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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ranjan tipped to take over as next PCCF

Kundal-backed IFS lobby blocking Tiwari’s pension settlement case

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 28: Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer of 1977 batch, Vinod Ranjan, is likely to succeed R D Tiwari as the next Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) in Jammu and Kashmir. After putting in 34 years of service in J&K cadre, Mr Tiwari is reaching superannuation on December 31st.

Well placed sources in the political establishment insisted that Vinod Ranjan, who has headed several key departments in Forest sector and has been functioning as Director Forest Protection Force (FPF) since 01-05-2010, was “most likely” to take over as PCCF on December 31st evening. He would be tried on experimental basis and confirmed as PCCF by the Cabinet in a few months subject to the satisfaction of Minister incharge Forest Mian Altaf Ahmad.

1975-batch IFS officer Jagdish Kishwan, who functioned as PCCF in J&K prior to his central deputation on 01-10-2010, is currently the seniormost officer of J&K cadre. He has been functioning as Additional Director General Wildlife in union Ministry of Environment and Forest since October 2011. Since he has already served a term as PCCF and is reaching superannuation on 30-09-2012, he is unlikely to be recalled to succeed Tiwari.

Ranjan stands at number three on the top of the seniority list. In addition to Kishwan’s central deputation, he has a couple of other advantages. His immediate junior and 1978-batch IFS officer, Pritam Chand Kapur, who has been serving as Director of J&K State Forestry Research Institute (SFRI) since October 2010, is due to retire in next two months---February 29th, 2012.

Ranjan has not enjoyed enviable reputation throughout his career. However, unlike many in the department, including Kapur and Tiwari, he does not have any departmental inquiries or corruption related matters pending against him in State Vigilance Organisation. He has been calling himself a “victim of whisper campaign”. Ranjan, nevertheless, has a veritable headache. A high level committee, headed by Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, has lately elevated two additional PCCFs, namely A K Srivastava and Lal Chand, to the grade of PCCF (Rs 75,500---Rs 80,000).

In case the state government decided to give more weightage to “suitability” than seniority, both, Srivastava as well as Lal Chand, could emerge as a threat to Ranjan. Chief Minister obviously has the final say and the Cabinet would only perform a formality, but men of consequence in the government insist that Mr Omar Abdullah had ‘no particular likes and dislikes” in Forest sector.

“Chief Minister is normally in favour of maintaining seniority. He favoured Mr Madhav Lal as Chief Secretary last year when several Ministers in the Cabinet and other political leaders had a variety of other choices. This time around, he is most likely to go by the choice of Forest Minister Mian Altaf Sahab”, a highly placed government functionary observed.

1980-batch IFS officer, Srivastava, has been functioning as Inspector General of Wildlife in union Ministry of Environment and Forest since 01-04-2009. In J&K, he last served as Chief Wildlife Warden. Reaching superannuation on 30-11-2014, he is left with three more years of service. Among all competitors, Srivastava alone is a serious threat to Ranjan in case Minister of Forest did not favour Ranjan during his “probation”.

The last in the PCCFs’ list is none other than son of the soil, Lal Chand, who has been serving as Chairman of J&K State Pollution Control Board since 01-05-2010. Retiring on 31-01-2013, he is still left with over a year of service. According to authoritative sources, his candidacy would heavily depend on strenuous lobbying of SC/ST lobby of Jammu that has been simultaneously projecting him for the vacancy of a member in J&K State Public Service Commission.

Minister of Forest, Mian Altaf Ahmad, told Early Times that a decision with regard to the appointment of the new PCCF would be taken only after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s return from overseas on Wednesday. “I am having an open mind. I’m sure, the picture would become clear after my discussion with Chief Minister tomorrow”, Mian Altaf said. He said that the incumbent would be picked up from among Ranjan, Srivastava and Lal Chand, all holding the grade of PCCF.

Meanwhile, bureaucratic sources revealed that a particular lobby of IFS officers, allegedly enjoying support of former Chief Secretary and today’s MLC of Congress party, B R Kundal, was at work to block settlement of Mr Tiwari’s pension case. According to these sources, efforts were underway to trouble the outgoing PCCF as certain officials were stressing on the fact Vigilance clearance to Mr Tiwari could not be granted until he was cleared in a departmental inquiry. Government had exonerated Mr Tiwari in a matter of alleged misuse of official position, in the matter of promotions in Department of Wildlife Protection over a decade ago but ordered a departmental inquiry. The inquiry did not proceed as Mr Tiwari got it stayed from court with the argument that the nominated inquiry officer was “biased” against him.

Mr Kundal, who headed an inquiry in Ghulam Nabi Azad’s regime, held Mr Tiwari guilty in several matters and recommended detailed investigations by SVO and Crime Branch. However, SVO and CB failed to establish any charges against him during his functioning as head of IWDP and PCB. Interestingly, Mr Tiwari is facing his career’s last official meeting with none other than Kundal at Legislative Council tomorrow. Almost all officers of the rank of PCCF, additional PCCF, CCF and Conservators of Forest (CF) would be present in the House committee meeting.


On retirement, Mehboob diverted Rs 18 Cr NRDWP funds to Doda

Meticulous planning of constituency development before joining Congress

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 26: Obsessed with his ambition of joining Congress party, senior IAS officer and Commissioner-Secretary PHE & Irrigation, Sheikh Mehboob Iqbal, has diverted Rs 18 Cr of centrally sponsored drinking water scheme to his home district of Doda. Diversion of the funds has been ordered in violation of the guidelines of National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP).

Highly placed bureaucratic sources disclosed to Early Times that Mr Mehboob Iqbal created a reserve of funds and diverted it fully to his home district of Doda with such a mechanism that the funds would be almost fully utilized on water supply schemes in Bhaderwah Assembly segment. According to these sources, Joint Director (Planning) in Education Department, Mr Matoo, who has been holding additional charge of PHE & Irrigation, played a key role in the diversion on the Commissioner-Secretary’s insistence.

Minister of PHE & Irrigation, Taj Mohiuddin, happens to be Iqbal’s political mentor and close relative but it was not immediately clear whether the diversion of NRDWP funds had happened with or without his approval. Sources said that allocation and diversion of the centrally sponsored scheme’s funds could not ordinarily happen without the concerned Minister’s approval. According to these sources, diversion of the funds took place days before Mr Iqbal’s retirement from service on November 30th, 2001, when Taj Mohiuddin had returned from Hajj and was very much present in the state.

Almost fully sponsored by Department of Drinking Water Supply of the union Ministry of Rural Development, NRDWP is being implemented in different states, including Jammu & Kashmir, with a central monitoring system. Inter-State allocation of NRDWP funds depends on total rural population according to 2001 census (40% weightage), rural SC and ST population (10% weightage), rural population managing drinking water supply schemes (10% weightage) and States under DDP, DPAP, HADP and special category Hill States in terms of rural areas (40% weightage).

“Ministers and bureaucrats can not allocate, pool or divert funds at their whims and sweet will. Guidelines of this and many other centrally sponsored schemes have been drafted so meticulously that nobody can utilize the funds for personal benefits or development of a particular constituency”, a top ranking official asserted. According to him, funds could be distributed strictly in accordance with the genuine demands put forward by Executive Engineers, Superintending Engineers and Chief Engineers.
Since digging of wells is a major component of the programme, there is remarkable prospect of the distribution to strengthen votebanks. Even as Government of India has been meticulously conducting the monitoring, nobody till date seems to have questioned the state government as to how Ministers and retiring public servants, having political ambitions, could utilize the NRDWP funds for personal promotion or electoral gains of a particular political party.

