also. One can see more than three electricity meters installed in a single shop in addition to the wires hanging directly from electric poles,” said Javed Hussain, a local shopkeeper.

Demanding immediate closure of the shops the locals said, “We are fed up of these shops which have turned the area into a small scale industrial base adding continuous noise in the area. The noise causes immense problems to the students and ailing persons.”

“Our children are not able to focus on their studies. Aged and ailing patients are not able to get take rest during day time. They have been suffering for the last one year and the intensity of the noise has now gone up,” the locals of Balgarden said. They added, “We are shocked to see as to how government allows these noise pollution creating establishments to come up in the middle of the residential areas?”

The residents demanded immediate action to remove these shops from the area or face protests.
Emphasizing that operation of such shops must be strictly restricted in the residential areas and should be allowed to operate in the industrial areas only the locals said, “These shops have made our life miserable. Such shops not only create noise pollution but have blocked maximum portion of adjacent roads causing traffic chaos in the area.”

“The material used by these shopkeepers like iron sheets, stripes and iron rods have also blocked the drain lids in the area which has caused inconvenience to the safai karamcharis (municipal cleaners) to clean the drainage in the area,” locals alleged.

Urging Government and SSP Srinagar to look into the matter and ensure the immediate closure of the shops from the area locals said, “Such shops must be restricted to the industrial areas only and not residential areas. In addition the licenses should be checked and SMC must also look into the matter."

Female Baby Killing Dens: Govt Caught on Wrong Foot

Abid Bashir

Srinagar: Absolving valley-based diagnostic centres of illegal sex determination, a reply to the application filed under Right to Information Act has revealed that government has issued registration for opening clinics to many people who don’t fulfill the criteria.

The official reply to RTI application, filed by Abdul Rashid Lone of Khanyar area of Srinagar, reveals that government has granted registration to people who don’t even have basic experience required for running a diagnostic centre.

The RTI plea sought information about the number of registered clinics under Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act along with details of the doctors running such centers.

The applicant had also sought recommendations of Advisory Committee (PNDT) restricting the government-trained Sonologists to work in private, and the cases registered against Sonologists involved in illegal sex determination.

According to the reply furnished by Director Health Services Kashmir, a person with just four months and 18 days experience has secured registration for her diagnostic centre at Rajbagh.

Similarly, another person running a diagnostic centre in Chotta Bazar area of the city has house job experience of six months and residency radiology experience of one year and eight months.

According to sources, the revelation is just the tip of iceberg as scores of such registrations have been issued by the Health department in the past.

Pertinently, as per norms, a Sonologist is a person who has undergone six months training or has one year experience as Sonologist.

About the cases registered against Sonologists involved in sex determination, the RTI reply reads: “No case has been registered against any Sonologist involved in the determination of sex.”
The development has come as a breather for the authentic Sonologists.

At least 50,000 people are directly and indirectly dependent on the private diagnostic centres in Kashmir. After Census 2011 revealed disturbing trend of decline in sex ratio (900 women per 1,000 males) in J&K, the government launched crackdown against the clinics and doctors. Around 68 diagnostic centers were closed in the valley alone.

Reacting to the development, President Private Diagnostic Centers Association (PDCA), Umar Iqbal said despite having proper qualification to run a diagnostic centre, they continued to suffer for no fault of theirs.

“We have been saying from day one that the government should crack whip against faulty clinics. Why are we being made scapegoats,” he said and appealed Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma to hold talks with PDCA directly so that confusions are avoided.

Director Health Services, Saleem-ur-Rehman said he will not comment until he studies the RTI reply. “I have not issued any registration,” he asserted.

When contacted, the health minister said they had already announced a cash reward of Rs 25000 for the person who helps in identifying clinic or doctor involved in illegal sex determination.

“There is no doubt that no case has been registered against any Sonologist and many diagnostic centers are genuine,” Sharma told Rising Kashmir.

On whether the government would allow credible Sonologists and clinic owners to carry out their job without any hitches, he said the government has decided to review registration of all diagnostic centres after Eid.

“Those who don’t fulfill the requirement will be strictly dealt with. Strict action will be taken against those who don’t have proper qualification to run a clinic. Same applies for the doctors also,” the minister said.

Corruption Rampant in J&K, Existing Laws Ineffective (Finance Commission Report)

Syed Junaid Hashmi

Jammu: Stating that corruption is all pervasive and omnipresent, State Finance Commission (SFC) has termed existing conventional laws ineffective and emphasized upon the need for strengthening anti-graft institutions.

The commission has in sharp tone stated that state has been unable to tackle the menace of corruption. The commission has in its report submitted to the Jammu and Kashmir government stated that acts to deal with rampant graft and blatant embezzlement of public money are falling short of the need and existing apparatus to deal with corruption has not touched the "subjects beyond the fringes."

