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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Minister wanted Speaker-media stand-off continue

CM’s speech failed to reach people due to a politician’s ego

Early Times Report

JAMMU, Mar 5: Stand-off between Speaker of Legislative Assembly, Mohammad Akbar Lone, and mediapersons was sustained by a Minister who, ironically, had been roped in by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as a troubleshooter and tasked to resolve the crisis. Entire media last week turned restive over the Speaker’s remarks that Press was under his control and the journalists were bound to disclose their sources if objected to by a Minister or MLA. The crisis ended after four days of stand-off when Speaker invited media back to the Press Gallery and withdrew his observation.

Rather than arranging a liaison between the outraged mediapersons and the Presiding Officer of the Assembly, the troubleshooter rode his own horse of egoism and made it a point that there was neither a meeting between the two nor withdrawal of the controversial remarks. On day third of the confrontation, some good Samaritans of the government and legislature succeeded in mellowing down the tempers. They fixed a meeting between the journalists and the Speaker, mainly to ensure that there was no boycott of media to proceedings on the day of Chief Minister’s reply to Governor’s address. Absence of media in the gallery would obviously mean total blackout of CM’s speech.

At the eleventh hour, the troubleshooter sent Director of Information, Farooq Reenzu, to make it clear to the journalists on boycott that the Speaker was neither in a mood to meet them nor withdraw the comments they were objecting to. That added fuel to the fire. When one of CM’s key aides folded his hands before the Minister and explained to him that the Government was suffering “huge embarrassment” due to the media boycott and blackout of CM’s speech would damage the interests of the government, he shouted back” “Are you only the government? Are we not suffering due to these media trials?”

The Minister, visibly shaken over disclosure of his fortune raising from 1996 to 2012 in media, is said to have provoked at least two other Cabinet Ministers and built maximum possible pressure on legislature to see that the stand-off continued. Journalists, he believed, should be “taught a lesson” before they proceeded further in their campaign of reporting corruption, nepotism and favourtism of Ministers and bureaucrats.

When the blackout of proceedings continued due to the Minister’s egoism and despite its best efforts government managed to publish CM’s speech in just one newspaper, CM removed the troubleshooter from the process of conflict resolution. His aide conveyed necessary advice to all concerned that CM wanted the crisis resolved at any cost “within today”. Thereafter, a fresh link of communication was created between Legislature and Press Club, mediapersons were assured of resolution according to their demand and invited to the Press Gallery.

Notwithstanding the discomfiture of four Cabinet Ministers, including the failed troubleshooter, Speaker withdrew his remarks with the clarification that media, like all Ministers, MLAs and others, was under his control only within the walls and matters of legislature. With that, journalists called off their boycott and the editors even obliged the government with publication of CM’s speech in the next issues of their newspapers.


Promotion of IGs, DIGs, SSPs: DPC deferred

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Mar 5: Middle and top ranking IPS officers, eligible for rank promotion from January 1st, will have to wait for a couple of weeks more as the Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC) of the state Home Department has been deferred due to an investiture ceremony at Raj Bhawan on Tuesday.

Informed sources told Early Times that the proposal of the rank promotion of several middle and top rung Police officers, that had been since forwarded by Police Headquarters to the government, would remain untouched for a couple of weeks more. DPC, comprising Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, Principal Secretary Home B R Sharma and Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, was scheduled to meet tomorrow and clear the rank promotion of over a dozen IPS officers. However, it was deferred today as a major investiture ceremony to give away honours to nearly 550 Police officers, is taking place at Raj Bhawan tomorrow.

Government has announced medals and awards in favour of over 550 Police officials for their gallantry and meritorious service since 2002 when the last Investiture Ceremony happened at Raj Bhawan in Srinagar. Since no investiture ceremony took place in the last ten years, these awards could not be handed over to the recipients.

Governor gives away the awards. Chief Minister, Ministers, legislators, senior government officials and mediapersons attend the investiture ceremony in large numbers.

