Investigation

Of illegal appointments, political postings and media sensationalism – Part I

Lately as Kashmir’s ‘sensational’ studio-man claimed to blow the lid over an illegal appointments scam in Kashmir, it turned out, that one of his blood relations had applied in the same department figuring in his ‘prime time’ expose.

Owing to other candidates’ portfolios weighing much heavier, the blood relation of the studio man was not selected for the job.

Days later when the same blood relation of the newsman showed up in a State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM), a state wing of National Rural Livelihood Mission as a new recruit, even the employees there were surprised over their new colleague.

“The department hadn’t advertised any post,” an SRLM employee shared on the condition of anonymity. “And yet the girl was sent in with a new job order.”

Notably, the girl’s unadvertised posting came days after the studio man had claimed to blow the cover over the job racket. The documents in possession of Free Press Kashmir reveal that the girl had also applied in the same department, which figured in the ‘sensational scoop’ bulletin.

Given how politics and political connections determine jobs in Kashmir, the studio man’s TV theatrics wherein he resorted to name-calling of the ‘illegal appointees’ hasn’t come as a surprise.

But the “explosive news item” delivered on high decibels is merely a surface level scratching of the fossilized culture of illegal appointments in Kashmir.

‘Job for a vote’

Some six months after his son voted for the party whose patron had asserted that “in Jammu and Kashmir, the only alternative party is the PDP” on December 14, 2014, a Srinagar based trader Mushtaq Khan has since then been watching him mired in the state of depression.

For the ‘defiant downtowner’, whose son’s unthinkable act was read as clear undoing of his loyal “Bakra” leanings, the move ensued cold war between the two, till Khan learned the real motive behind his “rebellious” son’s finger-to-franchise act.

“I came to know that a local PDP worker had approached him and many others, promising ‘a job for the vote’,” Khan said. “My son readily agreed as nothing was working for him then, despite good grades.”

Most of his friends had already flown overseas after passing through the same ordeal. But for Khan’s son, there was no such option, as his family wanted him to do anything, but only in the Valley, closer home.

“During that trap-tension moment,” Khan said, “my son voted that day.” But ‘good days’ as promised by the party workers never came.

“Forget about my son,” the burly trader said, “the party didn’t even revoke the stone pelting cases against those who were roped in for its election campaigning.”

Culture of Denial? 

In J&K’s winter capital where the Durbar is currently operating, the top PDP leaders are denying anything like this, saying, “We never delivered such promises in the first place, and besides, where on earth did we get the time since coming to power to serve the people amid the recurrent turmoil?”

The denial however contradicts the facts, revealing that maximum beneficiaries among those adjusted in different corporations and departments were political workers.

But the competition even exists at the party loyalist level, said a former National Conference minister, in whose tenure many political workers were adjusted in many government departments.

“It works on simple arithmetics,” the ex-minister said, busy bashing his opponent PDP these days. “The more the party diehard, the quicker the reward.” Those left-out are either adjusted over a period of time, or sadly remain on a waiting list.

Such political equation perhaps highlights why the likes of Khan’s son are a classic case of how political parties make inroads in certain defiant pockets to create vote-bank in lieu of jobs and benefits.

But this—jobs for political favours—only highlights the political-official nexus behind the breeding illegal appointments in Kashmir.

“The PDP party leaders have appointed a good number of persons illegally in the J&K Bank for the last two years without following the requisite recruitment procedures or advertising the posts,” former Minister Abdul Gani Vakil recently alleged, demanding a high-level judicial probe into these illegal appointments. “The bank has been made a hub of illegal appointments done at the behest of the PDP.”

Most deserving and qualified have been ignored and left out, Vakil said, without providing any opportunity to compete.

But before the notoriously famous congressman would come out open blazing all guns at the J&K Bank and PDP, illegal appointments had been long going unnoticed in Kashmir, despite government appointing House Committees, time and again, to check the menace in public undertaking.

“Even 8 class failed people have been appointed in many departments in an open violation to the job rules,” says Parvez Khan, a health officer.

In 2015, J&K High Court had deprecated illegal appointments in Jammu and Kashmir while passing directions in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a retired Assistant Engineer of the state.

The petitioner who claimed to be a “public spirited person” had contested that about 7893 illegal appointments were made in about ten departments in J&K leading to issuance of Circular number 09-GAD of 2013 dated March 26, 2013.

But despite the judicial intervention, job rackets in the form of illegal appointments continue to make news.

In summer 2016, at behest of political backing, even 7 class pass persons were appointed in the government undertaking corporations including SIDCO, SICOP and JK Cements.

While over 100 persons were appointed in these departments during previous governments, the PDP lawmaker Firdous Tak said 20 new persons were appointed during the current government.

“We’ll investigate the matter,” state finance minister Haseeb Drabu had assured the house.

But since then, reportedly, there has been no headway in this regard, despite the PDP-BJP government accepting in the state assembly that 22 illegal appointments were made in various government Corporations in the last three years.

That the racket is flourishing under political patronage became clear when illegal appointments, almost doubling the number of employees, got exposed in Urban Local Bodies Department.

The expose only drew a docile reaction from the then deputy chief Minister and J&K’s Urban Development Minister Tara Chand: “I know it has been happening.”

Taking cognizance of such rackets, the State Vigilance Organization (SVO) had earlier filed a detailed status report establishing 37 illegal appointments made by 3 ex-Speakers: Mohammad Akbar Lone, Mubarak Gul and Tara Chand.

“No proper advertisement inviting applications was ever issued while filling 37 posts,” the report said, “and no selection process was initiated.”

From the SVO’s report, it became clear that how politician-bureaucratic setup was responsible for breeding a job mafia diverting the taxpayers’ money to paying salaries of the illegal employees.

The government is making it clear that merit has no value in the present regime, NC lately reacted after the government appointed unqualified and undeserving candidates to plum posts.

“Such appointments have no precedence,” the party spokesperson said. “Secretariat has become a breeding ground of corruption and nepotism and it’s the CM and her coterie that is behind the mess.” But it’s the institutionalising of this “mess” which is worrying many.

Lately when the four such appointments were reported from University of Kashmir (vide order No: F (H&F – JDGA/KU/17) dated 9 January, 2017), many scholars and faculty members said that their repeated complaints to Raj Bhawan—the Chancellor of Kashmir University—to order probe into the alleged scandal was simply brushed under the carpet.

Struggle for the deserving?

Amid these rampant practices, the textbook struggler like Altaf Mirza (not his real name) who still believes that ‘merit prevails’ ends up becoming the nexus casualty.

Being an old school—and somewhat orthodox—Mirza believes that appointment to any post under the State can only be made after a proper advertisement has been made inviting applications from eligible candidates and holding of selection by a body of fair and impartial experts through a written examination or interview.

“If this procedure is adopted, fair play would be sub-served,” says Mirza, whose job application in the State Culture department is gathering dust over some time because of ‘glaring nepotism’.

Lately when the cultural academy organised the Calligraphy event at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid amid the protracted prayer ban, Mirza wondered how such events create a different facade for the department—otherwise hiding so much in the name of ‘culture’.

 

‘Cultural’ Chapter: Of illegal appointments, political postings and media sensationalism – Part II

 


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