The voluminous report, a copy of which is with Early Times newspaper, highlights that corruption, in its different forms, has overtaken society so deeply that state government has also got affected by this perilous virus. Report has even gone to the extent of identifying offices where corruption is rampant and while calling them citadels of corruption and festering sores advised government for taking special care of these offices which have otherwise become money minting houses.

The commission has found the situation so alarming that it has advised the government to install closed circuit cameras and other electronic gadgets for keeping a check on this menace. It has said that laws to deal with rampant graft and blatant embezzlement of public money are week and the existing machinery to deal with corruption has not touched the subjects beyond the fringes.

The report has called offices of Regional Transport Officers in Jammu and Kashmir, and their sub-offices in the districts, all traffic postings and office of traffic commissioner as citadels of corruption. About these offices, the report has said 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.

It has asserted 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. The report underlines that at present, nothing can be achieved without greasing the palms.

The report has taken to task the government policy to extend largesse in the form of medals, out of turn increments and promotions. The report concludes that it is invariably proving counter-productive and must be avoided. SFC has maintained that permits, licenses, release of salaries, stipends and permission must be made transparent.

It has also given some advice to the state government. It has stated that postings to lucrative jobs should be made after due scrutiny of names and the officials who always hanker for such jobs must be avoided. It has said that State Vigilance Organization (SVO) 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 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. The other members of the panel included Swami Raj Sharma from Jammu and Sonam Dava from Ladakh region. Both has written dissenting notes on the report.

Editorial in the Rising Kashmir

Inertia of Inaction

As Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade is evoking massive public support across India, the significance of civil society and its strength is becoming increasingly evident. Anna’s campaign, which has become a nationwide rage, reflects the concerns of common man who is fed up of corruption. The power of raising voice in unison can be gauged from the fact that the central government has been put under tremendous pressure to concede to Anna’s demand of bringing strong legislation against corruption.

The movement has lessons for Jammu and Kashmir, which has also been at the receiving end of corruption to the point of fetching the ignominious tag of being the second most corrupt state in India. Although successive governments have been pledging to root out corruption from J&K, there has been little headway in this direction. Apart from government’s inaction against the culprits, one of the main reasons for the high level of corruption has been the absence of a strong civil society movement like the one spearheaded by Anna Hazare. We have become habitual of blaming politicians for all the evils and exonerating ourselves of any responsibility.

Owing to our complacency, corruption has seeped deep in our society. We expect government to eradicate corruption while we ourselves have accepted bribery as part of the system. We often hear politicians deliver lengthy speeches against corruption when some of the biggest scandals have taken place under political patronage. Yet we expect them to eradicate the evil. We may talk endlessly against corruption, but it will not address the problem. Our complaining will also not help. We need to act and act now otherwise corruption will become so ingrained in our system that we will meekly surrender to it. Anna does not have a magic wand to end corruption, but the movement he and his supporters have started can at least help in translating people’s concern and anger against bribery and graft into action.

In J&K, we also need to kill the inertia of inaction and work collectively to isolate the corrupt people. Clerics and religious scholars can also step in and motivate people to stand up against corruption. There is no dearth of NGOs in our state. They can join hands and pool resources to launch a common campaign against corruption. At the same time educational institutes can help involve young people in the crusade. The state government on its part should facilitate any such public endeavour. It will be the best mass awareness campaign, which the government can cash in on to check corrupt practices. A strong civil society campaign on the lines of Anna Hazare’s ‘andolan’ can go a long way in helping J&K contain corruption.

Senator McCain

Why is Senator McCain in Srinagar? I am sure everyone has a theory. Well here is mine.

McCain is in Srinagar because the Indian nation south of the Jawahar Tunnel is aflame with passion and fervor against corruption. Not a place to be in today (especially in New Delhi) where government is jailing the civil society and ordinary public demanding good governance and transparency. That is bad public relations when a distinguished visitor is in town.

So where do you send a distinguished visitor at this awkward moment? Why, of course Kashmir. Kashmir is not just among the most corrupt states in India, its mostly upper crust society (politicians, bureaucrats, civil society chiefs, and big business houses), regardless of their religion or ethnicity, are proud to affirm that corruption is their birth right. In the words of Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, in his book, "My Kashmir", some Kashmiris go so far as to describe this accumulation of wealth as the logical profit of ilhaq (page 49, last sentence).

So while the country is in turmoil, Kashmir offers the illusion of tranquility. It is only natural that Sen. McCain should be visiting there today. The surprise visit caught everyone in the valley by surprise, but now you know (or at least you know what my theory is).

Vijay Sazawal

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