Principal Secretary Home, Mr B R Sharma, confirmed to this newspaper that the DPC meeting had been canceled due to the scheduled Investiture Ceremony as both stood fixed in the afternoon on Tuesday. He said that the DPC would now seek a fresh date from Chief Secretary and meet accordingly.

Completing 25 years of service in IPS on different dates in 2012, six senior officers of Jammu & Kashmir cadre, currently holding the rank of IG, have become eligible for promotion to the rank of ADG on January 1st. They include V K Singh, who has been on Central deputation since June 2007 and is currently posted in RAW at Singapore. Others in the group include IG Kashmir, S M Sahai, IG Jammu, Dilbagh Singh, and IG Personnel & Training at Police Headquarters, Sheikh Owais Ahmad.

IG Crime, Raja Aijaz Ali, and Director Sher-e-Kashmir Police Training Academy Udhampur, Ashok Gupta, had also become eligible for rank promotion on 01-01-2012 but both of them have reached superannuation on February 29th last. DPC would now consider only Sahai, Dilbagh and Owais. VK Singh, who is likely to seek extension of his Central deputation by two years beyond June 2012, would be getting the benefit on pro forma basis.

Even as all the five substantive posts of ADG stand filled up, government has powers to create ex cadre posts equivalent to the number of substantive posts as a special arrangement. APRs of the incumbent officers for the previous five years, which should be ‘Outstanding/Excellent’ for 2 years and ‘Very Good’ for 3 years, as also clearance from State Vigilance Organisation, determine all these time-bound rank promotions in IPS, IAS and IFS.

As against the sanctioned strength of two posts of DG, J&K has currently only one in Mr Kuldeep Khoda who is due to reach superannuation on May 31st. In addition to three IPS officers (proforma/ ex cadre), namely Commissioner Vigilance P L Gupta (1984), S K Mishra (1985) and Gopal Reddy (1985), five IPS officers of J&K cadre are currently functioning on substantive posts of ADG. They include ADG Armed/ Law & Order K Rajendra Kumar (1984), ADG Security Ram Lubhaya (1985), ADG Headquarters Dr Shesh Pal Vaid (1986), ADG Home Guard & Civil Defence D R Doley (1986) and ADG Prisons Navin Agarwal (1986).

None of the eight ADGs will be having the qualifying service of 30 years for elevation to the rank of DGP on Mr Khoda’s superannuation on May 31st this year. Senior most, K Ranjendra Kumar, would attain it on 01-01-2014 and the runner-up P L Gupta on 01-01-2015. Ram Lubhaya would retire in just the 28th year of his IPS on March 31, 2013.

Minimum of six vacancies of IGs would become available with the rank promotion of Sahai, Dilbagh and Owais and the retirement of equal number of IGs, reaching superannuation before becoming eligible for promotion to the rank of ADG. While as Managing Director of J&K Police Housing Corporation, Mohammad Amin Shah, has retired from service on February 29th, IG Railway, Zahoor Ahmad Chisti and IG Armed/IR Jammu, Gulzar Singh Salathia, will be reaching superannuation on 31-05-2012 and 30-09-2012 respectively.

Among the total of 37 DIGs, eleven IPS officers of 1994 have become eligible for promotion to the rank of IG on January 1st. Only one of them, namely Javed Mujtaba Gilani, is currently on Central deputation. He too is returning to the state after completion of seven years of deputation with CBI later this month.

Others, who have attained eligibility for promotion to IG by reaching 18th year of service in 2012, include DIG Kashmir (Central Kashmir and Ladakh) Abdul Gani Mir, DIG Vigilance Mohammad Sulaiman Salaria, DIG CID Jammu, Sunil Kumar Sharma, DIG Jammu-Kathua range, Farooq Khan, DIG IR Jammu, Kamal Kumar Saini, DIG Security , P R Manhas, DIG Crime Yoginder Kaul, DIG Administration Alok Puri and DIG North Kashmir, Munir Khan.

