Total Pageviews

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Geelani really dying for Kashmir’s ecology?

Influential separatist leader should also call a shutdown on brick kilns

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 20: Senior Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has, of late, begun to lay remarkable emphasis over the need to protect the Valley’s environment and ecology. In the last one week, Geelani has shown significant concern over the damage, according to him, caused to the Valley’s fragile ecology by the annual Amarnath pilgrimage. He has made specific non-political demand of reducing the pilgrimage period from existing two months to just 15 days and argued that similar arrangement was in place at Gangotri and other holy places in Uttaranchal.

Notwithstanding resting his entire argument on the 60-year-old UN resolutions, Geelani’s ideology of a theocratic Islamic system has little scope for geo-political boundaries. He seems to be confident that Jammu & Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, in realization of what he calls ‘aspiration of the Kashmiris’, would be a service to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. When he was led to believe during Amarnath land row in August 2008---by slogans like ‘kaun karega tarjumani, Syed Ali Shah Geelani’--- that he alone was the representative of the Kashmiris, he lost no time to assert.

At the TRC congregation, Geelani found two of the most prominent pro-Azadi leaders, namely Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, already seated on the dais. Cutting them both dead, he sought the gathering’s vote of being the “only representative of the Kashmiris” and led the audience yell as many as 10 times in one go: “Ham Pakistani hain, Pakistan hamara hai”.

In contrast, Geelani has been complaining of “cultural aggression” and “ecological degradation” for quite some time now--- holding the “Indian occupational forces” responsible for both. So the fundamental question, unanswered in the minds of a many Kashmiris, is: Is the octogenarian separatist leader concerned about all hues of “cultural aggression” and “ecological degradation” in Kashmir or merely the one he finds the “Indian occupational forces” involved in?

At three of his thinly attended public meetings since the weekend last, Geelani has warned the Government of “a sustained struggle” in case his demand of restricting the pilgrimage period to 15 days was not acceded to. “It (Yatra period of 60 days) has been destroying our atmosphere”, he has complained. Those visiting Sonmarg and Pahalgam during the two-odd months of the pilgrimage would readily agree with Mr Geelani as the damage caused to the environ is colossal. Much like Geelani, they were also concerned over the raising of concrete structures at Baltal in 2008. But, this time around, they are perhaps equally concerned that their joining the chorus with Geelani could push the environment to the backburner exactly like in 2008 and bring region and religion to the forefront. This, they know, is bound to be catastrophic in perception of an equally negative reaction in Jammu.

Leela Karan Sharma of the 2008 Sangharsh fame and others of his ilk, who remained in oblivion in the last 20 months, have immediately got resuscitation in Geelani’s warning and have begun to find their role and place in the situation being communally charged in Jammu & Kashmir. Much like Congress-PDP coalition in 2008, Congress-NC ruling alliance seems to be having other priorities at hand.

Among the ordinary Kashmiris, many are surprised why Mr Geelani does not deliver a sermon on Director SKIMS, Dr Abdul Hamid Zargar, on the latter’s obligation of installing an incinerator for appropriate disposal of medical waste at the hospital. If the Valley’s jails and detention centers are Geelani’s “second home”, SKIMS has indisputably emerged as his “third home”. Every time Geelani was ‘arrested’ in the last several years, his detention has ended at SKIMS. Concerned over the environment, Geelani must be aware that J&K State Pollution Control Board has now slapped a final notice of closure on the SKIMS Director for ignoring to set up an incinerator at the state’s only tertiary care hospital.

Having never planted a tree on the World Arbor Day on March 21 or otherwise, Geelani is also supposed to be knowing well that sections of the Valley’s pro-Azadi and pro-Pakistan militants have caused more damage to the state’s sylvan cover---particularly in 1990-1996 period---than Army and paramilitary forces. Hundreds of compartments were denuded in broad daylight everywhere in Kashmir, including Geelani’s own Sopore-Rafiabad forests. One conservator and scores of Forest Department officials were not gunned down by military.

And the last, but not the least, Geelani has never raised his voice over the mushroom growth of cement plants---maximum of them laid by a Sopore-based business family---in the critical Khonmoh-Khrew belt, bordering Dachigam National Park on one side and the saffron fields of Pampore on another. While traveling more than any other political leader through Valley, Geelani has also witnessed how more than 300 completely unauthorized and illegal brick kilns have caused grave threat not only to environment but also to the poor human life. Should he not invoke his “only tool” of shutdown for a day, specifically for closing down these dangerously operating kilns or else prevail upon the owners to do a real good to the Kashmiris?


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Omar Govt has one rule for Shafi Uri’s son, another for 600,000 unemployed youth
Laharwal-Runiyal duo taints Chief Minister’s claim of ‘cleanest ever Government’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 16: While denying a job to hundreds of graduates and post-graduates in different professional streams---Medicine, Engineering, Forestry, Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Mass Communications included---Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s bureaucracy has begun to rehabilitate kith and kin of the ruling coalition politicians through backdoor. Latest beneficiaries of the largesse, being extended surreptitiously, include senior National Conference (NC) leader and Rajya Sabha member Mohammad Shafi Uri’s 12th pass son, Owais Shafi, who has been appointed as ‘Editor’ in a regular pay scale in the J&K State Sports Council (JKSSC) . Entire process, from creation of post to relaxation of rules to the issuance of appointment order, has taken place for the blue-eyed boy in three hours on April 29th, 2010.

