(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 49, 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 woking 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.)
Dental surgeon among 1,000 appointed fraudulently in J&K Health Department
Srinagar: Over a dozen senior and middle-rung officers of Department of Health Services, including Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) and Block Medical Officers (BMOs), have fraudulently appointed nearly one thousand men and women in at least 12 districts of Jammu & Kashmir in the last four years against bribe money ranging between Rs 1.00 Lakh to Rs 2.00 Lakh from each beneficiary. Those appointed fraudulently include a lady dental surgeon and hundreds of women appointed or “regularized” on Class 3rd and Class 4th vacancies.
Well-placed authoritative sources today revealed exclusively to Early Times that that it was, in fact, “wrong distribution” of the bribe money collected from the beneficiaries that led to exposure of the state’s largest recruitment scandal, next only to the one previously exposed and hushed up in Local Bodies. Insiders, consequently, flashed substantive complaints to higher authorities. Still, the inquiries and their findings have been hushed up more than three times at District level as well as Directorate level after the potential sufferers coughed up more money.
Dozens of officials from Department of Accounts and Treasuries have been key actors in the network, alongside the officers of Health Services, in making these “appointments” and drawing salaries of the “appointees” regularly from different treasuries. Even as all of them are still untouched but unlikely to escape Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s wrath, Government has on Monday ordered attachment of seven senior and middle-rung officials of the Health Department.
Those attached last evening include Dr Nazir Ahmad Hakeem Dy Director, Kashmir (Schemes), Dr A R Matoo, in-charge Dy CMO Anantnag), Dr Altaf Beigh, CMO Kulgam, Dr G M Shaksaaz, Medical Superintendent, JLNM Hospital, Srinagar, Dr Bashir Ahmed Najar, BMO Larnoo and Dr. Gowhar Abbas, BMO Mattan. Another BMO, Dr Iqbal Bichoo, had been already attached to the office of CMO, Anantnag, on the charge of having fraudulently appointed his own wife. Sources said that over a dozen more junior officials, including head assistants, senior and junior assistants of Department of Health Services Kashmir had also been identified as key actors in the appointment scandal by the inquiry committee and all of them were likely to be attached or suspended within next 48 hours.
The appointment and regularization scandal, running through 2008 to 2011 period, according to sources, was no secret in Department of Health Services. Finally, it was earlier this year that Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, and Director Health Services Kashmir (DHK), Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman, decided to identify all the actors involved in the scam, besides the illegitimate beneficiaries, by way of a thorough investigation. An inquiry, headed by Deputy Director (Dentistry) at Directorate of Health Services Kashmir, Dr Abdul Rashid Shah, has identified nearly 200 of the appointed beneficiaries and more than 24 of the Health Department’s officials involved in the scandal. However, actual number of the fraudulently appointed or regularized men and women was believed to be nearly 1,000 in Kashmir division alone. Most of them have been engaged from the year 2008 to 2011. Sources said that Anantnag district in South Kashmir was leading in the appointment scandal but a large number of beneficiaries had also been identified in Pulwama, Budgam, Shopian, Kulgam and Baramulla district in Valley besides six more districts in Jammu division. Sources said that Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, today called Director Health Services Jammu, Dr Madhu Khullar, to his office in Srinagar and directed her to also conduct similar inquiry in six districts of Jammu division. Significantly, six of the seven attached officers are said to be residents of twin districts of Anantnag and Kulgam.
Copies of the fraudulently made ‘appointment orders’, exclusively in possession of Early Times, indicate that the incumbents have been appointed even against gazetted vacancies of Dental Surgeons. For example, Dr Samina Akhtar D/o Ghulam Rasool Shapoo of Duru, Anantnag, has been appointed as Dental Surgeon by then CMO Anantnag and now Deputy Director (Schemes), Dr Nazir Ahmad Hakeem, at PHC Shangus, without any authority and competence.