Interestingly, Congress party’s MLA from Bhaderwah, where the funds are intended to be utilized, Mohammad Sharief Niaz has been completely kept in the dark in this particular diversion of funds. Mr Iqbal, who was conspicuously present in the forefront of Mr Taj Mohiuddin’s recent visit to Doda district, is said to be claiming “direct support” from his Minister-relative as well as union Minister of Health Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Notwithstanding his involvement in Gulmarg Roshni Scandal, in which State Vigilance Organisation has established charges and produced challan in an anti-corruption court, Mehboob Iqbal has attained the image of an extremely competent government official. He is also a man of extraordinary public relations, having his admirers in almost all the political parties.

Many in political circles describe his possible foray into active politics as Congress party’s answer to PDP’s induction of Asgar Ali. Also hailing from erstwhile Doda district, Asgar Ali retired as Director of Rural Development Kashmir and much like Iqbal landed into a corruption-related episode months before his retirement. He is now PDP’s MLC.

Sources in bureaucracy insist that under tremendous pressure from certain political quarters, Law Secretary did not process sanction to Mr Mehboob Iqbal’s prosecution until he reached superannuation on November 30th and got his pension case settled without any hitch.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pir inquiring why SKIMS became a hell for “CM’s man”

Proposal to dismiss surgical oncologist Altaf Gauhar turned down

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 25: Commissioner-Secretary for Health and Medical Education, Ghulam Ahmad Pir, on Saturday started an inquiry to find why authorities at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) allegedly compelled Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s favourite and eminent surgical oncologist, Dr Altaf Gauhar Haji, to quit “in protest”. Chief Minister, in his capacity as Chairman of the highest decision making Governing Body of the tertiary care hospital, has not only turned down the proposal of terminating Dr Altaf’s service and his replacement by General Surgeon Dr Nisar Chaudhary but has also asked the senior bureaucrat to investigate why that particular file had moved from SKIMS to Chief Secretary to Chief Minister with lightning speed.

According to informed sources, Mr G A Pir drove all the way to Soura and remained closeted with Director SKIMS, Dr Shaukat Ali Zargar, for over an hour. Sources called it a ‘closed door meeting”. It was not immediately clear as to what transpired between the two in today’s one-on-one. It was, nonetheless, widely believed by well placed sources that Pir actually started the inquiry he has been asked to complete within two weeks. Earlier this month, Chief Minister had assigned the investigation to Pir after he turned down Director SKIMS Dr Zargar’s proposal to terminate the service of eminent surgical oncologist, Dr Altaf Gauhar.

Direcor SKIMS, according to bureaucratic sources, had initiated extreme action against Dr Altaf and also appointed General Surgeon Dr Nisar Chaudhary as head of the lately created Department of Surgical Oncology. Dr Zargar had demonstrated keenness in Dr Altaf’s dismissal and Dr Nisar’s appointment with the argument that only a Professor was “qualified” to head the department. After his super-specialty in surgical oncology in England and having working with hospitals of reputation overseas, Dr Altaf had returned to his home state of J&K earlier this year and joined as Assistant Professor at SKIMS.

Sources insist that Dr Altaf returned and joined SKIMS on Chief Minister’s persuasion. Being the only faculty in his discipline, he was appointed as Head of the Department of Surgical Oncology. However, within weeks, Dr Altaf began complaining that a “mafia of General surgeons and private practitioners”, allegedly enjoying Director’s patronage, had created for him “extreme hostile conditions”. In one of his strongly worded representations, he complained to Chief Minister that he was being “demoralized and marginalized” as his job profile was being encroached upon. According to the complaint, he had been given neither a ward nor a patient.

With the skirmishes between Dr Zargar and Dr Altaf snowballing into a crisis at SKIMS, the former asserted in meetings and communications that anybody not holding the rank of Professor was ineligible to head a department. Director reportedly overruled several members of the Governing Body, including Director of AIIMS Dr Deka, who maintained that Dr Altaf could well head the department which had currently no Post Graduation programme. They insisted that only departments with PG programmes were supposed to be headed by a Professor. Eventually, Dr Zargar appointed Dr Nisar as head of Surgical Oncology department.

When things came to a head, Dr Altaf in protest proceeded on leave. Since his leave had not been sanctioned, SKIMS authorities described his “protest leave” as “unauthorized absence”. Unlike in hundreds of identical cases, SKIMS dashed off explanations and got a series of notifications published in newspapers, asking Dr Altaf either to report for duty or face dismissal of service. Finally, Director SKIMS proposed termination of his services under Civil Service Rules and Regulation in vogue and submitted the file to the competent authority (CM and Chairman of Governing Body of SKIMS) through the office of Chief Secretary.

Chief Minister, according to sources, wondered how an eminent cancer surgeon, who had a high profile job at a British hospital and was being wooed by several corporate Hospitals all over India, had been pushed to the wall at SKIMS. It was all the more surprising that Dr Altaf had returned to Srinagar on none other than Chief Minister’s persuasion. According to sources, Chief Minister even pulled up Chief Secretary Madhav Lal and asked him how that particular file had traveled to him from SKIMS with lightning speed even as scores of top priority files and communications had gathered dust in red-tapism.

Sources said that Chief Minister turned down Director SKIMS’ proposal of terminating Dr Altaf’s service and his replacement by Gen Surgeon Dr Nisar Chaudhary. He also ordered an inquiry by Commissioner-Secretary Health and Medical Education who was asked to investigate as to why Dr Altaf had proceeded on “protest leave” and why Director SKIMS had shown “extraordinary interest” in getting him dismissed and replaced by a General Surgeon. Thereafter, Dr Altaf’s joining report was entertained and he was allowed to resume duty as Head of Department.

While Director SKIMS was not reachable for comment and Medical Superintendent Dr Syed Mohammad Tabish did not respond to repeated phone calls, Mr G A Pir declined to share any details. He confirmed to Early Times that he had been asked to hold an inquiry regarding complaints of two doctors of SKIMS and SMHS Hospital, both named Dr Altaf. In his overnight conversation, Mr Pir said that he had not yet started the inquiry into the SKIMS episode. “As of now, we have just informal, prejudiced versions of both the parties. I have not yet recorded any statements or examined any witnesses or evidences”, Mr Pir asserted.

Mr Pir further said that the process of inquiry would take “some days”. He said that he would submit his findings to Chief Minister as and when completed. When it was pointed out to Mr Pir why similar action (termination of services) had not been taken against doctors like Dr Manzoor Thokar, Additional Professor Microbiology, who was working at Bin Gazi University in Libya for the last over three years, he said that Dr Thokar had got the process stayed from a court of law. “We have taken action against a number of doctors who are absconding in violation of Civil Service Rules and Regulations and working in foreign countries”, Mr Pir added.


3 drivers killed in paramilitary fratricide; killer identified

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Dec 25: In a routine incident of paramilitary fratricide in Kashmir valley, three Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel got killed last night and yet another is battling for life at a hospital. The shooter has been identified after sustained questioning of six CRPF men of the camp late tonight.

SP Kulgam, Maqsood-uz-Zaman, told Early Times that at 2220 hours last night, residents at district headquarters of Kulgam, in south Kashmir, heard over a dozen gunshots. SP himself heard the volley of gunfire and Police rushed quickly towards a camp of CRPF 18 Bn. The Police party found two persons dead and two more lying in a pool of blood with critical injuries. The dead bodies were taken into custody and the injured personnel rushed to hospital. One of them succumbed to injuries when he was on way to hospital.

SP Kulgam said that the injured CRPF man was referred to SKIMS by doctors at District Hospital of Kulgam. He was operated upon in a five-hour-long surgical procedure. Doctors said that he was battling for life but claimed that he was out of danger. Death of the three CRPF personnel caused panic in Kulgam area. SP Kulgam said that the militant strike was quickly ruled out as the shootout had occurred deep inside the barrack of a camp.

