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Friday, July 13, 2012

Politicians, bureaucrats at work to hush up Health appointment scam --- (3)

Minister Sham Lal: All delinquent officials, illegal appointees since 1996 will be punished soon

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 12: Even as Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, today asserted that all the officials of his department involved in the infamous Health appointment scam, as also all the 1,000-odd illegal appointees, would be punished, dozens of influential bureaucrats and politicians, including Ministers, have begun sustained efforts to once again hush up the matter.

Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, called this correspondent from Jammu to make it clear that the appointment scam involving officials of his department spanned over the last 16 years. “This is a fact that a couple of hundred appointments have taken place in 2009-2011 period but this mess has actually begun in 1996”, Sharma asserted. He admitted that 1,000 to 1,200 men and women had been fraudulently appointed in Health Department since 1996 but claimed that most of these were the illegal beneficiaries of 1996-2008 period. In its current series on the scandal, Early Times had reported yesterday that the number of illegal appointees in Health Department was believed to be around 1,000.

Mr Sharma claimed that current investigation would reach its logical conclusion “at any cost” as he was determined to punish all the delinquent officers on the basis of the final report of the inquiry being conducted by Special Secretary Health Iftikharul Hasnain Bari. He made it clear that all the 1000 to 12oo illegal beneficiaries would be got identified and prosecuted against and the government’s action in the matter would include termination of the services of all the fraudulently appointed incumbents. “Let there be absolutely no doubt about that”, Mr Sharma asserted.

Well placed sources in the government, meanwhile, disclosed to Early Times that political and bureaucratic mentors of the delinquent officers and the illegal appointees had suddenly activated themselves with the purpose of getting the investigation, as well as the government action against the guilty, stalled. This pressure group, according to sources, included a number of Ministers, MLAs, MLCs and senior and middle ranking bureaucrats and officials. If these sources are to be believed, one of two investigating teams had submitted its preliminary report about the irregularities in Anantnag district but the exercise in its other districts---Budgam, Pulwama and Shopian---had been temporarily frozen. Deputy Director (Dentistry) Dr Abdul Rashid Shah, is heading the inquiry in Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts.

Nodal Officer of Mental Health at Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir, Dr Ghulam Ahmad Wani is heading another inquiry in Ganderbal, Bandipore, Baramulla and Kupwara districts. He has not submitted even the preliminary report about any of the four districts so far. Sources said that Special Secretary Health Mr Bari would carry out a focused and specific process of investigation on the basis of the findings of the two teams of Directorate of Health Services Kashmir. An identical exercise is likely to begun under supervision of DHS Jammu, Dr Madhu Khullar, in a couple of days.

As already reported, seven senior and middle rung officials of Department of Health Services have been attached earlier this week, pending inquiry against them. They, according to official sources, have been identified as the key actors in the appointment mafia in Anantnag and Kulgam districts. They include then CMO Anantnag and now Deputy Director (Schemes) at DHS Kashmir, Dr Nazir Ahmad Hakeem.

Authoritative sources revealed exclusively to Early Times that BMO Shangus, Dr Iqbal Bichoo, had already been attached to office of CMO Anantnag but now he is among the seven officers attached to DHS Kashmir. He is alleged to have got his wife, Dr Samina Akhtar, appointed fraudulently “on contractual basis” and also got him posted under himself in Block Shangus. Then CMO Anantnag, Dr Nazir Ahmad Hakeem, has been found by the inquiry as the man who has played key role in Dr Samina’s appointment as Dental Surgeon “on contractual basis” in Shangus Block. A letter with forged or scanned signatures of then Deputy Director Headquarters, Dr Avtar Krishen Pir, and purportedly addressed to CMO Anantnag claims that Dr Samina was required to be appointed on the recommendation of “Hon'ble Minister of State for Health”. This inspite of the fact that there was neither an elected government nor any “MOS Health” on 18-11-2008 when the letter is claimed to have been written and dispatched.

Dr Hakeem is alleged to have also arranged similar illegal appointment of over a hundred people including a number of his relations. He and all other six attached officers are residents of Anantnag and Kulgam districts of South Kashmir. Sources revealed that, among them all, CMO Kulgam Dr Altaf Ahmad Beg, had not been found directly involved but he, in coordination with then CMO Kulgam Dr Nazir Hakeem, is found to have managed fraudulent appointment of several youth in Kulgam area. These beneficiaries notably include son and daughter of CMO’s Sectional Officer Manzoor Ahmad Shah.

Sources revealed that the inquiry found BMO Mattan, Dr Gauhar Abbas---also presently incharge of Amarnath pilgrimage from Pahalgam side---involved in fraudulent appointment of a number of his relatives including his own brother. Dy CMO of Anantnag, Dr Abdul Rashid Matoo, has been attached on his alleged involvement in similar appointments. However, during the questioning he claimed that his signatures had been forged on all the fraudulent appointment orders.

[To be continued]


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