According to sources Messers Javed Gilani, AG Mir, Sulaiman Salaria, Sunil Sharma, Farooq Khan and Dr Kamal Saini have bright chances of the rank promotion as a minimum of six posts of IG would be available soon.

Seven SSPs, who have 1998 as their year of IPS allotment and have entered 14th year in IPS, have also become eligible for promotion to the rank of DIG on January 1st. They include RP Resutra (SSP CID SB Jammu), Parminder Singh (SSP SSG), Dr Showkat Ahmad Malik (SSP CID SB Kashmir) Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba (SSP Vigilance), Abdul Hamid (CO IR-1st Bn) Mushtaq Mohammad Sadiq (Principal PTC Manigam) and Shakeel Ahmed Beigh (SSP Udhampur).


Govt has no faith in Accountability Commission

CM, Peerzada, advisors, Chairpersons rush to High Court before being declared guilty

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Mar 4: They are all indisputably by law entitled to seek any relief from High Court. But, what the top functionaries of the Executive have conveyed by getting proceedings of Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission (SAC) stayed in last two weeks, is bizarre: They have no faith in the accountability watchdog they have been hailing invariably at all public meetings.

Everybody, from Chief Minister to Chief Secretary and Ministers to Commissioners, has been appreciating it as a proud achievement of the National Conference-led coalition government that Public Service Guarantee Act had been introduced, State Information Commission (SIC) constituted and the SAC revived in the last three years. Particularly in the last one year, there has been hardly a statement, press conference or public speech which has gone without claiming credit for these “revolutionary achievements”.

In a reality check, one counters little hardship to learn that over 95% of the public servants as well as public continue to be ignorant of PSGA. State Vigilance Commission has failed to get its Chairman and members since February 2011 when it was constituted. SIC was better placed in the sense that it got its Chairman and two members. Later, SAC too got its Chairman and one-odd member after years of suspended animation. While the SVO does not exist beyond a one-page Government Order, both SIC and SAC have been craving for staff and infrastructure. According to responsible sources in both the Commissions, neither staff nor infrastructure has been provided by the government’s Department of Law, Police and Judiciary. Repeated requisitions and communications to Law Secretary have fallen on deaf ears. Registrars, Secretaries and entire staff for SAC’s investigation cell have not been arranged.

“I am happy”, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah boastfully asserted at a public meeting at Magam last month “that my government has created a Commission (SAC) that is making the Chief Minister accountable”. His assertion came close on the heels of SAC asking the government how around a dozen legislators and non-legislator politicians had been appointed as heads of different statutory bodies and granted the status of Minister or a Minister of State. SAC’s notice to CM, his advisors and heads of various boards came when a petitioner questioned the legality of the government orders.

As everybody expected the government to come up with an explanation to satisfy the SAC, it dramatically changed the course and invoked ‘ad interim relief’ from the superior judicial forum---J&K High Court. As prayed, a judge of the High Court granted the relief. This happened at the primary stage, far before SAC found any of the respondents guilty. Rather than filing its affidavit and statement of facts, as demanded by SAC, Ministers---those on oath as well as without oath---and their superiors in the Executive doled out public statements in defence of the Government action. It was widely published that identical arrangements had been in place not only in previous successive governments in the state but also in the incumbent UPA government at the Centre.

Similarly, Minister of Public Enterprises Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed lost no time in rushing to the High Court and getting the proceedings against him stayed when SAC took suo motto cognizance of a matter of unfair means in which family members of the Minister were allegedly involved. Again, it happened at a preliminary stage when SAC desired to learn from the respondent if the matter reported in media was true and if he had any participation in it. Before the charges could be established and any recommendations against the Minister submitted to the Governor, he ran for relief.

