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.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"We Need a Dictator, Not a Gandhian"

Fayyaz and Junaid, both writing in the Early Times, narrate tales of high corruption in a state where corruption is seen as an entitlement. No wonder Anna's movement is not creating even a minor ripple in the valley

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is working as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

Corruption in J&K

Srinagar: On occasion of the oath-taking of J&K State Accountability Commission (SAC) Chairman, Justice retd Y P Nargotra, and Member, Justice Retd Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain, the other day at Raj Bhawan, Governor N N Vohra broke a tradition.

He chose to deliver a speech---to make it clear that he was concerned, like millions of the state subjects, over the non-seriousness successive governments have maintained to eradicate corruption. Governor laid stress on the immediate need of appointment of the constitutional functionaries and staff in SAC, State Vigilance Commission (SVC) and State Information Commission (SIC).

Unlike in the UPA Government's Bill on Lok Pal, head of the government (Chief Minister) in Jammu& Kashmir is very much liable to trial in a matter of alleged corruption under the law made nine years ago. In 2002, it didn't take long to realize that Law Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig's tantrums over accountability of public men (politicians) were not to be for practice.

Then in opposition, National Conference (NC) came forward with its unconditional support to the 'revolutionary' legislation. What was translucently communicated to Mufti Sayeed's government, had not been imagined by the debutants of governance: "If you use it against us today, we will use it against you tomorrow'.

SAC Bill was passed in days. Commission was not constituted for years, until men like Ali Mohammad Sagar began publicly taunting PDP regime with "hollow browbeating". And when Justice retd R P Sethi was finally appointed as the first Chairperson of SAC, he was not allowed to function even for a year. There was amendment after amendment but never the implementation for more than eight years.

NC-led coalition demonstrated the best of its reciprocity. None of the former Ministers, who were exuberantly threatened by Omar Abdullah's firebrands, was taken to the dock in the last 31 months. NC and PDP asserted for respective favourites in the selection committee meeting last month. Most of the analysts believe this was needless. They feel neither Justice Kakroo nor Justice Khan or Nazki would have run amuck over the politicians in absence of an highly unexpected signal from the top of the government and the opposition.

If participants of the meeting are to be believed, political members from the government defended appointment of only one member with the argument that, after bifurcation of matters between SVC and SAC, the commission would have to deal "just a few cases". "Unnecessary burden" on state exchequer" was offered as another argument. Governor's unscheduled speech at the swearing-in must have served as a snub for these selectors.

Even before SVC was constituted in March this year, one of the Cabinet Ministers almost warned State Vigilance Commissioner, P.L.Gupta, against proceeding with the prosecution of the characters of infamous Scam involving an IAS officer. Result of the Minister's letter, coupled by intervention of more than six other Ministers and two former Chief Ministers, is that the case was challaned without an arrest.

Not one of the accused was touched even as J&K High Court dismissed their anticipatory bail applications. All the accused continue to retain prize postings.

One of them was temporarily removed in a different matter for few months but his dignity was restored with his appointment in another sensitive department.

So, when MD of J&K Housing Board, Dileep Thusoo, became the first high profile target of State Vigilance Organization in the Chief Minister's "Year against Corruption", there were no ripples. According to the SVO press release, raids were conducted on several of MD's houses in J&K, Delhi and other states but the investigation remained restricted to "irregularities" committed in allotment and execution of a bridge in Doda. SVO did not explain why a matter of "disproportionate assets" was not registered against the owner of multiple properties.

Ask anybody in the government why there was not even an attachment, let alone arrest and suspension in these cases and pat will come the reply: "Everybody is innocent till proved guilty". Ask them why matters against senior officials of SKUAST (J) were dropped even after VC had previously communicated sanction to their prosecution to the Law Department. "Government has its prerogatives", one would tell you with a smile. And, why an established matter was dropped against a Minister of Gul Shah's regime who is still a Minister? "Many of the witnesses have either retired or passed away" is the answer recorded in the SVO Ikhtitami.