Those killed in the shootout were identified as P Sibbu, Suman Pillai and Javed Hussain. Sources said that they were drivers, painters and fitters etc. Police learned from its sources that the altercation between two groups of the camp led to opening of fire by a aspirant `

SP Kulgam Maqsood-uz-Zaman said that Police registered a criminal case and took into custody remaining six personnel of the barrack for sustained questioning. He revealed that after questioning the detainees for over 12 hours, Police succeeded in getting the real shooter identified as Head Constable Fitter S K Rai. He said that the delinquent CRPF official was being arrested for legal proceedings. SP said that one among the men on duty at the camp claimed to be the eyewitness.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hasnain views 2012 as another year of peace in J&K

‘Because of US elections, ISI would not go for any adventurism’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 21: AFSPA or no AFSPA, Kashmir will continue to be the Paradise on Earth for second consecutive year in 2012. This is not Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s wishful thinking but, conversely, the belief of the country’s most ardent advocate of the controversial law and commander of Srinagar-based 15th Corps Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain.

According to an illustration of Gen Hasnain’s PowerPoint presentation at the Unified Headquarters meeting at Chief Minister’s Jammu residence on November 9th, which has been exclusively accessed by Early Times, 2012 would be a peaceful year in Jammu & Kashmir. In a professional analysis of situation in near future, which is known as ‘scenario building’ in Defence circles, Hasnain gave credit to neither armed forces nor politicians for the next year’s tranquility in Valley. He attributed the rosy picture to the US Presidential elections.

Hasnain’s classified slide presentation titled “Who Wants Revocation of AFSPA?” claimed that Directorate General of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) would not take any major decisions or risks in the year the people of the world’s biggest superpower would be electing a new head of the state. According to him, ISI would also be mute as the Nato forces would begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan and Pakistan towards the end of the same year.

Contrary to the claims of Police and political leaders of the three-year-old coalition Government, Hasnain asserted that 2011 was the “Rest Year for ISI and the separatists” as they wanted the fatigue factor to fade away from the people of Kashmir.

Gen Hasnain, however, apprehended a turning point in the year 2013. This particular year, according to the Corps Commander, would witness India’s exist from the United Nations Security Council and its immediate replacement with Pakistan and some rabidly anti-Indian Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) countries. He claimed that towards the end of Year 2013, Islamabad and her friends in the OIC would trigger off a major campaign of internationalizing Kashmir. He expected veritable turbulence and mass uprising in Kashmir in 2014 when the strife-torn state would be holding general elections for Legislative Assembly as well as Lok Sabha and the separatists, with Pakistan’s and OIC’s support, would be encouraging “mass protests and sacrifices of a couple of thousand young lives a la Arab Spring style”.

Making his averments in support of continuance of AFSPA in J&K, Gen Hasnain warned in his “scenario building” that the demand for Plebiscite would be spiraling to its highest point in the last several decades in 2015 and the following year could mark the end of Kashmir’s integration with India. According to him, this scenario would be taken to its logical conclusion by Pakistan and ISI only after creating an impression that Government of India had completely tied the hands of her security forces in Kashmir under the world pressure. Revocation of AFSPA, according to him, would serve as the watershed.

Focusing on four entities in the presentation, Hasnain claimed that after “remarkable corrections” in observing human rights by armed forces in Kashmir, revocation of AFSPA was no more a peoples’ issue. He asserted that in today’s Kashmir people wanted good “bijli, pani, sadak and governance”. While completely ignoring the sentiments of Omar Abdullah government as well as the much familiar views of the union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Dileep Padgoankar-led team of three interlocutors, Gen Hasnain claimed that only “terrorists, separatists and ISI” were dying for AFSPA’s revocation.

“Terrorists? Yes, it helps them dilute the Army's effectiveness; Separatists? Yes, because it enables their separatist activities; ISI? Yes, because it helps in weakening the Army's hold”, Gen Hasnain concluded. It was in this eventful meeting, first of its kind with the state government in J&K, that Chief Minister reportedly took umbrage on the General’s views and asked him to wind up and drop a copy of the slide so that he could “see where I fit in.”


Monday, December 19, 2011

DDK Srinagar crippled by Rs 42 Cr backlog; Rs 27 Cr liability created in 2 months

Officials shifted on complaint basis lobbying for Kashmir posting

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 19: Embroiled in unprecedented backlog of Rs 42 Cr, Doordarshan Kendra (DDK) Srinagar has completely shut its doors for hundreds of private producers, drama artists, singers, musicians and other talents who gave their sweat and blood to keep this station functional in the last 21 years of insurgency. It has been astonishingly found that just four particular officials of the station have created huge liability of Rs 27 Cr while clandestinely approving so-called in-house programmes of their favourites and relatives, allegedly on receiving bribe money, from May to July in 2011.

In a startling disclosure, Directorate General of Doordarshan in New Delhi has learned that some unscrupulous officials have burdened DDK Srinagar with meteoric liability of Rs 42 Cr in just one calendar year. Three particular producers, including two DDPs, in tandem then Director of the station, have created a sizeable liability of Rs 27 Cr by approving scores of in-house programme proposals of their favourites from middle of May to middle of July in current year. Programmes approved without any budget allocation or special outlay include drama serials and multi-episode musicals.

Even as three of the four tainted officials have been removed on complaint basis and posted at different stations, at least one of them has been assiduously lobbying to return to DDK Srinagar with the support of some officials at Mandi House and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Those roped in by his lobbyists in New Delhi reportedly include a senior official of union Ministry of Home Affairs.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that immediately after learning about the transfer of then Director, Rafeeq Masoodi, to DD headquarters in May 2011, three of his confidante producers began secretly receiving and approving tons of proposals for so-called in-house programmes. All of these programme proposals, channelised through the three ‘executive producers’, actually belonged to private producers who were favouvered on advance payment of bribe. Their family members, relatives, friends and others, including domestic helps and drivers, were being shown as the “facility providers” and paid huge amounts of money.

Sources revealed that tapes of some of these scandalously approved programmes were received from the beneficiary private parties. While as some of these programmes were expeditiously scheduled and some others telecast, tapes of scores of these programmes were still lying on cupboards of DDK Srinagar. Nevertheless, 90% of these programmes were still under production when Mandi House learned about this scandal. Then DDG North, Ashok Jailkhani, got the process stalled with a direction to DDK Srinagar.

With a communication received from incharge Director of DDK Srinagar, Shami Shair, Mandi House learned the three senior officials of DDK Srinagar had got programme proposals to the tune of Rs 27 Cr approved from the outgoing Director in less than two months.

Mandi House initiated strong action and got then Director of DDK Srinagar unceremoniously removed and posted on an insignificant position at the headquarters. It was closely followed by transfer of two DDPs. Fourth one continues to be posted in Srinagar but not holding any key assignment.

Officiating Director, Shami Shair, declined to make comment or share details. When insisted to reveal whether it was a fact or merely a wild allegation that three particular officials had created huge liability of Rs 27 Cr in just two months around the transfer of then Station Director, Rafeeq Masoodi, she confirmed that she had sent a detailed liability statement to Directorate General of Doordarshan. She confirmed that DDK Srinagar was faced with stupendous backlog of Rs 42 Cr and much of it had been created in the middle of 2011.

However, another DDK official, who is said to be privy to the communication, confirmed that just three particular officials had approved hundreds of proposals of their favourites clandestinely and thus created Rs 27 Cr worth liability. “But, all these tapes and programme files are now decaying in sealed gunny bags. This fraudulent process has been stopped under orders of Mandi House”, he added.

