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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.