Muzaffar Bhat addresses a topical issue on how corruption is institutionalized in J&K
(Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, 32, was born in Wathoora village in the Budgam district and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial High School in 1993. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery from from the Karnatka University in 2000. He has a private dental practice in Chandoora and is a social activist dedicated to educating public on the Right To Information legislation.)
Truely speaking corruption is one of the gravest problems faced by common people globally. If we talk of our state Jammu & Kashmir Common man has been sandwitched between corruption and and the political in stability prevailing in Jammu and kashmir since last 18 years. These two problems have hampered the smooth functioning our whole administrative system to such an extent that it seems very much difficult to overcome this menance. I want to throw light on the corruption scenario prevelent in jammu and kashmir and the ways to overcome it. It is more paining to see from the recent statistics of “TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL” that our state ranks no 2 after Bihar with regard to corruption.Life of a common man has been crippeled by the people belonging to a section of the society who induldge in mal and ill practices without caring for common people.
The rise of unemployment in our state is directly proportional to corruption related malpractices in the government departments. An estimated 500 crore rupees are misappropriated annually by Govt officials of all ranks in our state. With the result Govt is not able to provide jobs, subsidies and low intrest loans to unemployed educated youth as the money goes into pockets of Ministers, Bureaucrats, and other Govt officials illegally. In this context many social, psychological, and mental problems are crippling the mindset of unemployed and highly educated youth to such an extent that the graph of drug addiction, depression and other psychiatric ailments has increased manifold since last 10 years. Many qualified and educated youth have crossed upper age limits put forward by Govt for getting into govt sector.An estimated 40% Urban boys and girls who have crossed 35 years of age and are still un married as they dont get proper match due to being un employed. Who is to be held responsible for this alarming pathetic social and psychological degradation?
To crack down corrupt Govt officials in J&K State Vigilance Organisation is doing an appreciable job. But due to lack of man power especially dearth of officers this agency too is not able to do its job in a more better way. Moreso state govt too is not cooperating with it, putting a question mark on its credibility. Since last two years vigilance org has netted many corrupt govt officers, but there are many many big fishes who are still out of its trap. It is not the fault of vigilance org but it is clear apathy of state govt as they are not giving sanction under section 6, prevention of corruption act, for the prosecution of top level bureaucrats and politicians. One of the such cases is “Jute mat scam” in education department, which was talk of the town few years back but inspite of the fact that a top level IAS officer was challaned in this case but till his retirement govt did not gave sanction for his prosecution. There were three people mainly accused in this multicrore scandal.one was the contractor for him no sanction was needed,other was the then chief accounts officer (CAO) in civil secretraits education Deptt and third person was the then Principal Secretary education deptt. Sanction was granted by state Govt to prosecute Chief Accounts officer but as for as the Principal Secretary is concernned it was to be granted by Ministry of Personnel Govt of India . Till his retirement few months back neither state nor central government granted the requiste sanction for his prosecution and instead the State govt reinstated the bureaucrat then who was under suspension for nearly one year. When govt machinary is shielding such people where to knock the doors for justice? There are other corruption scams which have been kept untouched by the govt agencies here. What happened to Multi crore rural electrification scam? State Accountibility Commission has named a high profile ex minister as the main accused in this scam but no body dares to prosecute him.I remember when the accountibility bill was tabelled in the state assembly that time. Law Minister Muzaffar Hussain Being clearly said that even Chief Minister will be held accountible before this commission if found guilty, but every thing turned out to be fake. This commision was termed as the Dead Horse by its ex Chairperson.
I remind Mr Azad our Chief Minister about his dream of “Khushhaal Kahmir”. There is no change felt on ground, nothing has changed. It is true that he has empowered vigilance org to a great extent rather more than the previous governments, but when the question of cracking down of Politicians, Ministers and Bureaucrats arises he seems to be helpless. If he is really dedicated to eradicate corruption from our state then the Vigilance organisation or Accountibilty commission should not be limited to trap lower rung officers only but these agencies must be given free hand to trap any high profile bureaucrat or a politician. Accountibility commission must also check the assets of Vigilance officers who are kept untouched till now.They are accountible before whom? This is a big question mark on our administration. Very few IAS, IPS or KAS officers are being caught by vigilance organisation rather this number is negligible.We have many top Police officers and bureaucrats in our state who have amassed huge properties, erected big mansions, owning costliest cars and having other assets in posh areas but still our vigilance organisation is a mute spectator. Why? Why this stepmotherly treatment with lower rung officers? Why are they being made scape goats? I never want to defend their immoral and un ethical activities but just to remind our government about its dual policy. If we see the recent prosecution list issued by GAD about sanctions granted for prosecution we can see only patwaries, girdawars, junior assistants, junior engineers, head constables et all in this list with exceptionally a few gazetted officers . This is clear sign of favouritism and hypocracy on part of our state administration. If big fishes are caught it will have a tremendous impact on other top govt officers and ministers and may be they will shun this illegal path once for all. In addition to this J&K Right to Information Act 2004 must be made more stronger and functional.This Act will help to reduce the graph of Corruption in our State. It is so sad that our govt officials and general masses are not familair with Right To Information Act (RTI Act). Only one lack rupees have been earmarked for the publicity of RTI Act which is a very very small amount. The recent ammendments in this act too are not impressive. There is no provision of penality for the erring government officials who refuse to share information with the applicant or who provide wrong information.As per central RTI Act such erring officer is fined Rs 250 per day and this amount is deducted from his salary. Even the section 7(1)of cntral RTI Act is not present in this amended act.As per section 7(1)the information related to life and liberty of a person is to be given within 48 hours only. Incorporation of this section in J&K RTI Amended Act is need of the hour bucause of exixtance of Armed forces special powers act.People are being picked up by security agencies without informing their relatives but under this law they are bound to provide the information of the arrested man within 48 hrs only. Judiciary and legislature are not being covered by the amended act. There is no provision of Assistant departmental information officer. As per Central Act in each department there is a one Public Information Officer (PIO) and as many as Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) who deal with the RTI related pleas, but in the amended J&K RTI Act there is no such provision. Only one departmental information information officer has been designated to deal with RTI related issues. This officer will be stationed at each district headquarters but the problem arises that people of far flung will again be deprived of excersising their right under this great legislation. Hardly any person from far flung areas will afford to go to district headquarters and file RTI plea before DIO. The only solution to it is to appoint Assistant Departmental Information Officers (ADIOs) at block and tehsil level in the same way where there are APIOs in other states. To create awareness about RTI Act govt must organise awareness programmes in schools & colleges. RTI must be included in the school syllabi in the same way as has been done in Maharashtra state i.e. RTI has been included in Civics books of 9 & 10. Programmes on RTI must be telecasted on TV, in this context local cable networks need to play a pivotal role. This is true that J&K RTI Act is weak, but as for as sharing of information by govt deptts is concerned they have to share it with Citizens under this week act also.
Right To Information Act will help the citizens of our state to seek information from all the govt deptts regarding developmental works like Roads, Buildings, power, ration cards, old age pensions etc. They can seek information on estimate of work, material used etc from various govt agencies. They can also make the physical verification of developmental works.Even the information regarding human rights violation too can be ascessed under this act. People can seek information about all those persons who are missing in custody of security forces. If we want to see J&K a corruption free state then state govt must enforce RTI Act strictly. An ordinance must be passed by the government to incorporate all the important provisions which are missing in the amended RTI Act,this is my earnest appeal to honourable CM. J&K wont be a “Khushhaal State” unless corruption is fully eradicated . To eradicate corruption Right To Information legislation is one of the best tools.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
Convenor, J&K Right To Information Movement