Sources revealed that Masoodi’s transfer was followed by shifting of two of
his key confidates. One of them, according to sources, was transferred when Deputy Director General of Engineering at DDK Srinagar and then Head of Office, Anuradha Agarwal, furnished a memorandum to Mandi House in August 2011. In the memorandum addressed to the accused DDP, with a copy to Mandi House, Mrs Agarwal recorded that the official had misbehaved with her and “tried to disrupt the National Flag hoisting ceremony on August 15, 2011”.

“Your action indicates deliberate attempt to sabotage the National Flag Hoisting ceremony on the Independence Day as well as smooth functioning of the Kendra and raises doubts about your integrity”, DDG Engineering recorded in the memo addressed to the DDP. Sources today insisted that the same official was lobbying hard to return to DDK Srinagar. He has reportedly spread word in Mandi House that a senior official of J&K Affairs in union Ministry of Home Affairs had assured him that he would be shifted and posted back at DDK Srinagar.

According to sources, all the four tainted officials, including three shifted earlier this year, were under tremendous pressure of their favoured private producers to return the money they had collected from them on account of approving their in-house programmes. “Now that Mandi House has got the process stalled, why should they retain our money?” asked a freelance producer who had no hesitation to admit that he had paid a handsome amount as “advance payment”. He asserted that in case his payment was not returned, he would approach CBI and CVC and reveal all details of Rs 27 Cr scandal”.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chairman doesn’t want any more members in PSC

Basharat likely to get 3-year extension as MD PDC; other aspirants upset

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 17: After receiving a communication from Chairman S L Bhat that Jammu & Kashmir State Public Service Commission (PSC) was not currently in need of any more members, Omar Abdullah’s government has shifted well-connected bureaucrat Basharat Ahmad Dhar to the State Power Development Corporation (PDC)---clearly to pave way for ‘extension’ of his service for the next three years. Mr Bhat’s communication is understood to have brought disappointment to nearly half-a-dozen senior government officials who had been pulling all possible strings for their appointment as members in PSC.

While the search was underway for incumbents to fill up four vacancies and a number of retired and retiring public servants were trying all pulls and pressures, Mr Bhat is said to have communicated to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that PSC did not require any more members as it was not currently overburdened. Highly placed bureaucratic sources revealed to Early Times that immediately after receiving the communication from PSC, Government began finding alternative opportunities for post-retirement rehabilitation of certain well-connected bureaucrats and officials.

Standing at top of the list, high profile Sheikh Mehboob Iqbal, who retired as Commissioner-Secretary PHE & Irrigation on 30-11-2011, was not inclined to hold any position in the government. His inclusion in a group of officials, facing charges in a corruption-related matter, is said to be a reason. However, sources close to him insist that he had long back communicated his desire of joining the Congress party to union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. His reception rally in Bhaderwah the other day has only strengthened speculations of his joining politics.

Next in the line was none other than the equally high profile Commissioner-Secretary Power, Basharat Ahmad Dhar, whose appointment as a member of PSC was being rated as a forgone conclusion. But, immediately after the negative communication from PSC, Basharat’s political patrons began looking for his rehabilitation in an alternative domain. Decision was taken to shift IAS Officer Shaileen Kabra to Animal Husbandry Department and appoint Basharat in his place as Managing Director of PDC.

Just two weeks before his date of retirement, Cabinet yesterday accorded sanction to the already taken decision. Sources said it was “merely a formality”. With this, state’s entire power kingdom will function under Basharat and the renowned NC loyalist and former Chairman of J&K Bank Ltd, Mohammad Yousuf Khan. Mr Khan has been lately appointed as head of a newly floated government company that would soon launch Rs 10,000 Cr power generation operations in J&K. IAS officer Sudhanshu Pandey would be the third key partner as Principal Secretary Power.

From Kashmir valley, three more senior officers of Kashmir Administrative Service, now all in IAS, were being rated as top aspirants for the vacancies in PSC.
They include Commissioner-Secretary of the all-important General Administration Department (GAD), Mohammad Sayeed Khan (who is retiring on 31-01-2012), Commissioner-Secretary of School Education, Mrs Naseema Lankar, (retiring on 28-02-2012) and Commissioner-Secretary of Health, Ghulam Ahmad Pir (retiring on 31-03-2012).

Messers Khan and Pir are widely rated as officers of high integrity and competence, though they do not have the history of resisting bad and flawed orders of their political bosses. They also share the distinction of having no charges of corruption against them throughout their career.

From Jammu division, retired Director of Health Services, Dr Jasbir Singh, 1981-batch IAF officer and Chairman of J&K State Pollution Control Board, Lal Chand, (retiring on 31-01-2013), Chief Engineer of PHE, B R Dogra, Chairman of J&K Subordinate Services Recruitment Board, Bua Ditta Bhagat, (retiring on 31-05-2012) besides Commissioner-Secretary Animal Husbandry, Dr Bishen Das Sharma, (retiring on 31-10-2012), who was appointed yesterday as full-fledged Commissioner-Secretary PHE & Irrigation, were all believed to be top aspirants for three of the four three vacancies in PSC.

Two more of KAS-turned-IAS officers, namely Dr Syed Mohammad Fazalullah (Kashmir) and Dr R.K. Jeerath (Jammu) and were also likely to be considered for two vacancies, one each from Kashmir and Jammu. Both are known for their integrity but neither of them has gained proximity to politicians. Both are reaching superannuation within a year.

Under SRO-52 of 2007, PSC comprises Chairman and eight members. However, there is no binding on the authorities to ensure that all the nine are in place. After the retirement of Dr Tara Singh (in December 2010), Dr H L Goswami, Roop Lal Bharti and Mohammad Manzoor Bhat (on 29-05-2011), PSC’s total strength has reduced to just Chairman and four members. Only one of the five, namely K B Jandial, belongs to Jammu division.

Chairman S L Bhat is due to retire in September 2014. Among the existing members, Javed Makhdoomi is retiring in January 2013, Khizar Mohammad Wani in January 2014, Masood Samoon in September 2014 and K B Jandial in November 2014. Bureaucratic sources said that the Government was not bound by law or precedence to act on Chairman’s advice but believed that it could further delay appointment of fresh members for PSC.


Mehbooba demands white paper on madrasa funding

‘J&K Govt has discredited the institution of madrasas’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 17: Principal opposition party, PDP, has demanded a ‘white paper’ on the controversy over Government of India’s funding to Madrasas in Jammu & Kashmir.

“This is a very serious issue as it involves not just huge financial transactions of dubious nature but also the reputation of one of the most respected institutions of our society,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said in a statement here today.

Mehbooba said like all other centrally sponsored schemes the state government seemed to have made a mess of the financial assistance released by New Delhi for the Madrasas in J&K which are established institutions of religious instruction. She pointed to the huge gap between the amount received from the government of India and figures released by the state government. “Where has the money gone?” she asked, saying someone in the government had to explain.

Mehbooba also said the obvious inconsistency in the financial allocations by the centre and its devolution to the ultimate users has a criminal implication and the govt must fully investigate it and come out with facts and figures immediately. But, of equal importance is the fact that the highly respected institution of Madrasas in the state has been brought into disrepute.

She said many leading institutions have already distanced themselves from the funding row and have categorically denied any receipts on that account. However in the process the prestige and reputation of the madrasa as an institution has suffered for which the govt is solely responsible. “Though this government has caused immense damage to almost all institutions of the state, the latest victim, the madrasas should have been spared as they are generally run with community participation,” she added.

