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.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Crores Lost? So What, It is NOT Our Money"

The Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report on the "Coalgate" may result in the fall of the government in New Delhi, but in Srinagar there is an eerie silence both from Treasury benches and the Opposition when CAG uncovers yet another fiscal fiasco. Fayyaz finds culprits have, in fact, been rewarded with medals of distinction

(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.)

Srinagar: State Government's awards and accolades seem to be continuously jinxed since 2009. 

Doordarshan's Deputy Director General, Rafeeq Masoodi, has been placed under suspension by CEO of Prasar Bharti for "poor performance and indulgence in corruption" a year after he was decorated by Governor, N N Vohra, and Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, with the prestigious 'State Award' for his "impressive performance". Messers Vohra and Omar, in fact, only executed what had been scripted previously in the DD officials honour by then Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad. Yes, they conveniently shut their eyes to what was explicitly carried about the awardee's omissions and commissions in media for years.

This season last year, Omar Abdullah Government showered bountiful praise on then retiring Chief Engineer of R&B, Nazir Ahmad alias Ladakhi, while granting him a prestigious post-retirement rehabilitation. Ignoring reports that works worth hundreds of Crores of Rupees had been executed during his tenure as SE and CE in R&B Department, Mr Nazir was appointed Commissioner in J&K State Information Commission.

On Independence Day last fortnight, Government honoured incumbent Chief Engineer of R&B Kashmir, Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, with the more prestigious Chief Minister's Gold Medal for Honesty/ Integrity & Meritorious Public Service. The list of five top awardees included very honest and gutsy officials like Commissioner-Secretary of Rural Development Department, Farooq Ahmad Pir, who is still famous for kicking out Dr Farooq Abdullah from an officials' meeting at DC Office Baramulla in 1994 when the NC President had been driven to the meeting by late Rajesh Pilot. Mr Pir was then just a district level officer. Alongwith four others [Umang Narula, Farooq Pir, Irfan Yasin, Resham Kashyap] CE R&B Kashmir, Mr Lone on the I-Day function became recipient of cash reward of Rs one lakh, Chief Minister's Gold Medal and a Citation.

Now the anti-climax: CAG Annual Report for 2010-11, that covers the period from 2006 to 2011, snubs R&B's engineers and bureaucrats for bad performance and a host of other irregularities. Both the decorated engineers have held senior positions of SE and CE during the period in question. IAS officer, KB Agarwal, remains one-odd incumbent who is yet without any assignment and Chief Minister is himself holding portfolio of R&B since August 2010, reportedly for negative reasons.

Amid reports that the Government of India has barred State Government from giving approval to the projects pertaining to roads and building infrastructure in J&K, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has come up with some startling revelations--- indicting the State Government for flouting norms in the R&B sector, causing loss of hundreds of crores to State exchequer besides having failed to implement and execute scores of key developmental projects.

It has also blamed MLAs and Ministers for pressurizing various executing agencies and their heads for diverting funds in order to please "blue eyed contractors" for their own promotion in different constituencies.
CAG report mentions that in violation of all norms and procedures, a whooping liability of Rs 110.82 Cr was raised by executing 1,328 unapproved works mostly for the sweet will and pleasure of Ministers and legislators. The report reveals that 1,301 works have been executed without obtaining any administrative approvals which was mandatory for undertaking such works. While asserting that the department had failed to transform developmental schemes into public benefit, CAG report says that unproductive expenditure worth Rs 128.28 Cr has been made till March 2011.

CAG has pulled up the State Government for not attaining the targeted physical achievements in respect of roads under the Prime Minster's Reconstruction Programme (PMRP). It has expressed dissatisfaction over the progress on the ambitious Mughal Road and Narbal-Tangmarg road projects. Although the cost of both the projects has been revised by hundreds of crores over the actual approved cost, yet the projects were still awaiting completion, says the CAG report.

"The targeted date for completion of Mughal Road had been extended upto March 2013 with a revised cost of Rs 255 crores. Similarly Narbal-Tangmarg Road (NTR) estimated to cost Rs 38 crores (revised: Rs 116 crores), although nearing completion, has witnessed a cost overrun of Rs 78 crores as of March 2011", reads the CAG report.

The report has also highlighted the 'inability' of the Government in achieving the targets under NABARD.
"Against 1,196 schemes sanctioned under NABARD(RIDF IV to RIDF XIII) to be completed by 2010-11, only 725 (61 percent) schemes have been completed and the balance of 471 schemes have not been completed due to non-release of matching share by the State Government", it claims.
The report says that works worth Rs 113.57 Cr were executed without inviting tenders, thus defeating the purpose of transparency and tendering in execution.

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