Letter No: Estt-3/Gaz/DHSK/1-33 Dated 18-11-2008, addressed by Deputy Director Health Services (Headquarters) Kashmir, to CMO Anantnag claims that Dr Samina Akhtar had been “duly recommended” by then MoS Health and Medical Education (Pir Mohammad Hussain) for her contractual appointment as Dental Surgeon. Deputy Director has purportedly written to CMO Anantnag Dr Nazir Hakeem that Dr Samina be accordingly appointed and engaged as Dental Surgeon on contractual basis. Under rules, none other than Deputy Commissioner of a district was authorized to make such contractual engagement subject to availability of substantive vacancy and competition, giving chance of appearing in the interview to all the aspirant candidates.
Copy of the letter has been sent to BMO Shangus for “information and favour of further necessary action”. A copy of same has also been sent purportedly to private secretary of then MOS Health. Subsequently, then CMO Anantnag, Dr Nazir Hakeem, has directed BMO Shangus vide No: Est/Gaz/CMO/Ang/4880-81 dated 27-11-2008, to appoint Dr Samina “with the remarks that services of the Dental Surgeon may be utilized at PHC Shangus as desired by the DHS Srinagar”. Dr Samina has joined in November 2008 and she has been continuously paid her monthly salary without any objection by Accounts Officers and Treasury Officers. Interestingly, PDP-Congress coalition of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had ended in first week of July 2008 and there was no MOS Health in the subsequent Governor’s rule in November 2008.
During the course of investigation, former MoS Health and PDP’s MLA Shangus, Pir Mohammad Hussain, is understood to have categorically denied having issued any such written or verbal orders to DHS Kashmir or CMO Anantnag. He had, in fact, ceased to be MLA and Minister in the first week of July 2008. It has been further found by the inquiry that the letter from Deputy Director Headquarters was totally fake and it carried only the forged/scanned signatures of then Deputy Director (Headquarters), Dr Auvtar Krishen Pir.
Health’s appointment scam touched its zenith in Omar Govt
Srinagar: Even as Dental Surgeons like Dr Samina Akhtar were “appointed” during Governor N N Vohra’s rule in the second half of year 2008 and hundreds others in five previous years, Health Department’s appointment scam touched its zenith in the last three years of Omar Abdullah government. A large number of beneficiaries were fraudulently appointed during 2010 and 2011---parallel to the Chief Minister’s celebration of the ‘Year against Corruption’! Over 300 men and women are estimated to have been “appointed” on Class 3rd and Class 4th posts against cash payments, ranging between Rs 1.00 Lakh to Rs 2.00 Lakh, during this period.
Nearly 40 officials of the Department of Health Services in Kashmir and Jammu, as also over a dozen officials of the Department of Finance, were identified by various complaints, reports and inquiries as the key actors in the fraudulent appointment mafia. They include Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), Block Medical Officers (BMOs), Medical Superintendents of different District hospitals, Chief Accounts Officers (CAOs), Accounts Officers (AOs), Assistant Accounts Officers (AAOs) and Treasury Officers, besides head assistants, senior assistants, junior assistants and other clerical staff of the two particular departments.
However, no purposeful action was ever initiated against any of them. Whenever there was huge clamour, a couple of officials----none in Finance----were attached or suspended for a few months. They were all reinstated and invariably given prize postings. The beneficiary appointees, whose ‘appointment’ or ‘regularisation’ was ab initio fraud and forgery, continued to draw their “salaries” from the state exchequer.
Admittedly, there were some officers whose signatures were fraudulently obtained by unscrupulous subordinates. They included former CMO of Budgam Dr Qayoom who committed suicide by hanging himself to death on discovering that his clerks had got fraudulent appointment orders signed by him. However, over 95% of the officers involved in the appointment scam collected money from beneficiaries, as well as prospective beneficiaries, retained a part of it and shared another part of it with other actors of the network.
In at least five matters, even the State Vigilance Organisation’s middle-rung and lower level staff also laid its hands on the illegitimate beneficiaries and their benefactors in the Government. However, all these cases were hushed up after the “investigators” collected their share of the booty.