Mehbooba said it apparently looks that some of the institutions which have benefited from the funds might even be non existent. How and under whose authority have they received govt money and whether any utilization certificates have been obtained needs to be known? She said the govt must come out with the particulars of every institution that has been shown as having received funds from the government.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Kashmir cleric demands probe in Delhi’s funding to madrasas

Maulana Hami: We never applied for grants. It’s a plot to ban genuine madrasas. List includes non-existent schools. Govt officials have swindled Crores

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 15: Promoters of hundreds of madrasas receiving Government of India’s funding to operate their schools in Jammu & Kashmir are tightlipped over the disclosure made by the state government. An alliance of Islamist organizations has, however, demanded thorough investigation into the entire episode while leveling allegations that officials of the state Education Department had obtained money without applications from many of the schools even as a number of the beneficiary madrasas did not exist anywhere in J&K.

Within a day of the sensational disclosure that New Delhi had already released Rs 3.47 Cr in favaour of 362 Islamist madrasas in J&K for current year, Muttahida Ahl-e-Sunnat (MAS) today held an emergency meeting for a detailed discussion. The list of the beneficiary madrasas includes a number of schools operated by senior MAS functionary Maulana Ghulam Rasool Hami’s organisation Karwaan-e-Islami.

What precisely prompted Omar Abdullah government to make the list public through Commissioner-Secretary School Education, Mrs Naseema Lankar, is still unclear but it has clearly stirred a hornets’ nest as the beneficiaries include clergymen who have been issuing anti-Delhi statements on daily basis. At the end of today’s deliberations, MAS held a news conference and alleged that Government officials had swindled Crores of Rupees in the name of providing financial support to madrasas in J&K.

Head of MAS and Karwan-e-Islami, Maulana Hami, alleged that disclosure of the list of 362 beneficiary schools was a “sinister plot” to close down genuine Islamist schools in Jammu & Kashmir. He claimed that his Karwan-e-Islam had neither applied for Government funding for its madrasas nor planned it for the future. According to him, many of the madrasas figuring in the list had neither applied for the state or central funding nor received it. He complained that a number of schools, shown as the beneficiaries in the list, did not exist anywhere in Jammu & Kashmir.

Maulana Hami demanded thorough investigation into the entire episode but made it clear that his organisation would not object to the madrasas who believed in seeking and accepting funding from the state or the central government. However, he said, his organisation would approach J&K High Court to seek justice and get itself cleared from the highest judicial forum. He said that the organisation would engage a prominent Kashmiri lawyer to pursue its case assiduously in the court of law.

“As a matter of fact, fake Darul Ulooms have been provided Central Government grants through State Education Department. But we have never taken any money, even a single penny in past nor do we intend to seek it in future” Hami asserted. He said law should take its course against the “fake madrasas” not existing anywhere but taking government funding in league with officials. He said that money worth around Rs 7 Cr was believed to have been already withdrawn and swindled. “Government is bound to order and conduct a thorough investigation”, Hami said.

Maulani Hami urged the state and the central governments to also release the list of the madrasas who had already grabbed funds worth Rs 7 Cr in Jammu & Kashmir.

While the clergymen have tossed the ball back in the state government’s court and a clarification from Commissioner-Secretary School Education is still awaited, authoritative sources insisted that forging documents of the centrally sponsored scheme was “impossible”. They made it clear to Early Times that the applicant madrasas were bound to sign and file as many as eight different sets of forms while seeking Government of India’s funding under the Scheme for Providing Quality Education to Madrassas (SPQEM). These sources maintained that the grants had been sanctioned after a laborious official procedure for over seven months and same had been released with publicly notified terms and conditions.

Sources said that only the Minister and Commissioner-Secretary of School Education Department were authorized to explain as to how SPQEM funds had been sanctioned without constituting State Madrassa Board and seeking its mandatory recommendations. They claimed to have no knowledge when it was pointed out that villages like Ichhikoot (Budgam) and Kreeri (Baramulla) had just one or two madrassas but the state government’s list had shown six to eight madrassas functioning in each of such villages.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beaten up ruthlessly by stone pelters, shopkeeper dies at SKIMS

CM’s Twitter silent but traders register protest, strike against stone pelters

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 14: In their first ever public assertion against stone pelters in downtown Srinagar, traders today called for two-day shutdown after one of their colleagues, who had been mercilessly beaten up on December 3rd, succumbed to injuries at SKIMS, Soura. Police have registered a murder case and arrested four of the accused persons in the current year’s first civilian death allegedly caused by stone pelters.

Authoritative sources told Early Times that 30-year-old shopkeeper Tariq Ahmad Bhat S/o Abdul Salam Bhat R/o Ranga Hamam (Nowhatta), who ran a jute-mating shop between Nowhatta Chowk and Gojwara Chowk in the core of downtown Srinagar, succumbed to injuries at Surgical Intensive Care Unit of SKIMS today. According to eye-witnesses, Police and family members, Tariq had been beaten up into his head ruthlessly with a cricket bat by a group of stone pelters who were forcibly imposing shutdown in the area on December 3rd. The group of stone pelters was reportedly demonstrating against introduction of “chilly grenades”, a non-lethal anti-riot tool, by Police.

Doctors who attended on the patient at Surgical ICU of SKIMS said that Tariq Ahmad Bhat breathed his last at 3.00 pm today. He was under treatment and observation for eleven days. “He was operated for contusion”, records said. Recordings on his death certificate mentioned ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) with sepsis with refractory hypotension with cardiac arrest” as the cause of death. Doctors from the Department of Neurosurgery, who had admitted Tariq on December 3rd and looked after him, told Early Times that the patient had sustained very critical head injury as he had been beaten up with a hard object.

SKIMS authorities handed over dead body to Police which arranged the post mortem with the cooperation of family members and traders at another hospital. Sources said that the detailed report of autopsy would be available in a few days and the medico-legal opinion could be framed accordingly.

SHO Nowhatta, Inspector Mohammad Iqbal, said that Police had already registered case FIR No: 84 of 2011 under sections 307 (attempted murder), 148, 149, 336 (rioting) and 336 RPC (collective intention of causing death) and arrested four of the key accused. He said that the FIR was converted into murder case with addition of section 302 RPC after Tariq died at SKIMS today. He identified the detainees as Suhail Ahmad Bhat S/o Maqsood Bhat, Rayees Ahmad Bhat S/o Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, Haroon Bhat S/o Ab Rashid Bhat and Ghulam Hassan Bhat S/o Ab Wahab Bhat, all residents of Rajouri Kadal.

Even as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who is known for his habit of posting Tweets quickly on such incidents, chose to remain a mute spectator, visibly outraged traders downed shutters in protest immediately after their colleague’s dead body reached Nowhatta Chowk for funeral prayers. Eyewitnesses said that over a thousand traders and residents participated in the mass funeral prayers. Later today, Central Traders & Manufacturers Association called for two-day long shutdown on Thursday and Friday in entire Nowhatta-Gojwara belt.

Speakers at the funeral and later at a condolence meeting with the bereaved family asserted that killing of the poor shopkeeper by urchins and stone pelters was “completely unacceptable” for the traders community. They strongly condemned the innocent civilian killing and demanded “strong and quick action” by Police. Some of them went to the extent of hanging the killers of Tariq Bhat to death at Nowhatta Chowk.

Tariq was from a poor family of nearby Ranga Hamam locality with his elderly parents, two unmarried brothers and a married sister. “He was the sole bread-earner for the family. We are completely shattered”, his bother Showkat Ahmad exclaimed in grief. He revealed to Early Times that sometime back he had been operated upon and a valve had been put into his heart. He too worked as a vendor at the marketplace beside Jamia Masjid but his earnings were too meager.