Previously, Peerzada was among dozen-odd former Ministers and legislators who got the SAC proceedings, judgments and recommendations against them stayed from High Court. Contrary to the instructions from Supreme Court---that corruption related matters be given top priority in disposal---successive governments in the last 10 years made it a point that the status quo was not got quashed in a single matter. SAC itself was made defunct by not appointing its Chairman and members.

In a matter of established charges against a Cabinet Minister, as investigated and concluded by State Vigilance Organisation for nearly 25 years, sanction to the prosecution was denied by Chief Minister on the ground that it was an old case that came up repeatedly in sessions of Assembly and caused embarrassment to the government. SVO was directed to close the matter and file ‘Ikhtitami’ in an anti-corruption court with the plea that it was an old case and many of the witnesses had either retired or expired.

Now, all eyes are on Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather. Even as sources close to him insist that Mr Rather would appear, in person or through an attorney, and make it clear that the allegations against him---in the matter of making biometric cards for 5000 Secretariat employees---were “completely unfounded”, few in the state believe that he would not follow Peerzada, advisors and Chairpersons of statutory bodies.

This sequence of recent incidents does indeed come with ultimate relief for Ministers and other top functionaries in the government. But, at the same time, it raises a bigger question: If the creator-government does not have faith in SAC, why an ordinary citizen should?


Minister’s son under cloud in Rs 9 Cr TMT bar scam

Vigilance completes investigation, files FIR against Director SPD

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Feb 28:  In order to swindle a huge amount of money for the benefit of a Minister’s son from Srinagar, senior officials of Stores and Procurement Department (SPD) have acquired Thermo Mechanically Treated (TMT) bars of steel from a Jammu-based steel manufacturer and thus caused loss of Rs 3 Crore in the contract of Rs 9 Crore to the state exchequer. State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) has filed FIR against a Chief Engineer after completing preliminary investigation into the complaint.

Highly placed authoritative sources disclosed to Early Times that the SVO in Jammu received a complaint sometime back which claimed that a Chief Engineer of Mechanical Engineering Department, then posted as Director of SPD, had issued a supply order to Jammu-based Jehlum Steel Rolling Mills and New Kashmir Rolling Steel Mills on the recommendations and interventions of a Srinagar-based politician and a Minister’s son in 2010. Director SPD, namely Mushtaq Ahmad, issued a notification through media, calling quotations for supply of a huge quantity of TMT bars.

While the grade of the steel to be procured was recorded as Fe-50 in some registers, other documents showed it as Fe-50 D. Promoter of one of the firms, namely Tarun Shingla, was reportedly a non-state subject who has, over the years, succeeded in getting Permanent Residence Certificate from Department of Revenue. While some believe that Shingla and the Minister’s son were “simply friends”, others insist that both there partners. While the former was responsible for manufacturing and procurement of steel, the young politician, according to many in the business, was a “silent partner”.

During the course of preliminary inquiry, SVO sleuths found that the Minister’s son was the main beneficiary of the money drawn on account of execution of the supply order. Initially, the order was placed for procurement worth Rs 2.50 Cr. It was, however, gradually raised to Rs 9.00 Crore. Sources insisted that the contract had given profits worth Rs 3.00 Crore to the duo.

Sources said that the Minister’s son, who had surfaced as a conduit during the preliminary inquiry, was likely to be interrogated and grilled. “If charges are established against him, he would be straightaway booked and even arrested”, a senior official at SVO said.  Quite a number of officials were nevertheless pessimistic. They maintained that the matter would be hushed up like many of similar cases in the past. They believed that SVO had failed to retain its credibility unlike CBI, NIA and other investigating agencies at the Centre mainly because it had been vulnerable to pressure and interventions from Ministers and bureaucrats. They pointed out that Chief Minister had ignored all media reports that revealed two years back that a Cabinet Minister wanted SVO to “go slow” in the infamous Gulmarg Roshni land scandal.