Chargesheeting the accused in Beerwah and Kangan medical blocks, after years of lukewarm treatment, is widely rated here as an exception. An accused official, who crossed all limits of corruption and malpractices and made scores of fraudulent appoints as BMO Beerwah, was not stopped by anybody in his elevation to the higher position of CMO Budgam. When media pointed out that he was constructing Rs 15 Crore commercial complex after having raised a private nursing home and several houses, all that he had to suffer was an extra amount of money to the officials of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), who had issued the building permission in gross violation of norms and Master Plan.
Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that the inquiry, conducted by a team of officials of the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir led by Deputy Director (Dentistry), Dr Abdul Rashid Shah, in the last three months, has noticed maximum of the loot-and-scoot in Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Budgam districts in Kashmir Division. Several cases of fraudulent appointment have also surfaced in Shopian and Baramulla districts. Sources said that under orders of the government, another higher level team, to be headed by Special Secretary Health and Medical Education, Iftikhar-ul-Hasnain Bari, would now carry out a more rigorous and extensive exercise to identify all actors and beneficiaries of the appointment scam. Sources said that Department of Health and Medical Education, in coordination with Department of Law, was exploring the bureaucratic mechanism of terminating the “services” of all the 1,000-odd fraudulent appointees.
Sources revealed that Dr Shah’s inquiry found the medical blocks of Shangus, Mattan, Larnoo and Sallar, in Anantnag district, as the worst hit by the appointment scam. In Budgam district, maximum of the irregularities have surfaced in Khansahab and Chrar-e-Sharief blocks.
Before his elevation to the post of Deputy Director (Schemes), Kashmir, Dr Nazir Ahmed Hakeem alone has been identified as the officer to have fraudulently appointed over a hundred men and women as CMO Anantnag, CMO Shopian and another posting in Kulgam district. His beneficiaries include a number of boys and girls who have been inducted under SRO-43 (compassionate appointment) though none of their family members had died in any militancy-related incident. Most often, appointments made under SRO-43, do not cause any suspicion among the people. Quite a large number of Dr Hakeem’s fraudulently issued ‘appointment’ orders refer to “recommendations and directions from DHS Kashmir”. None of these has been found as real.
Copies of these “appointment orders” have been purportedly dispatched to DHS Kashmir and CCed to other offices in the Government. It has been observed that none of the offices mentioned has received any such order copies from CMO Anantnag. Though neither CMO nor Director Health and other officers are by law competent to engage incumbents, gazetted or non-gazetted, on contractual or consolidated wages, CMOs and BMOs have been found to have engaged, and subsequently regularized in Class 3rd and Class 4th grade, hundreds of the beneficiaries through fraudulent means.
With few exceptions, who happened to be close relatives to the officers, CMOs and BMOs have fleeced each and every “appointee” to the tune of anything between Rs 1.00 lakh and Rs 2.00 Lakh. Qualification certificates (Middle Pass and Matriculation) of many of the “appointees” are also believed to be fake.
With an identifiable pattern in the modus operandi, most of the beneficiaries have been falsely shown as “consolidated paid Safaiwallahs” and subsequently regularized into substantive grade of Class 4th [previous Rs 2550-3200 and revised Rs 4440-7440] by CMOs, particularly by former CMO of Anantnag. Some of them have revealed that the officers also drew huge arrears in their name from the treasuries and retained the money for themselves. A number of Head Assistants, Senior Assistants, Junior Assistants, Storekeepers, and even the drivers and domestic helps of officers, have managed the “appointment” of scores of their relatives through same dubious and fraudulent practice.
Politicians, bureaucrats at work to hush up Health appointment scam
Srinagar: Even as Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, today asserted that all the officials of his department involved in the infamous Health appointment scam, as also all the 1,000-odd illegal appointees, would be punished, dozens of influential bureaucrats and politicians, including Ministers, have begun sustained efforts to once again hush up the matter.
Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, called this correspondent from Jammu to make it clear that the appointment scam involving officials of his department spanned over the last 16 years. “This is a fact that a couple of hundred appointments have taken place in 2009-2011 period but this mess has actually begun in 1996”, Sharma asserted. He admitted that 1,000 to 1,200 men and women had been fraudulently appointed in Health Department since 1996 but claimed that most of these were the illegal beneficiaries of 1996-2008 period. In its current series on the scandal, Early Times had reported yesterday that the number of illegal appointees in Health Department was believed to be around 1,000.
Mr Sharma claimed that current investigation would reach its logical conclusion “at any cost” as he was determined to punish all the delinquent officers on the basis of the final report of the inquiry being conducted by Special Secretary Health Iftikharul Hasnain Bari. He made it clear that all the 1000 to 12oo illegal beneficiaries would be got identified and prosecuted against and the government’s action in the matter would include termination of the services of all the fraudulently appointed incumbents. “Let there be absolutely no doubt about that”, Mr Sharma asserted.
Well placed sources in the government, meanwhile, disclosed to Early Times that political and bureaucratic mentors of the delinquent officers and the illegal appointees had suddenly activated themselves with the purpose of getting the investigation, as well as the government action against the guilty, stalled. This pressure group, according to sources, included a number of Ministers, MLAs, MLCs and senior and middle ranking bureaucrats and officials. If these sources are to be believed, one of two investigating teams had submitted its preliminary report about the irregularities in Anantnag district but the exercise in its other districts---Budgam, Pulwama and Shopian---had been temporarily frozen. Deputy Director (Dentistry) Dr Abdul Rashid Shah, is heading the inquiry in Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts.
Nodal Officer of Mental Health at Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir, Dr Ghulam Ahmad Wani is heading another inquiry in Ganderbal, Bandipore, Baramulla and Kupwara districts. He has not submitted even the preliminary report about any of the four districts so far. Sources said that Special Secretary Health Mr Bari would carry out a focused and specific process of investigation on the basis of the findings of the two teams of Directorate of Health Services Kashmir. An identical exercise is likely to begun under supervision of DHS Jammu, Dr Madhu Khullar, in a couple of days.
As already reported, seven senior and middle rung officials of Department of Health Services have been attached earlier this week, pending inquiry against them. They, according to official sources, have been identified as the key actors in the appointment mafia in Anantnag and Kulgam districts. They include then CMO Anantnag and now Deputy Director (Schemes) at DHS Kashmir, Dr Nazir Ahmad Hakeem.
Authoritative sources revealed exclusively to Early Times that BMO Shangus, Dr Iqbal Bichoo, had already been attached to office of CMO Anantnag but now he is among the seven officers attached to DHS Kashmir. He is alleged to have got his wife, Dr Samina Akhtar, appointed fraudulently “on contractual basis” and also got him posted under himself in Block Shangus. Then CMO Anantnag, Dr Nazir Ahmad Hakeem, has been found by the inquiry as the man who has played key role in Dr Samina’s appointment as Dental Surgeon “on contractual basis” in Shangus Block. A letter with forged or scanned signatures of then Deputy Director Headquarters, Dr Avtar Krishen Pir, and purportedly addressed to CMO Anantnag claims that Dr Samina was required to be appointed on the recommendation of “Hon'ble Minister of State for Health”. This inspite of the fact that there was neither an elected government nor any “MOS Health” on 18-11-2008 when the letter is claimed to have been written and dispatched.
Dr Hakeem is alleged to have also arranged similar illegal appointment of over a hundred people including a number of his relations. He and all other six attached officers are residents of Anantnag and Kulgam districts of South Kashmir. Sources revealed that, among them all, CMO Kulgam Dr Altaf Ahmad Beg, had not been found directly involved but he, in coordination with then CMO Kulgam Dr Nazir Hakeem, is found to have managed fraudulent appointment of several youth in Kulgam area. These beneficiaries notably include son and daughter of CMO’s Sectional Officer Manzoor Ahmad Shah.