Tariq had set up a shop of jute mating in Nowhatta area. Two months back, he had been engaged to 27-year-old Lali Jan of nearby Bahauddin Sahab locality. Showkat said that Tariq’s wedding had been fixed in July next year. He observed that enforcing hartal, beating up poor traders and killing innocent civilians was not justified under any circumstances. “We demand Police to act and ensure exemplary punishment to the hooligans who have ruined our family”, he said.

Asked if anybody from Government, mainstream political leaders or separatist politicians had called on the bereaved family with expression of solidarity, Showkat said: “We have absolutely nothing with politics. We are not in favour of making it a political issue. It is reassuring enough for us that the traders community and leadership has outrightly condemned this barbaric incident, demanded action against the killers and expressed solidarity with us”.

SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, said that Police would arrest everybody who figured as an accused and the prosecution would be taken to its logical conclusion. He said that almost all the participants in the group had been already identified. While as four of them had been arrested, search was underway to take others into custody.

SHO Nowhatta said that the group of hooligans had marched to Gojwara Chowk after enforcing shutdown in Nowhatta and Rajouri Kadal on December 3rd. For over an hour, they even detained a busload of the students of Oak Hill School. When a student began trembling with cold and seemed to be dying, some residents forced the group to let the bus proceed to its destination. Thereafter, the hooligans struck with a cricket bat on the head of Tariq who had put up a mild resistance and was not inclined to shut his shop.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kashmir wants Azadi and Delhi’s funding for Madrasas too

Govt releases list of 362 Madrasas receiving Rs 3.47 Cr in year 2011

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 13: Government of India’s funding to 362 Madrasas, that has already stirred a hornets’ nest in Valley, became public for the first time today when Commissioner-Secretary of School Education, Naseema Lankar, released complete list of these religion-based educational institutions for publication in newspapers today. Even as many people here suspect that the financial support to the non-state schools in the Valley has been introduced by India as a tool to neutralize the separatist ideology, a number of religious leaders sought an investigation and alleged that the funding has been conducted scandalously. According to them, many of the empanelled Madrasas do not exist anywhere in the localities mentioned by the government.

According to the details made public by the state government today, an amount of Rs 3,47,85000 has been released in favour of 362 madrassas who had applied for the funding under the centrally sponsored scheme in current year. Government Order No: 692-Edu of 2011 Dated 09-12-2011 makes it clear that the funding has been provided by Government of India vide GOI No:- F.8-9/2010-E.E.19 Dated:-28-03-2011 & Finance Deptt. U.O. NO:-FD/Res/17/SPQEM/2011-12/265 dated:-06-07-2011.

“Sanction is hereby accorded to the release of central assistance of Rs3,47,85,000.00(Rupees Three Crore,Forty Seven lac and Eighty Five Thousand only ) in favour of Directors of School Education of Kashmir/ Jammu for further release to 362 madrassas of Kashmir and Jammu Province as Grant-in-aid under  centrally sponsored Scheme for providing of Quality Education in Marassa(SPQEM) for incurring expenditure on salary, Teaching learning material, establishment of library  and Science/Computer labs/workshops”.

Of 362 madrassas in 17 districts of Jammu & Kashmir, highest number of the beneficiaries,71, are situated in the hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s home district of Baramulla, followed by 44 in Anantnag and 41 in Srinagar. In addition to these, funding from New Delhi has been released in favour of 30 madrassas in Budgam district, 14 in Kulgam, 12 in Pulwama, 11 in Ganderbal, 7 in Kupwara, 6 in Shopian and one in Bandipore. Jammu division has been a reasonable beneficiary with 35 madrassas in Rajouri, 33 in Doda, 21 in Ramban, 11 each in Jammu, Poonch and Kishtwar districts and 2 in Reasi.

Commissioner-Secretary School Education, Mrs Naseema Lankar, elaborated to Early Times that the scheme had been introduced by Government of India in 2010-11. She said it was for the first time that the Centre had released funds under this scheme in favour of beneficiary madrassas in Jammu & Kashmir. Thereafter, she dropped the line and informed by text that she could ‘call later’.

Knowledgeable sources in the state bureaucracy, however, informed that under the Centrally sponsored Scheme for Providing Quality Education to Madrassas (SPQEM) as many as 712 teachers of the 362 madrassas were being provided monthly remuneration of Rs 6,000 (Rs 72,000 per year) from current year. Maximum of three teachers of a particular madrassa are entitled to this benefit. While as Rs 1.28 Cr is being provided as salary of the teachers, they are additionally getting a total of Rs 26 Lakh for acquisition of study material. Besides, Rs 1.14 Cr is being provided for acquisition of science kits and books for libraries.

Precise reason behind Government’s decision to make these details public is not known. It is, however, significant that the state government has released this information at a time when a number of Valley’s religious leaders and organizers of Islamic educational institutions are accusing one another of “making comprises on freedom struggle” and receiving Government of India’s funding “secretly” for imparting “controlled education” to Muslim students in Kashmir.

One particular cleric, who has been professing Sufi-orientation of Islamic education and has firmly asserted under violence but has lately issued strongly anti-Indian statements over liquor and cinema promotion, has become key target of critics. In the last few days, he had been demanding an inquiry into the alleged Central funding to madrassas and claiming that he or his organization had neither sought nor received any such assistance from the state or the central government.

However, when the list became public by way of an official press release today, a number of schools run by this particular cleric’s establishment were found in it. He issued a fresh statement, admitted to the funding but alleged that a number of such madrassas, which according to him did not exist anywhere, had been favoured by the government.

Without mentioning any names, Geelani has been charging “Sarkari Maulvis” with working contrary to the interests of Kashmiris’ “freedom struggle”. Frequency of the Hurriyat hawk’s statements against state-funded educational institutions has remarkably increased in recent past. Government has now, wittingly or unwittingly, provided him a tool to strongly assert against the madrassas running on Government of India’s “secret funding”.

Officials in Department of School Education refused to accept that there was anything “secret, surreptitious or scandalous” in releasing of Central funding to 362 madrassas in Jammu & Kashmir. They insisted that the funding was being provided under a national scheme for madrassas throughout the country.

A senior official, however, admitted on the condition of anonymity that “a lot of politics” was attached to this scheme in J&K. He revealed that the list included dozens of unnamed madrasses and mentioned only the name of locality like Chrar-e-Sharief, Numbalhar etc. He claimed that the funding was supposed to be granted on recommendations of State Madrassa Board (SMB) and State Grant-in-Aid Committee (SGIAC) but neither of two existed in J&K.

Sources said that an expert committee of National Monitoring Committee for Minorities Education (NMCME), constituted by Government of India in 2004, had suggested that madrassas be provided a linkage with the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) to provide for certification of academic levels, linkages with vocational education, improving the quality of education in modern subjects, introduced teacher training, enhancement of teacher salaries, strengthening of State Madarssa Boards for monitoring and raising awareness about education programmes for the Muslim community.

An amount of Rs 325 crore has been proposed for the scheme as per budget
provision made by Planning Commission in the 11th Five Year Plan in India. It will cover a total of 4,500-6,000 Madrassas and provide honorarium to about 13,500--18,000 teachers in Madrassas all over the country during the 11th Plan period.

Graduates engaged for teaching Science, Mathematics, Social Studies, Languages, Computer Application and Science, subject to availability of
a minimum of ten students in each subject, will be paid salary for 12 months @ Rs.6000/-p.m. and post Graduate/B Ed. Rs 12000/- For strengthening the libraries/book banks and providing teaching learning materials at primary/middle/Secondary and senior secondary levels, one time assistance upto Rs 50,000/-followed by an annual grant of Rs 5,000/- will be provided to each Madrassa. Upto Rs 15,000 is being paid to each beneficiary madrassa on account of purchasing Science kits, Maths kits, and other essential pedagogical equipment for teaching modern subjects.

