Govt. mum on headless Social Welfare, ARI as Minister absent for full month
Sajjad Lone doesn’t react to reports of his resignation; Files piling up for disposal, thousands suffer for missing governance
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, April 28: With the top government offices closing here on Friday for shifting of Durbar to the summer capital of Srinagar and a Cabinet Minister staying away from office for the full month of April, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is in no position to take a review of Social Welfare and Administrative Reforms and Inspections Departments. On April 4, Peoples Conference MLA from Handwara and an ally of BJP, Sajjad Gani Lone, had taken oath as a Minister of Mehbooba Mufti’s Cabinet but reportedly displeased over allocation of an “insignificant portfolio” to him, he has neither attended office nor carried out any other activity as a Cabinet Minister.
Noticing his absence from office, media had reported that Mr Lone has tendered his resignation to Chief Minister. However, neither Chief Minister nor any other authorised government functionary reacted to these reports. Till date, Government has neither confirmed nor refuted reports of Lone’s resignation. Even himself he has remained completely noncommittal on it. In his interviews to media on the last fortnight’s incidents in Handwara, Lone parried questions over his resignation and maintained that it was “not the proper occasion” for it.
However, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh once told some journalists that Lone had submitted his resignation which would not be forwarded for acceptance. He suggested that the issue of his portfolio allotment would be solved within the BJP fold.
General Administration Department’s website mentions Lone as Minister of Social Welfare, ARI and Training but the columns of his official and residential addresses are blank.
According to media reports, Ms Mufti called Mr Lone by telephone on his arrival in Handwara in the thick of the turbulence there. However, she could not keep her schedule of visiting Handwara along with Lone and PDP’s Minister of Law Abdul Haq Khan. Lone joined her in a meeting with some residents, besides a high level official meeting, at Kupwara. Five civilians had died in Handwara and Kupwara areas after clashes erupted between demonstrators and security forces amid an allegation that a soldier had ‘molested’ a teenage girl student in the town.
Lone was in Srinagar when he received the news of his father-in-law and the JKLF co-founder Amanullah Khan’s death in Islamabad, Pakistan. His wife and two children had already reached Mr Khan’s home in Pakistan. None of the leaders of BJP-PDP alliance issued a statement to express condolences to their colleague, obviously for political reasons as Mr Khan was the pioneer of the armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.
Highly placed sources in Mehbooba Mufti’s government told STATE TIMES that Lone’s dissatisfaction over the portfolio was a matter to be resolved “within the BJP” as the Minister was from that party’s quota. They claimed that his resignation was “not pending in CM’s office”. Sources said that Ms Mufti as Chief Minister was, however, perturbed over the piling of files in the two departments as thousands of people were “suffering badly” for non-disposal of their files.
Scores of files of the J&K students, under training in different Indian colleges, are reportedly gathering dust in ARI Department as Secretary Ananl Kumar Gupta or any other bureaucrat or Minister has not been delegated powers of the Cabinet Minister. Only the files not requiring Minister’s approval are currently processed and forwarded to the concerned authorities.
Worse is the condition in Social Welfare Department where the issue of non-payment of honorarium for the last 15 months to the 600 “Helpers to Supervisors” has not been settled. Besides, from transfers and appointments of CDPOs to framing of new policy for acquisition of supplies for thousands of Anganwari Centres, scores of key decisions have been lying in limbo. Sources said that establishment of over 6,000 new Anganwari Centres would also get excessively delayed due to absence of the Cabinet Minister.
Powers of Minister of State incharge Social Welfare Asiea Naqash are restricted to some insignificant matters.
Commissioner-Secretary Social Welfare Sarita Chauhan said that “routine matters” and “coordination matters” were getting through in absence of the Minister. When STATE TIMES wanted to learn from her if a large number of the files and key decisions were pending for want of Minister’s perusal and approval, she maintained that only GAD could answer this question. “I have joined recently and I don’t have knowledge about it”, Ms Chauhan asserted.
However Ms Chauhan’s predecessor, Sanjeev Varma, who is now functioning as Secretary PHE & Irrigation, said that all the files which require the Cabinet Minister’s perusal and approval were pending until the date of his transfer.
“Good governance and good days were the promises of BJP and PDP. Now we don’t see even the bad governance. In fact the governance is completely missing in the two departments”, said a former Minister of Congress party. “Continued absence from office and Cabinet besides not discharging duty is breach of the oath by any Minister”.
[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]