Sources revealed that the inquiry found BMO Mattan, Dr Gauhar Abbas---also presently incharge of Amarnath pilgrimage from Pahalgam side---involved in fraudulent appointment of a number of his relatives including his own brother. Dy CMO of Anantnag, Dr Abdul Rashid Matoo, has been attached on his alleged involvement in similar appointments. However, during the questioning he claimed that his signatures had been forged on all the fraudulent appointment orders.
How all inquiries failed in Health appointment scam
Srinagar: With most of the fraudulent appointments in the Department of Health happening in the South Kashmir districts of Anantnag and Kulgam, middle-rung officials enjoyed a field day in illegally absorbing scores of their relatives in addition to hundreds others against cash payment. Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), Block Medical Officers (BMOs), Accounts Officers (AOs) and Treasury Officers, alongwith their clerks, broke all records of fraudulent appointments from 1996 to 2011. While most of the complaints fell on the deaf ears of the authorities, others were paradoxically used to blackmail the beneficiaries and extort more money from them.
Successive CMOs have been found to have issued most of the fraudulent orders under a particular pattern. In certain cases, they have simply issued transfer orders, shifting subordinate Class 3rd and Class 4th officials from one block to another. However, like in a previous appointment scandal in Department of Education, that surfaced in 1993-95 period in Anantnag district, the transferred officials had actually never been appointed into Government service. Fixed amounts of money have been collected from the clients and the fake “transfer orders” issued.
In compliance to these “orders”, the unemployed clients appeared before particular BMOs as the “transferred officials” and submitted their joining reports. Fraudulently created service books and last Pay Certificates (LPCs) followed and the “appointees” continued to project themselves as “old employees” while continuously drawing their salaries. This became possible only where the AOs, AAOs and Treasury Officers were duly roped in. Close relatives of the CMOs, BMOs, and their godfathers in politics and bureaucracy, were exempted from paying bribes but money was collected without relaxation from other clients, including distant relatives, neighbours and acquaintances.
However, in over 80% of the cases, clients were falsely shown by the CMOs as ‘Consolidate Paid Safaiwallas’ (CSWs) and “regularized” into the regular Class 4th pay scale of Rs 4440- Rs 7440 (pre-revised Rs 2550- Rs 3200). Fake dispatch numbers of the letters from Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHK) were recorded against Subject and Reference on these “orders”. These “orders” were issued and got implemented despite the fact that neither the CMOs nor successive Directors had, by law, any authority or competence to regularize even the factually engaged CSWs. Most of these “orders” from office of CMO do not carry any Order Number. Copies of these “orders” are invariably purported to have been dispatched to DHK but records at the Directorate indicate that no such documents or correspondences exist.
“In pursuance to reference quoted above in the subject, Shri Mohammad Amin Moochi S/o Jala ud-Din Moochi R/o Khannabal consolidated paid Safaiwallah of Block Mattan in hereby placed in the grade of 4440-7440 with the grade pay attached to the scale revised (2550-3200) against the available vacancy at Block Mattan. The Block Medical Officer will allow to join the candidate after proper verification of required certificates”, says the text of an “Order” issued by then CMO Anantnag, and now Deputy Director (Schemes) at DHK, Dr Nazir Ahmad Hakeem. It has been issued under endorsement No: EST/SW/4337-38 Dated 22-03-2010. Insiders insist that it could not have been possible in absence of coordination with then Director Health Services, Kashmir, Dr Mohammad Amin Wani, concerned Accounts Officer and Treasury Officer.