Financial assistance will also be provided for establishment of
Science/Computer Labs/work shops in Madrassas at the Secondary/Senior
Secondary levels upto the a maximum of Rs 100,000 for each of the labs followed by an annual grant of Rs 5,000 for maintenance/ purchase of consumables.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sagar has close shave in militant strike at Zaldagar

PSO killed; 3 escort cops, civilian injured in firing at Minister’s old home

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 11: Senior National Conference (NC) leader and Minister for Rural Development, Law & Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar, had a narrow escape when militants attacked his cavalcade at his old residence of Zaldagar in Srinagar downtown. One of the Minister’s Personal Security Officers (PSOs) got killed and three more escort personnel and a civilian sustained injuries in the guerrilla attack that happened in this capital city after a long spell of peace.

Informed sources told Early Times that Ali Mohammad Sagar reached Zaldagar, in densely populated Nawab Bazar area of Srinagar downtown at arounf 7.00 p.m this evening to attend the engagement ceremony of his niece. Even as Sagar traveled alongwith his PSOs and escort and many of his relatives were waiting for his arrival, he had informed neither District Police nor Security Wing of J&K Police about his scheduled programme in the evening.

While the Minister was busy inside his brother’s house and was about to leave back for his secured official residence at Church Lane, Sonwar, some unidentified militants came close to his parked cavalcade and fired bursts of AK-47 gunfire. Four of his PSOs and escort personnel sustained injuries. Minutes after the guerrillas vanished into dark alleys, Police and civilians present on the spot evacuated the injured. All the four injured Police personnel and the civilian were rushed to nearby SMHS Hospital where Sagar’s PSO, selection grade constable Gulzar Ahmad (610/JKAP 12th Bn) succumbed to injuries. He was a resident of Gulgam village of Kupwara district.

Official sources identified the injured Police personnel as Constable Yaqoob, Constable Hashim (residents of Kupwara) and Constable Feroz Ahmad of Chadoura, Budgam. The injured civilian, reportedly a driver, was identified as Ali Mohammad of Haihama, Kupwara. Sources said that Constable Yaqoob, who sustained critical injuries, was referred to SKIMS and subjected to surgery at the tertiary care hospital. Remaining two personnel and the civilian were under treatment and declared out of danger at SMHS Hospital.

Sagar is a resident of Zaldagar, near SMHS Hospital, who has been living at protected official houses in Civil Lines since his return from Jammu in 1995. He had migrated to Jammu in the face of secessionist militancy and termination of Dr Farooq Abdullah’s NC-Congress coalition government in January 1990 where he stayed for the next over five years. However, two of his brothers and other relatives have been continuously staying at Zaldagar, Nawab Bazar.

A senior official in CID of J&K Police, SSP Srinagar Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari as well as SSP Police Control Room Srinagar Sheikh Mehmood confirmed to Early Times that the authorities, including all wings of state Police, had no knowledge of Minister’s visit to Zaldagar, Nawab Bazar. They invariably maintained that nobody in Police had been informed about the Cabinet Minister’s visit.

SSP Bukhari said that Police rushed to the spot within minutes of learning about the guerrilla strike and got the injured evacuated. He said that the Minister, alongwith his aides and associates, was escorted to his official residence at Church Lane, Sonwar. Sagar’s Public Relations Officer, Mohammad Illyas, said that everybody was shocked and surprised over the attack. He said that the Minister escaped unhurt as he was inside his brother’s house. He said that the attack happened at around 7.35 p.m and the Minister reached his Church Lane house safely at around 8.00 p.m.

Present in the capital city and holding official meetings here since Wednesday last, Sagar was scheduled to attend the engagement ceremony of his niece at Zaldagar this evening. Earlier today, he attended a lengthy meeting with senior officials at Deputy Commissioner’s office. He was scheduled to fly from Srinagar to Rajouri in helicopter on Monday. However, official sources said that the programme was unlikely and Mr Sagar would continue to stay in Valley for the next one or two days.

SSP Bukhari said that Police learned from its sources and residents that two to three militants emerged from a dark and narrow lane and they fired three AK-47 bursts on the Minister’s parked cavalcade. According to him, the Minister’s cavalcade comprised an escort Gypsy, a bullet-proof Ambassador car and a Scorpio. He said that the VIP was properly protected and escorted on his visit but extraordinary security arrangements were not in place as Police had no information about the programme.

Known for his exceptional courage to visit hypersensitive downtown interior, Sagar has seldom entertained advice from Police or security agencies in touring Srinagar localities. Even while staying at a protected house in the high security Sonwar, he has been frequently visiting every nook and corner in Srinagar. On account of his audacity, he has been a special target of militants ever since he successfully contested Assembly elections and was inducted as Minister of State for Home in Dr Farooq Abdullah’s NC government in October 1996. In 1989, Dr Abdullah had inducted him as MoS Information. During his extensive traveling, official and political activity, Sagar has been attacked by suspected militants over a dozen times in the last 15 years.

Over a decade ago, militants did not spare him even when his father’s funeral prayers were in progress at a community graveyard in Karan Nagar area. Nobody was, however, killed or injured in the broad daylight guerrilla strike. Later, militants planted a huge IED inside a three-wheeler and detonated it yards away from Sagar’s official residence at Gupkar Road. The deafening explosion that day happened near a security barrier, a stone’s throw from what is now Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s house. Later, Sagar had another narrow escape near Bijbehara in Anantnag when suspected militants targeted his car with grenades and firing while he was returning from inauguration of a bridge and a public meeting.


PSGA too a non-starter in J&K

Public and public servants equally ignorant about CM’s most referred achievement

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 10: March 17th this year became a historic day of Omar Abdullah-led coalition government when Cabinet accorded its sanction to the draft of a revolutionary legislation called Jammu & Kashmir Public Services Guarantee Bill. Until that day, just a couple of states in India had introduced the law. On July 30th, 2010, Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s government in Madhya Pradesh had pioneered the legislation and Nitish Kumar had made it a key election promise in Bihar.

Even as Omar’s Cabinet drastically reduced the number of services to be brought under its purview, this legislation was widely appreciated as an effective tool---like Right to Information Act---to eradicate red-tapism and to ensure quick delivery of ordinary services to the people. The law was passed in Budget session but it did not come into force for the next five months. Its rules were notified vide SRO No: 223 and SRO No: 224 on July 21st and finally the Jammu & Kashmir Public Service Guarantee Act (PSGA) of 2011 came into force on August 10th.

On August 23rd, Commissioner-Secretary of General Administration Department, Mohammad Sayeed Khan, issued Circular No: 25-GAD, making it clear for all public servants, as well as the people at large, that the law had taken effect and any state subject could take its benefit. The circular made it adequately clear that the concerned departments would have to designate appellate authorities and those failing to issue documents like Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) and Income Certificate would be liable to punishment like under RTI Act.

According to the state Information Department’s news releases, Chief Minister, his colleagues in the Council of Ministers and other senior functionaries of the government have over a hundred times in the last four months claimed credit for creating the pro-people law. Statistics on the graph of implementation, however, do not support their claims.

Well placed authoritative sources insist that not a single public servant has received any application or issued receipt thereto under the new law. The decades-old system of paying fixed amounts of bribes to the public authorities, mostly through their orderlies and clerks, is continuing intact. A survey through three revenue districts in Kashmir valley fails to find even a single applicant who has sought and obtained justice or a single public servant who has been punished on account of delinquency under PSGA since August 10th, 2011. And hold your breath, not a single appellate authority has been designated by any of the government departments.

