“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Javid points to glaring examples of corruption in the State Administration and the State Assembly, indicating that every one who can milk the system usually does

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 65, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. Dr. Iqbal is the Vice Principal, Controller and the head of department – Operation Theater Technology at Tahira Khanam’s Paramedical Sciences Institute, Lawaypora, Srinagar. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

Graft, Malpractices in administration

Graft and malpractices galore in J&K State, while it is reported that an embarrassed J&K government has finally stepped in with a new mechanism to punish the tainted officers and weed-out the menace. As is usual when the problem surfaces in a major way, committees and commissions are set-up. A committee had reportedly been set-up to devise a mechanism for ‘removal of corrupt officials from the state administration’. It had decided to go tough against corruption, beginning with the launch of departmental inquiries against at least 250 tainted officers against whom prosecution has either been sanctioned or is under-process.

Add to it the latest, the reported tightening noose around the ‘tainted’ officials in the state administration, Jammu and Kashmir government, it is reported has charge-sheeted around sixteen officials – including a senior KAS officer allegedly involved in multi-crore land acquisition scam, besides recommending departmental action against 48 others. Far from setting at rest the concern being expressed widely, it is bound to add to the existent skepticism. The people in general take the formation of committees and commissions in a different light than how the government perceives such measures. And if an end result is estimated, more often than not, public perception is nearer the truth than what the governments think of devised measures!

Despite the public skepticism, the successive governments do not stop the drill of posing to be ‘Holier than Thou’. Such a dramatic presentation in the latest episode of another show of concern depicts Chief Secretary Madhav Lal overseeing the ‘Tamasha’ of booked officials being treated by what is noted in the book. The book of state laws that cover irregularities has been in the past found to have enough loopholes or enough safeguards for any tainted official to escape lawful action. Law as such is more known by its violation than its implementation.

Government in the present instance is exhibiting a flurry of activity. General Administration Department (GAD) has been reportedly put on the job of proceeding with granting sanction to prosecute all those officials, who have been booked by the state Vigilance organization in various graft cases. Vigilance commission bookings have had a parallel departmental action under Service Rules. The number of cases touted by the state—16 against whom proceedings are complete, 48 other against whom proceedings are going on is just the tip of the iceberg. The new regulation of proceeding with the prosecution sanction as well as the departmental action simultaneously against the erring officials, reportedly as a result of a circular issued by Chief Secretary’s office is supposed to be a serious measure in tightening the noose. While the concerned citizenry would welcome any move in the direction of bringing the guilty to book, the prevailing skepticism refuses to fade away. Too often such proposals, fresh measures have had a quiet burial over a period of time.

Government! Even if it is taken as sincere in its prosecution drive would still stand accused of half measures as the numbers being quoted are a bare fraction of the wide phenomenon. The miniscule numbers quoted by government sources and reported by the print media in the past few weeks can hardly impress anyone versed with the width and the depth of malpractices in the administration. While as in the current year 2011, sanction for prosecution of 48 officers has been accorded by GAD on the recommendations of the State Vigilance authorities, the
numbers quoted of last three years–38 prosecution sanctions in 2008, 45 in 2009, 52 in 2010 with an expected clearance of more than 60 cases this year, as per the sources quoted in the media makes hardly the numbers, government could boast about.

The malpractices are not limited to taking bribes and getting into gross irregularities while doing the job the government servants are supposed to do in lieu of what they stand legally paid for. Malpractices of varied nature are going on in indiscriminate spending by officialdom in a state where there is a serious resource crunch. The reported revelation in an answer to a query by PDP legislator Mushtaq Ahmad Shah in the recently concluded legislative assembly during question hour that Rs 26 crore has been spent on renovation of official residences in J&K State is shocking in a state with resource crunch. The money has been spent on renovation and repair of official residences of ministers, legislators, bureaucrats and employees in Jammu and Kashmir during the last two years. In a break-up of the money spent, it states that Rs 12.35 crore and Rs 13.83 crore expenditure has been incurred on their official residences during 2009-10 and 2010-11 in Jammu and Srinagar, adding that works like renovation of bathrooms, kitchens, sanitary fittings, electric fittings, painting etc have been carried out with this money.
It was also disclosed that the government also said that annual repair/ renovation works are executed through proper tendering process. “However, in case of urgent demand, certain works have been carried out departmentally /through piece workers,” it adds. Besides there is another source of concern—TA/DA bills and fuel of cabinet ministers, ministers of state and persons conferred with the status of minister of state during the last three years. In a written reply to a query of BJP legislator Ashok Khajuria, the state government revealed in the assembly that Rs 4 crore 78 lakhs expenditure has been incurred on TA/DA bills and petrol of ministers of the ruling coalition during 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, while Rs 2.36 crore has been incurred on their TA/ DA, Rs 2.42 crore was spent on petrol for their vehicles. This non-productive expenditure is un-affordable, hence un-acceptable for the state with a serious resource crunch. It needs to be curtailed and brought to a level that could be affordable!

The political executive, the legislators, the higher officials have to tread with care and they may not be seen in poor light and get accused of behaving irresponsibly while expecting regulations to be abided by those in the lower rung of administration. The reform, moral practices have to be initiated at the very top in order to ensure compliance of official regulations and a cleaner administration. J&K State, it is widely recognized has a serious governance deficit. Watch dogs have in recent years commented adversely on the state, which simply cannot get its act right. To be fair, it may not be said that J&K is the lone culprit. Corruption, graft, malpractices abound in other states of the Union, and in other countries too; however in recent times, it has assumed serious proportions in J&K State. And much of what is reported is not beyond truth. The concerned citizenry stands aghast and is left wondering what else is in store as one type of malpractice follows another! Grasping for a breathing space in the stifling set-up, Aam Admi is asking ‘Is the enough of it ever enough for the officialdom’—any answers!