Early Times is exclusively in possession of dozens of identically drafted, issued and implemented “Orders”, mostly issued by CMOs of Anantnag and Kulgam. Almost all blocks of the two districts, particularly Pahalgam, Mattan, Shangus, Larnoo, Sallar, Anantnag, Qazigund and Kulgam, have witnessed this free-for-all loot of the state exchequer. Competence and integrity of Finance Ministers like Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Abdul Rahim Rather, has failed to be a deterrent. Notwithstanding a deluge of complaints and so-called inquiries, not a single of the fraudulently appointed/absorbed officials has been denied salary or dismissed.
All the delinquent officials of the departments of Health and Finance, who have played key role in the Health appointment mafia, have not only retained prize postings but have also been promoted to higher positions. Although, different departments and organisations are on record to have initiated inquiries over dozens of complaints received by senior authorities, no disciplinary or criminal action has been taken against the delinquent officers or the people they have appointed through fraudulent means.
In one particular case, a former Deputy Commissioner of Anantnag is on record to have ordered an inquiry through District Employment Officer of Anantnag. Substantial evidences of criminal conduct by then CMO were collected with regard to fraudulent regularization of seven of such appointees in Mattan Block. It was established during the inquiry that one Sr Assistant, namely Ghulam Qadir, had got a number of his clients appointed through CMO Anantnag. Gh Qadir was found to have got fraudulently appointed his own brother-in-law and some other relatives in Larnoo and Mattan blocks and also his own son in Larnoo block. The investigation was completely hushed up after the accused officials greased the palms of the officers conducting the inquiry. In connivance with AO and Treasury Officer, all of the fraudulent appointees are continuously working and drawing their salaries from the state exchequer.
Head Assistant at office of CMO Anantnag, Pir Mohammad Shafi, is known to have got fraudulently appointed his younger brother, Pir Mohammad Ashraf, as Junior Assistant on ‘adhoc basis’ in 1996 and later got him fraudulently regularized by CMO Anantnag. Same official was later promoted to the rank of Sr Assistant. In 2006, he also got similarly appointed another client, namely Rayees Ahmad, as Class 4th official. On a complaint, then Director Health Kashmir, Dr Muzaffar Ahmad, canceled the appointment but due to Shafi’s clout, Rayees is continuously working and taking his salary in block Achhabal.
Shafi also got another of his clients, namely Irshad Ahmad Dar, fraudulently appointed as a class 4th official in block Qazigund. By way of CMO’s another fraudulent order, Shafi also got his own relative, Abdul Majid Shah, appointed in Anantnag. By another CMO, he also got a Driver fraudulently regularized in block Sallar. According to the established charges, he also got a number of his clients (CSWs) “regularized” as Class 4th officials in Mattan, Achhabal and Sallar blocks in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. The siblings have been notoriously controlling Mattan, Acchabal, Sallar and Larnoo blocks.
According to the allegations, the duo has also got appointed Lateef Ahmad Narwari of Srinagar and Shabir Ahmad (brother of Sr Assistant Ghulam Rasool) in block Shangus, Jr Assistant of Shangus Block, Nasir Ahmad, alongwith his wife, Ishrat, then CMO Dr Nazir Hakeem’s relative, Samir Ahmad Nawab, besides one Imran against Class 4th vacancies by the CMO who had no authority or competence by law. An Accounts Officer conducted another inquiry and most of the charges were proved during the process. However, he too hushed up the inquiry fully after the Health officers appointed two of his brothers against Class 4th vacancies in Shopian district. A huge amount of money was additionally paid to the AO as bribe money. Records indicate that Vigilance Organisation too initiated preliminary verifications in at least three matters in South Kashmir but the investigation did not progress to its logical conclusion---allegedly due to payment of bribe money.
Now that the number of the accused officers is running into dozens and those of the illegal appointees into hundreds, in at least 12 districts of J&K, unscrupulous politicians and bureaucrats have begun to scuttle the whole process with their hackneyed argument---‘it could lead to unrest among hundreds of families ahead of the 2014 elections’! Would Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, still proceed against the guilty and terminate the services of all the 1000-odd illegal appointees in absence of the coalition government’s political will? It is a big question mark.