“PSGA rules make it clear as to who are the appellate authorities. For example, if a Tehsildar (Territorial) is accused of violation, the Assistant Commissioner Revenue in his district automatically happens to be the appellate authority. It is a little different from the Public Information Officers under RTI Act”, said a middle-ranking official at GAD. He attributed zero-action under PSGA in the last four months to “lack of awareness” among the people as well as the public servants.

Nevertheless, another higher ranking official has no hesitation to admit it off-record that either the regime was deficient either in delivery or its will. He illustrated that Government of Punjab had floated this law months after Omar Abdullah piloted it in Assembly. “We have few services in few departments here under PSGA. Government of Punjab has brought as many as 65 services under its purview. Appellate authorities have been notified there by name and in many cases action has been taken against the defaulters”, he added.

Under SRO-224, Government has specifically mentioned several common services under PSGA’s ambit in departments of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (ration card, shifting of Fair Price shop from one place to another), Power Development (domestic and commercial electricity connections), PHE (domestic water connection), Revenue (Permanent Resident Certificate, Reserved Category Certificate, Dependent Certificate, Income Certificate, extracts of Fard Intikhab, Girdawari, Akas masavi/ latha, mutation, inheritance mutation, tatima shajra, chula, demarcation of land), Transport (Learners License, Driving License, Registration of Vehicles) and Housing & Urban Development (Birth Certificate, Death Certificate, NOCs for Construction of house from concerned departments, Building Permission).

Under PSGA officials are bound to issue such documents and provide the specified services within a particular timeframe and their default makes them liable to punishment, including fine and compensation to the aggrieved applicant, by appellate authority much like RTI Act. As of now, none of the officials even entertains an application under the law that is being mentioned every second day by Ministers and bureaucrats as a key achievement of the coalition government.


Friday, December 9, 2011

News Analysis

AFSPA: Omar’s do-or-die despite round one fiasco

But the law will never go until politicians stop playing to the gallery

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 8: Much like in Ghulam Nabi Azad’s regime, withdrawal of AFSPA and the politics over withdrawal of AFSPA have mixed again. New Delhi did not oblige the frontrunner PDP patriarch Mufti Mohammad Sayeed mainly for two reasons: Not for once did it hear the former J&K Chief Minister publicly eulogize the Indian armed forces for their sacrifices and role---howsoever controversial---in restoration of peace in the strife-ravaged state; one-time union Home Minister also seemed to have ignored that political opinion in this country was essentially subservient to professional analysis by armed forces and other security agencies in all security-related matters. That is why Prime Minister, as well as the UPA leadership, sought the last word from union Defence Minister whose opinion, obviously, was based on the inputs from the country’s principal security organization---Army.

Despite the fact that in 2007-08 Omar was a Member of Lok Sabha, who watched these developments closely and is suspected to have subscribed to  PDP’s headache, he seems to have forgotten certain fundamental lessons on the subject. He has repeated the mistake of the beaten track ad nauseum, particularly in the last few weeks. After 21 years of insurgency, one does not need to be either an active politician or a political analyst to realize that courtroom argument does not work in sensitive matters concerning this country’s “sovereignty and integrity”.

Who doesn’t know that Defence Minister A K Antony’s ‘United Headquarters’ and ‘United Command’ have no mention in this country’s or the state’s law books? Who doesn’t know that revocation of Disturbed Areas notification, that automatically makes AFSPA inapplicable, is prerogative of the civilian government in Jammu & Kashmir in case there is not a declared war or the state is not under Governor’s or President’s rule? But, at the same time, who doesn’t remember that the Congress-led Centre got a Wazeer-e-Azam of Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah’s stature dismissed and handcuffed in a jiffy in the Pakistani style of “protecting the state”?

So, Antony might not be labouring under ignorance. He might be knowing well that after the 1953 trauma, no head of the government in J&K---let alone one holding the chair courtesy Congress--- would have the spine of revoking a security-related law in confrontation with the Centre. And, the Generals in Army are in no confusion to believe that under the existing system Defence Minister would be nothing but rubber-stamp in their “professional analysis”. This is exactly where Omar erred when he agreed to “discuss” AFSPA revocation with the field commanders at his Jammu residence. He should not have interacted with anybody below the person of Antony.

Srinagar Corps Commander Gen Hasnain’s audacity of clubbing the Chief Minister, his government and party with the “Government of Pakistan, ISI Directorate, terrorists and Kashmiri separatists” would have been acceptable only to the level of Home Secretary and DGP or, for that matter, upto Messers Mubarak Gul and Devender Singh Rana.

“No is not an option”, Omar asserted next day. Hours later, he came out with the courtroom argument: “Governor has the authority (to withdraw AFSPA) and in this case he has to act on the advice of the state government”. Ultimately, the chain of errors, that began with CM’s publicly fixing the deadline of “next few days” and “before Durbar Move”, got an undesirable ring when Mr Azad ignored Antony as Mr Nobody and argued that the issue would be settled by “J&K Chief Minister and union Home Minister”. National Conference under anti-Soz euphoria failed to perceive applicability of Newton’s Third Law of Motion in India’s politics. Antony didn’t wait a day to assert that the matter would be settled by “Unified Command, not the Chief Minister alone”.

Be that firebrand Ali Mohammad Sagar or the foot-in-the-mouth Mustafa Kamaal, NC had never dearth of men cursing and demonizing Delhi and her armed forces while, paradoxically, enjoying all fruits of the “occupation”. Mr Kamaal kicked his nephew’s applecart when he outstretched his claws to the forbidden fruit---Rahul Gandhi. He seemed to have also forgotten that Assembly elections were around the corner in five states in the Indian Hindi belt and Congress had high stakes in all the five.

Revoking AFSPA under threat from NC---Kamaal’s parabola of blaming Army for grenade blasts in Valley and demonizing the institution of armed forces publicly in a hyper-Hurriyat style---has every potential of giving the much-needed handle to BJP.

On the other hand, Hurriyat fired the ultimate salvo with identical statements from both of its factions. In obvious reaction to Gen Hasnain’s apprehension that withdrawal of AFSPA would lead to Kashmir’s separation from India within 2016, statements from Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (which are used as a barometer by New Delhi in such situations) confirmed that revocation of “draconian laws” would inevitably lead to an “unimaginable mass turmoil” in Valley. Who on earth in this country would now run the risk of reviving the separatist movement? This automatically makes Antony heavier than all of his colleagues in Cabinet Committee on Security.

Even if Chief Minister wants to be politically correct for the Valley’s unmeasured separatist constituency and he does not sing a song in Army’s praise for hundreds of its “supreme sacrifices in restoring the peace”; even if he does not acknowledge that Army alone held the throat-slitting Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Haqqani Network away from Kashmir; even if he doesn’t muster courage to call the militants as “terrorists”, he may have to employ reconciliation to achieve his goal.

And, finally Chief Minister may have to remember other part of his statistics: Scores of Police Stations are still the company headquarters of CRPF and BSF; incidents of rape and killing by armed forces have fallen close to zero in the last five or six years; more youths in Valley are asking for a job than asserting against AFSPA and PSA, which are vanishing as nightmares of yesteryears.

Peace has really returned and troops have not been deployed in operations in Central Kashmir in last few years. Better remove camps and bunkers without the 24x7 cursing of AFSPA, seek Centre’s sanction to prosecution of delinquent soldiers and assign all counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland to Police and civil administration. But that will not happen until every single individual in J&K Police becomes a soldier of accountability and commitment and the armed forces are seen off by the state’s politicians with moist eyes and sense of gratitude. Building prestige, ego and jingoism would only be counterproductive. One has seen how Omar’s suggestion of amending CrPC has been assailed by all and sundry from PDP and Hurriyat to BJP and Army.