Interestingly, beneficiary of this particular scam happens to be the son of a Minister who accused media of “launching media trial” against the Ministers earlier this week. Sources declined to reveal his identification but said that his family’s assets were being estimated to have reached worth over Rs 50 Cr from 1996 to 2012.

 SPD is a separate organisation responsible procurement of different types of steel being used in construction of bridges, flyovers, buildings and other construction executed by R&B Department.

Sources did not reveal the irregularities observed in detail but indicated that one grade of steel had been purchased and payment had been drawn for a different grade of the metal.

TMT bars that have uniform and concentrated hardened periphery and the softer core will have the desired tensile strengths coupled with high elongation as required in seismic zones. Procurement of this form of metal is being justified in Kashmir particularly after it has been placed in a hypersensitive seismic zone.

While as former Director of SPD, Mushtaq Ahmad, was continuously not reachable, incumbent head of the organisation, Ramesh Handoo did not respond to calls from this newspaper.


YesMinister, Early Times has no credibility!

The magic of making millions onsalary of Rs 40,000 a month

JAMMU, Feb 26: “agar miani dasi aayi kaanh beqlaazi, khattamuaf karizem” (Forgive my lord please, if I have erred”  was the stanza every individual in thenProgressive Movement, and beyond, mugged up from Rehman Rahi’s classical “MuafiNaama”. Sher-e-Kashmir’s National Conference conveniently dismissed Rahi as afrustrated Bakra (follower of Mirwaiz dynasty) and trashed his ode of satire.The tradition of intolerance in NC remains unchanged nearly 60 yearslater---‘if you are not with me, you are against me’!

On Saturday last, PDP’s Plato did not carry ET alone to support and substantiate his chargesheet ofcorruption against the Navratans of Mr Clean. He did equally heavily rest onthe Srinagardaily the Minister wouldn’t dream to denigrate. ‘The newspaper you are quotingis devoid of any credibility” decreed the Minister to silence the Plato.

Not a single press releasefrom the NC spokesman in the last over a decade is without extolling theparty’s achievement of giving “freedom to press platform”. No less a personthan Chairman of Press Council of India has now brought into question theNC-led coalition’s intolerance to the fourth estate. The temple of democracy insession deserves to know what precisely has irked the Minister.

Men of stature in thecoalition insist that the ‘honourable minister’ got exasperated when ET choseto be critical of his midnight press conference, held only to denigrate CRPF as“an unbridled force”. ET’s apprehensions came true when CRPF lost its morale ata crucial juncture in 2010 and soon the Valley’s 13-year-olds began frisking passengers if any one of them was from ‘Ponda Police’---a derogatory termcoined by Police-protected separatist leaders to shatter the state police.Fatal casualties were less than 10 when the Minister bowled his full-toss. Soonthe number spiraled to 110 in a geometrical progression.

Church Lane in the summer capital frowned but did not contradictwhen ET made a cursory reference to brazen corruption and wanton irregularitieswitnessed in Srinagar Municipal Corporation in ‘selling’ building permissionsduring the stewardship of Mr Haq Nawaz. Without digging deep, the ET storyrestricted to the shopping malls and other commercial complexes coming upwithout an iota of regard for Master Plan and even without a provision forparking in the crowded Srinagaruptown. Feathers in the Church  Lane ruffled on a passing reference to a palatialhouse being raised on a piece of notified land, just outside the first entrypoint of Srinagar Airport.

Rs 10 Crore palace,splashing on the slopes of Humhama Karewa, actually belonged to the ‘Father ofthe City’ and his father who on Saturday shouted on PDP’s Plato to flush ET downthe toilet. The Minister’s whispering into the ears of Mr Clean continuedinspite of the fact that ET did not reveal in detail how the Mayor put theCommissioner under pressure to issue permission of former’s house in relaxationof all norms of propriety and moral binding. It did not even reveal how thepoor politician, who earned livelihood out of petty R&B works and a tipperin Jammu in1996, rose to become owner of this Rs 10 Cr property overnight. ET did neitherask how same politicians had raised not one but two palatial houses worth Rs 6Crore at Roop Nagar and Sidhra in Jammuin six-year tenure as a Minister in 1996-2002. It did not either unwrap howcontractors were subjected to extortion to raise a corpus for the foodprocessing business the Minister’s son-in-law. Not a question even on the factof this non-government gentleman getting a Ministerial accommodation at TulsiBagh in Dr Abdullah’s regime.

