Total Pageviews

Friday, February 11, 2011

How Govt shut eyes to corruption in NRHM recruitments in Budgam

Unqualified candidates appointed, highly meritorious one dropped by CMO

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 11: When the Valley was burning in anger in the middle of last year, custodians of the Government of India’s flagship scheme in the health sector, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), built their own fortunes in the Central Kashmir district of Budgam. With the stones raining and the guns booming, hundreds of female candidates responded with high hopes to District Health Society’s Notification No: 1 0f 2010 Dated 27-07-2010. A total of 114 candidates were required to be selected on the basis of their merit as Female Multi Purpose Workers (FMPWs) in the heavily funded NRHM.

When results were declared in local daily Greater Kashmir on 28-09-2010, many of the highly meritorious candidates fainted. They and their parents complained to every possible quarter that unprecedented corruption, nepotism and favouritism had marked selection of almost all the 115 appointees. Irregularities were pointed out in the selection in all the 10 blocks of Budgam, Beerwah, Chadoura, Chhatergam, Chrar-e-Sharief, Khag, Khansahab, Magam and Soibug.

Nobody listened to the complainants, who also lamented that most of the selected were from the latest batch of a private Hospital and those having passed the diploma 10 to 12 years back and having gained field experience of years had been dropped. It was pointed out to everybody from CMO and DC Budgam to Director of Health Services that even the candidates, who failed in diploma, had been selected in consideration of huge amounts of money.

CMO, Dr Abdullah, got the entire exercise of selection done through his trusted touts like Pharmacist Nisar Ahmed Dada, who has been operating as de facto CMO with his posting at the same office for over 16 years. Resident of Magam, Dada made it a point of prestige that his neighbour, Mudassar Sharief D/o Mohammad Sharief-ud-din R/o Mazhama, Magam, should not be selected.

Result notification gazette of State Medical Faculty (SMF) in year 2008-09 shows that Mudassar Sharief (Roll No: 4954) passed her diploma in the FMPW course while securing 241 marks out of 350 i.e. 69%. Even in the viva voce, she fared the best among all candidates. She found herself dropped in the selection.

Mudassar’s surprise turned into outrage when she observed that even the failed candidates and those having secured less than 40 percent marks had been selected in almost all blocks. For example, Amreena Akhtar D/o Ghulam Mohammad Rather R/o Patwaw stood selected at serial number 13 of the list for Budgam block. Same result notification in the SMF gazette is evidence that Mudassar’s batch-mate, Amreena (Roll No: 4977), has obtained just 110 marks out of 350 i.e. 31% and thus clearly failed. Since Amreena had done the needful with the help of touts, her name figured among the selected candidates.

Others dropped in Budgam block included Shaheena Sofi of Bemina (Roll No: 4979) who secured 207 marks, Rubeena of Bemina (Roll No: 4959), who got 193 marks in 2008-09 batch, Shahida Sheereen who passed in 2005-06 batch with 200 marks and had three years of field experience while working on Hospital Development Fund at District Hospital Budgam, and many others with higher merit and years of experience as FMPW.

Nursing Orderly turned Medical Assistant, Ghulam Mohammad, who is also running a chemist’s shop at Watirwani village, collected a handsome amount from parents of Mumtaza Akhtar D/o Manzoor Ahmed Khanday R/o Sebdan, who was selected and figured at serial number 5 of the Budgam block list. She did not join for several months and demanded the money back as she was simultaneously selected in Northern Railways. In December, Mumtaza returned and decided to join as FMPW in Budgam. She was not allowed to join until she was further fleeced, allegedly to the tune of Rs 20,000.

Dispute over the bribe money Mumtaza paid through Medical Assistant Ghulam Mohammad and Tabassum Bano of Bemina (serial No: 8) paid through cameraman of a local cable TV channel to the CMO’s touts, remained in wide public knowledge in Budgam for months. Tabbasum’s argument was that she was selected on the basis of her merit and should get the bribe money back.

Insiders revealed that in the last four months, CMO and his touts, particularly Dada, have been making and breaking short lists for selection of 100-odd class 4th employees in regular service of District Cadre. On one point of time, they devised the mechanism of accommodating their favourites on the basis of fake diplomas so as to get them an edge over those who had secured more than 60 and 70 percent marks in the qualifying examination of matriculation. However, that dubious plan was not approved by Director of Health Services.

Before the CMO’s attachment earlier this week, he had decided to shortlist all those who have secured 45% marks and above to ensure selection of his favourites. Sources said that as against 100-odd incumbents, more than 1000 candidates in the competition are those who have secured 60 percent plus in Matriculation. Rate of Rs 100,000 has been openly fixed for each Class 4th post.