Secretary of JKSSC, Shameem Ahmed Laharwal, and Secretary to Government Technical Education, Youth Services and Sports, Bashir Ahmed Runiyal, have clandestinely conducted entire exercise on the last day of Durbar in the winter capital, obviously in an attempt to keep it a secret. Exactly in the same manner had then National Conference government’s head, Dr Farooq Abdullah, sanctioned Owais Shafi’s appointment as Assistant Tourist Officer (ATO) on the last day of Durbar in Srinagar on 29th October in 1998. That infamous backdoor appointment was later terminated by Jammu & Kashmir High Court as well as Supreme Court of India.

The post of Editor, in the pre-revised pay scale of Rs 4,000--6,000, has been specially created and the coalition MP’s son appointed inspite of the fact that he has absolutely no qualification or experience for the job. His highest academic qualification is Class 12th pass and he had also crossed the age-bar of 37 years on the day of his second successive backdoor appointment.

“As approved by the Vice President, Sports Council (Hon’ble Sports Minister) vide communication No: PS/HM/ME,TE &YSS/1003/10 dated:- 29-04-2010, sanction is hereby accorded to the creation of one post of Editor in the grade of Rs 4000-6000 (pre-revised) in the Press & Publicity wing of J&K State Sports Council subject to the confirmation of the standing committee as and when constituted. Consequent to the above, and as approved by the Vice President, Sports Council (Hon’ble Sports Minister), Sh Owais Ahmad S/o Mohd Shafi R/o Gharkot, Uri, Baramulla, Kashmir A/P: Srinagar is, hereby, appointed temporarily as Editor in the Press & Publicity wing of the J&K State Sports Council in the pay scale of Rs 4000-6000 (pre-revised) plus usual allowances”, says JKSSC Secretary’s Order No: 269 of 2010 Dated: 29-04-2010. NC Rajya Sabha member’s son has been appointed as Editor at a time when hundreds of Post Graduates in Journalism and Mass Communication are running from pillar to post in search of a government job and scores of them have already crossed their age-bar. Government has spent huge amounts of money on their education and training for the job that has been doled out to a politician’s nearly illiterate son. It has also come at a time when JKSSC has denied benefits of 6th pay commission recommendations to all of its coaches, citing financial constraints as the biggest reason.

Secretary JKSSC, Mr Laharwal, has indeed mentioned in the appointment order that it would be subject to confirmation by Standing Committee. However, the fact is that the Standing Committee does not exist. Nominees of politicians like Shafi Uri are, by tradition, appointed as members of the ‘Standing Committee’. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, by default, will be the Chairman of this committee whenever constituted in the next four-and-a-half years.

While Secretary Youth Services & Sports, B A Runiyal, was not reachable, Secretary JKSSC, Shameem Ahmed Laharwal, argued that Secretary was competent to appoint anybody as a Junior Assistant or equivalent and the Vice President (Minister incharge Sports) could sanction appointment of Senior Assistant or equivalent. He told Early Times that Editor was equivalent to Senior Assistant and there was nothing wrong in Owais Shafi’s appointment, made without providing any chance to thousands of unemployed and highly qualified youth and thus in violation of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution. He said that Vice President was “competent” to create any post and relax all rules but failed to mention wherefrom he had got that authority and competence.

The NC leader has succeeded in rehabilitating his son through backdoor at the cost of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s claim of heading the state’s “cleanest ever government” as also Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s appreciation---“not only the youngest, but also the best Chief Minister”.

Even as Owais Shafi’s backdoor appointment in 1998 as Assistant Tourist Officer had raised many an eyebrow in hundreds of thousands of unemployed and highly qualified youth, he had joined without wasting any time. To keep then Cabinet Minister, Shafi Uri, in good humour, Dr Abdullah’s government had first upgraded the post of Receptionist in Bombay to the level of Assistant Tourist Officer and then appointed Owais Shafi on the same post. Rather than working at Bombay office, he was further allowed to stay in Jammu and attend duty at Tourist Reception Centre Jammu.

Two of the highly qualified but unemployed youth from Jammu, namely Jugal Kishore Anand, who had an MBA and another Masters in Tourism Administration, and Rajan Gupta (MTA), had challenged Owais Shafi’s backdoor appointment as Assistant Tourist Officer by way of a writ petition in J&K High Court. Mr Justice Pramod Kohli, presently a judge in Punjab & Haryana High Court, had quashed Owais Shafi’s appointment on 15-09-2003 and held it “illegal, arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India”.
Owais Shafi went to Division Bench in appeal against Justice Kohli’s order but a DB, comprising Mr Justice V K Jhanji (then acting Chief Justice of J&K High Court) and Mr Justice Basheer-ud-din, upheld the order and dismissed the LPA on 13-11-2003. Thereafter, Owais Shafi as well as then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government challenged the J&K High Court order in Supreme Court of India, by filing Special Leave Petition No: 7462-7463 of 2004, and sought maintenance of the order issued by Dr Farooq Abdullah’s government. After hearing arguments of all concerned, a bench comprising Mr Justice K G Balakrishnan and Mr Justice B N Sri Krishnan, upheld J&K High Court’s order, thus terminating Owais Shafi’s service in J&K Government on 23-04-2004.

Even as J&K Government did never consider the complainant Jugal Kishore (MBA, MTA) for any post, the meritorious youth qualified Combined Competitive Services Examination and was appointed in prestigious Kashmir Administrative Service.