ET did not reveal how BOCAhad issued the permission without a mandatory NOC from the Revenue authoritiesin Budgam. It was, in fact, a matter of investigation either for StateVigilance Organisation for J&K Accountability Commission to know how theNOC, if any, had been issued by DC Budgam for the structure proposed on a pieceof notified land. Even today, owners of all adjacent premises are being deniedNOC on the plea that the land stood notified and private houses and businesseswould not be permitted so close to the hypersensitive Srinagar Airportand IAF base.

ET did neither investigatenor report when responsible citizens, including men in the government, broughtto its notice that the same Minister was on a buying spree and had acquiredover 50 Kanals of land at different spots on either side of National HighwayBypass from Nowgam to Bemina. It was, admittedly, partly due to
the fact thatthe politicians’ benami transactions are often subject of a laboriousinvestigative exercise.

Even in the last one year,ET did not report how the Minister and his family members purchased 60 Kanalsof an orchard, once owned by late Sadiq Ali’s father, at Kikker Mode,Chondpora, on Budgam-Beerwah Road. When Tehsildar Territorial of Budgam,objected to illegal annexation and grabbing of 10 Kanals of Kahcharai land and construction of theboundary wall on the state land, he was publicly beaten up by the men at work. Eventhe senior Revenue authorities in the district did conveniently shut eyes.Emboldened by the administration’s ignominy and silence, the owners demolishedthe boundary wall and raised it afresh well on the road. Now five huge godowns,being leased out to Food Corporation of India (FCI) and Department of ConsumersAffairs and Public Distribution (CAPD), are nearing completion on the samelands.

This property, which wasstrategically acquired in the name of two non-descript individuals after thesale was settled through ‘dalals’ atMughal Durbar restaurant in Srinagar,is currently valued at Rs 10 Crore. Who are the influential men behind, MrClean and his “generously equipped” Accountability Commission must find. Theymust, once for all, solve the riddle of a Minister’s making millions andmultiplying them on the monthly salary of Rs 40,000 a month. Oh yes, it hasbeen hiked to Rs 90,o00 a month since last year.

 Yes, ET perhaps crossedthe limits when it reported about the administrative Secretary of the sameMinister that, with the advantage of the Minister’s as well as FinanceMinister’s support of silence, he swindled a sum of Rs 26,000 from a publicaccount and transferred it to his personal salary account on account of theexpenditure on his purely personal visit to Chennai. Minister of Finance wenton record to order an investigation and see how a Government official,responsible for giving legal opinion to the government, had himself indulged inembezzlement of the taxpayers’ money for his personal luxury. The ‘inquiry’ isyet to see the light of the day.

 Yet another matter of thesame administrative Secretary was completely ignored and hushed up by the sameMinister when ET reported how his poorly qualified son was being appointed asPublic Law Officer despite the fact that he stood away from the cut-off fixedby Public Service Commission. Despite the detailed investigative story, carriedby ET with clinching evidences and proofs of fraud, and without a line ofclarification or rejoinder by PSC or the concerned department, the bureaucrat’sson has been reportedly declared successful and appointed as PLO. In thismatter too, where a father is issuing appointment order of his real son, this‘honourable Minister’ has afforded to either lend his support or remain a mutespectator.

 So, how can the ET becredible for this firebrand Minister? Since neither of the omissions andcommissions of his department’s administrative Secretary is benami, he must speak or else eat thehumble pie.