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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CS needs to end monopoly in Civil Secretariat

GAD, Law, other key departments need to be refurbished

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 17: ‘Mafia raj’ at Civil Secretariat seemed to be threatened with the appointment of a no-nonsense IAS officer, Madhav Lal, as Chief Secretary in Jammu and Kashmir in February 2011. A full year on, status quo is ruling the roost as it did for years, notwithstanding tantrums of successive Chief Ministers who vowed to demonopolise the services and the departments.

Madhav Lal’s entry happened at a time when contempt to rules, norms, Cabinet orders and the government policies had become order of the day. Outgoing Chief Secretary, S S Kapur, had arranged re-employment or service extension of as many as 87 retired officials in Omar Abdullah government. He was publicly accused of promoting re-employments for the purpose of engineering his own post-retirement rehabilitation as Chairman of State Accountability Commission, State Information Commission or State Vigilance Commission. He retired unceremoniously when media raised a clamour and had to return home disappointed.

Among other evils, Kapur had failed to stop relatives of nearly a dozen Ministers to sneak into their Personal Sections as OSDs, Private Secretaries, Special Assistants and Public Relations Officers. It was during his tenure that bureaucracy sat over sanction to prosecution of influential KAS, IAS and other officers who had been implicated in corruption related matters amid tall claims at the highest offices in the state. None of them was touched, even as courts refused to grant them anticipatory bails.

It was again in Kapur’s tenure that old fossils of bureaucracy stuck to their musical chairs firmly in key departments at Civil Secretariat, even after holding a post for years and decades. One of the senior KAS officers created a record of having joined the General Administration Department in 1984 as Under Secretary and retiring in the same department, without a single transfer order in 26 years, as Special Secretary in 2010. He was among 90-odd “indispensables” decorated with a re-employment. Favouritism and nepotism in induction of officials into KAS had already grown as a cancer in successive governments.

Madhav Lal seemed to be asserting when he removed one of such backdoor entrants and shifted him to an insignificant posting in Poonch. Within weeks, the official, with the support of his mentors, managed to return to a posting in Jammu. Chief Secretary put his foot down and sent him back to Poonch. But, he has yet to submit his report on the controversial appointment and KAS induction of the same official to Speaker of Legislative Assembly who desired a quick action.

The rot remains to be arrested in the field of inducting favourites in the so-called Technical Quota of KAS. Chief Secretary’s assertions had generated a ray of hope among the dutiful in bureaucracy as he looked bitterly critical of a particular KAS officer’s induction into IAS, leading to massive heartburn in the services.

Ruffling feathers among the masses in general and the services in particular, Government disclosed in recent session of legislature that that as many as 147 retired officials had been granted re-employment and extension in service in the last three years. It became clear that poor Kapur had been humbled in the controversial post-retirement rehabilitations by the new bureaucratic dispensation. One of the beneficiaries has been declared as “indispensable” and granted re-employment against the highest monthly remuneration of Rs 88,000 just days after he was implicated in a corruption-related matter by State Vigilance Organization. Not one of the Minister’s relatives has moved out of their Personal Section.

In brazen violation of the government policy, selective officials have been served dozens of transfer orders in the last three years. Others are conveniently stuck to their lucrative and prestigious postings for years and decades. GAD, that is responsible for managing the KAS and IAS services, has become the worst casualty alongwith Department of Law and few other departments.

Recent appointment of the topper of KAS batch-1984, Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad, has been widely appreciated across all bureaucratic and political cross-sections. Those having served in the department previously for years and lobbying hard to return to the key GAD have not been obliged, rightly. But, pulls and pressures are still underway to win ‘prize postings’ for a number of controversial KAS and IAS officers, known for pursuing their personal agenda.

Department of Law, nevertheless, continues to be the fiefdom of ‘old fossils’. Even after their induction into IAS, bureaucrats have remained untouched and unchanged. This has led to lobbyism and ‘mafia raj’ in the senior administrative services. Ministers and bureaucrats, who have been loudly saying that nobody was indispensable, have perpetuated an ignominious status qua in this key department. The policy framed by Law Department and adopted by the Cabinet says that officials should hold a posting for a minimum of two years and maximum of three years.

Even after veterans like late Ghulam Mohammad Thakur served effectively as Law Secretary and later rose to more coveted positions in GAD and Public Service Commission, many of the previous regimes did boldly break the mafia raj in Law Department.

Late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah got then District and Sessions Judge, Ghulam Hassan Nehvi, in 1976-77 and appointed him as Law Secretary. Later, another District & Sessions Judge, O P Sharma, also served a tenure as Law Secretary.

Years later, Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah got yet another District and Sessions Judge, namely Mohammad Yasin Kawoosa, and appointed him as Law Secretary despite availability of officials in 1987-88. Messers Sharma and Kawoosa later served as judges in J&K High Court. Even Governor Jagmohan got a local District and Sessions judge, Ghulam Ahmad Lone, who functioned as Law Secretary in the worst of time in 1991-92.

Services and governance analysts hold the opinion that judges drawn from judiciary perform in an independent and objective manner as they happen to be neither members of any bureaucratic or political lobby nor function under fear of transfer. They insist that Government would have achieved great credibility for its institutions and the all-important Law Department if an independent judge would have been got on deputation to frame legal opinions and play a leadership role in parliamentary and judicial services development. They would have been under no bag and baggage to engineer backdoor entry of their sons as their successors in Law Department. Wags call it “SRO-43” at Madhav Lal’s Secretariat.


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