Scores of the privileged lot have got grade promotions and other elevations even without so-called 'vigilance clearance'. They figure prominently in the group of nearly a score of the officials, recommended for and inducted into IAS, earlier this month. A simple application under RTI would make it clear that scores of officials, not enjoying any political or bureaucratic clout, were arrested and jailed for months until they managed to get bail even in matters created on flimsy grounds.

Seizure memos made by SVO sleuths mention "khattamband ceiling in one room", "Maruti-800 car" and even "one two-band transistor". Scores of this persecuted lot have been subjected to untold miseries, placed under suspension, attached to administrative department, removed to "non sensitive" postings. People from SVO to Law Department to GAD burn midnight oil to fleece these endangered species of the government. "You show me the face, I'll show you the rule" is a cliché phrase in Civil Secretariat.

"We don't need an Anna Hazare. We need a General Musharraf to strike on corruption in Jammu and Kashmir" seems to be the aspiration of an ordinary Kashmiri today.

CM's Anti-graft Drive Goes Haywire

Syed Junaid Hashmi

Jammu: State government has seemingly disbanded the high profile committee constituted to make recommendations for encouraging self-acclaimed honest officials and to weed out corrupt, non-performing and inefficient.

The committee was constituted by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in October 2010. It included Chief Secretary as Chairman, Chairman of JK Special Tribunal as its member and Secretary of General Administration Department as member-secretary. A formal government order was issued authorizing the committee to make recommendations to the state government within a month for weeding our corrupt and inefficient.

The Committee had also been authorized to receive necessary inputs from Vigilance commissioner and Inspector General of Police (CID), whenever required. The government order had further categorically stated that the two officers would remain associated with the committee as special invitees. A year has passed and the committee is yet to be heard of. Whether it is working or not is a million dollar question.

Only the Chief Minister's secretariat knows the answer. However, the fact remains that corrupt officer's alongwith the wealthy self-acclaimed honest ones are yet to be asked tough questions by those at the helm of affairs. Government has been taking the public for a ride by repeatedly taking about action taken by it against a few police officers and politicians in two high profile murder cases.

It has seemingly decided to stay silent and watch the loot of public exchequer with open eyes. State vigilance organization and crime branch of police are busy penalizing clerks, accounts assistants, peons and other non-gazetted officers. Courts have repeatedly snubbed the SVO for lying their hands on clerks and peons while keeping the eyes and ears closed in cases of corruption in high profile places.

The fate of Kundal committee probe report and similar other probes are a stark indication of how murky the system is from within. Cases against high profile and politically well-connected officers referred by different commissions to the SVO and Crime Branch are rotting in the closed cupboards of officers of these two organizations. Action is impossible since none has the moral courage to call a spade a spade.

Ironically, Omar's government last year brought out a list of 400 corrupt IAS, IFS, KAS officers who are facing serious charges of corruption, which include looting of State exchequer, possessing disproportionate assets, misuse of official position, large scale bunglings and much more. The list mostly included serving officers.

The IAS officers included in the list are facing serious charges of misuse of official position, misappropriation of government money to the tune of crores of rupees, having disproportionate assets, misuse of official position and illegal appointments. The corrupt IFS officers are facing charges of irregularities committed regarding allotment of contracts for extraction and transportation of timber.

There were reports that Chief Minister was personally examining the files pertaining to corruption by certain senior KAS, IAS and IPS officers. However, how long it would take for Omar to act is to be seen. For record, Omar must note that erstwhile PDP-led government headed by the Mufti had prematurely retired a number of officers regarded as deadwood and even managed to save some part of state exchequer.

Mufti had even went to the extent of ordering all heads of department to file the monthly achievements regarding punctuality, checking wasteful expenditure, curbing corruption and monitoring of development works. The secretaries had to submit a brief note to the Chief Secretary by the 10th of every month about the action taken by them and the heads of department under their charge.

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