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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Health’s appointment scam touched its zenith in Omar Govt –(II)

No action taken against CMOs, BMOs, CAOs, AOs, Treasury Officers, fraudulently inducted appointees

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 11: Even as Dental Surgeons like Dr Samina Akhtar were “appointed” during Governor N N Vohra’s rule in the second half of year 2008 and hundreds others in five previous years, Health Department’s appointment scam touched its zenith in the last three years of Omar Abdullah government. A large number of beneficiaries were fraudulently appointed during 2010 and 2011---parallel to the Chief Minister’s celebration of the ‘Year against Corruption’! Over 300 men and women are estimated to have been “appointed” on Class 3rd and Class 4th posts against cash payments, ranging between Rs 1.00 Lakh to Rs 2.00 Lakh, during this period.

Nearly 40 officials of the Department of Health Services in Kashmir and Jammu, as also over a dozen officials of the Department of Finance, were identified by various complaints, reports and inquiries as the key actors in the fraudulent appointment mafia. They include Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), Block Medical Officers (BMOs), Medical Superintendents of different District hospitals, Chief Accounts Officers (CAOs), Accounts Officers (AOs), Assistant Accounts Officers (AAOs) and Treasury Officers, besides head assistants, senior assistants, junior assistants and other clerical staff of the two particular departments.

However, no purposeful action was ever initiated against any of them. Whenever there was huge clamour, a couple of officials----none in Finance----were attached or suspended for a few months. They were all reinstated and invariably given prize postings. The beneficiary appointees, whose ‘appointment’ or ‘regularisation’ was ab initio fraud and forgery, continued to draw their “salaries” from the state exchequer.

Admittedly, there were some officers whose signatures were fraudulently obtained by unscrupulous subordinates. They included former CMO of Budgam Dr Qayoom who committed suicide by hanging himself to death on discovering that his clerks had got fraudulent appointment orders signed by him. However, over 95% of the officers involved in the appointment scam collected money from beneficiaries, as well as prospective beneficiaries, retained a part of it and shared another part of it with other actors of the network.

In at least five matters, even the State Vigilance Organisation’s middle-rung and lower level staff also laid its hands on the illegitimate beneficiaries and their benefactors in the Government. However, all these cases were hushed up after the “investigators” collected their share of the booty.

Chargesheeting the accused in Beerwah and Kangan medical blocks, after years of lukewarm treatment, is widely rated here as an exception. An accused official, who crossed all limits of corruption and malpractices and made scores of fraudulent appoints as BMO Beerwah, was not stopped by anybody in his elevation to the higher position of CMO Budgam. When media pointed out that he was constructing Rs 15 Crore commercial complex after having raised a private nursing home and several houses, all that he had to suffer was an extra amount of money to the officials of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), who had issued the building permission in gross violation of norms and Master Plan.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that the inquiry, conducted by a team of officials of the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir led by Deputy Director (Dentistry), Dr Abdul Rashid Shah, in the last three months, has noticed maximum of the loot-and-scoot in Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Budgam districts in Kashmir Division. Several cases of fraudulent appointment have also surfaced in Shopian and Baramulla districts. Sources said that under orders of the government, another higher level team, to be headed by Special Secretary Health and Medical Education, Iftikhar-ul-Hasnain Bari, would now carry out a more rigorous and extensive exercise to identify all actors and beneficiaries of the appointment scam. Sources said that Department of Health and Medical Education, in coordination with Department of Law, was exploring the bureaucratic mechanism of terminating the “services” of all the 1,000-odd fraudulent appointees.

Sources revealed that Dr Shah’s inquiry found the medical blocks of Shangus, Mattan, Larnoo and Sallar, in Anantnag district, as the worst hit by the appointment scam. In Budgam district, maximum of the irregularities have surfaced in Khansahab and Chrar-e-Sharief blocks.

Before his elevation to the post of Deputy Director (Schemes), Kashmir, Dr Nazir Ahmed Hakeem alone has been identified as the officer to have fraudulently appointed over a hundred men and women as CMO Anantnag, CMO Shopian and another posting in Kulgam district. His beneficiaries include a number of boys and girls who have been inducted under SRO-43 (compassionate appointment) though none of their family members had died in any militancy-related incident. Most often, appointments made under SRO-43, do not cause any suspicion among the people. Quite a large number of Dr Hakeem’s fraudulently issued ‘appointment’ orders refer to “recommendations and directions from DHS Kashmir”. None of these has been found as real.

Copies of these “appointment orders” have been purportedly dispatched to DHS Kashmir and CCed to other offices in the Government. It has been observed that none of the offices mentioned has received any such order copies from CMO Anantnag. Though neither CMO nor Director Health and other officers are by law competent to engage incumbents, gazetted or non-gazetted, on contractual or consolidated wages, CMOs and BMOs have been found to have engaged, and subsequently regularized in Class 3rd and Class 4th grade, hundreds of the beneficiaries through fraudulent means.

With few exceptions, who happened to be close relatives to the officers, CMOs and BMOs have fleeced each and every “appointee” to the tune of anything between Rs 1.00 lakh and Rs 2.00 Lakh. Qualification certificates (Middle Pass and Matriculation) of many of the “appointees” are also believed to be fake.

With an identifiable pattern in the modus operandi, most of the beneficiaries have been falsely shown as “consolidated paid Safaiwallahs” and subsequently regularized into substantive grade of Class 4th  [previous Rs 2550-3200 and revised Rs 4440-7440] by CMOs, particularly by former CMO of Anantnag. Some of them have revealed that the officers also drew huge arrears in their name from the treasuries and retained the money for themselves. A number of Head Assistants, Senior Assistants, Junior Assistants, Storekeepers, and even the drivers and domestic helps of officers, have managed the “appointment” of scores of their relatives through same dubious and fraudulent practice.

[To be continued….]


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