Valley shut but calm on JKLF founder’s death anniversary

Minor clashes at some places over ‘attack’ on Yasin in Ajmer

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 11; On 27th anniversary of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat’s execution at Tihar Jail of Delhi, Kashmir valley observed shutdown but no major incident of demonstration or clashes with Police took place. JKLF activists engaged in minor clashes with Police at few places after they learned about BJP activists’ attack on the outfit chief Yasin Malik at Ajmer Sharief in Rajasthan.

ON JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik’s call, most of the shops and business establishments remained shuttered in the capital city and other major townships in the Valley today. Only a small section of public transport operated. Parts of Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Sopore and Kupwara, wore deserted looks. Government offices, however, functioned smoothly, though attendance was affected to an extent due to absence of passenger transport. The JKLF shutdown call had been supported by both factions of the Hurriyat Conference, headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. While Malik is currently at Ajmer, Geelani has been staying ay his New Delhi house since last fortnight. Mirwaiz is currently on a tour in United States of America.

The call for shutdown evoked substantial response. Nevertheless, there was little tension in the air as youth in large numbers played cricket on public roads and neighbourhood parks.

With Malik being on a spiritual visit in Rajasthan, alongwith his Pakistani wife, his one-time second-in-command in then guerrilla outfit, Javed Ahmed Mir appeared in the Civil lines locality of Abi Guzar with over a dozen of his associates. Mir led a thin rally towards Lalchowk while shouting slogans in favour of Azadi and demanding custody of Maqbool Bhat’s remains from the jail authorities in Delhi.

Malik’s supporters, led by Bashir Ahmed Bhat and Showkat Bakshi, brought out a similar but thinly attended rally from Maisuma. They too yelled for freedom and return of Bhat’s remains from Tihar Jail.

Police swooped on both the demonstrations and took into custody over a dozen activists of both the factions of JKLF. As usual, they were forced to remain confined at two Police Stations.

Malik’s supporters broke the calm in the afternoon when they came to know that their leader had been attacked by BJP activists at Ajmer Sharief in Rajasthan. They clashed with Police in Malik’s residential locality of Maisuma, Reka Chowk Batmaloo and Bohri Kadal. Unconfirmed reports said that over a dozen demonstrators and Police personnel sustained injuries.

In a statement, JKLF claimed that its office at Mohri Kadal in downtown was raided and later sealed by Police. Reports of minor clashes also poured in from Sopore and Baramulla. Reports said that Police intercepted senior separatist leader, Shabir Shah, at Mirgund (Pattan) and took him into custody when he was on way to Bhat’s residential village of Trehgam in Kupwara district to participate in a remembrance function. Yet another separatist leader, Hashim Qureishi, alleged that Police swooped on his followers and left many of them injured when they were peacefully paying tributes to Bhat and demanding custody of his remains.

Notwithstanding shutdown, a number of shops were found open in Srinagar and all other towns. Youngsters in large numbers were seen playing cricket on road and at neighbourhood public parks for the whole day.

Bhat had been hanged to death on February 11th in 1984 according to the capital punishment pronounced against him by District and Sessions Judge of Srinagar, Neelkanth Ganjoo, in the matter or his alleged murder of a bank manager and a Police official. Years later, JKLF militants, led by Malik as “Chief Commander”, gunned down the judge in close vicinity of J&K High Court premises here in 1990. Implementation of Bhat’s execution was sequel to killing of an Indian diplomat, Ravinder Mhatre, at Birmingham, England.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pharmacist runs CMO’s office, Nursing Orderly District Hospital in Budgam

Candidates without qualification, merit selected @ Rs 1.00 Lakh each in NRHM

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 10: Now attached and subjected to administrative inquiry, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Budgam had outsourced his entire job to a Pharmacist, posted in his office for over 16 years. Medical Superintendent (MS) of District Hospital (DH) Budgam was operating through a Nursing Orderly who was last week found to have swindled over Rs 16 Lakh of NRHM funds in one go. It has now surfaced that senior officers of Health Department have manipulated appointments of staff in NRHM through their Class 4th and Class 3rd subordinates against cash payment of bribes ranging between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1,50,000 from each selected candidate.

Ask anybody in the district name of the CMO and the answer will be invariably “Nisar Ahmed Dada”. Dada, in fact, is a Pharmacist who has remained posted at CMO’s office for the last over 16 years. Only one CMO, namely Dr Mushtaq (now retired), had the spine to shift him to Khag Block but the favourite of influential senior officials managed to come back within a year or so. Enjoying blessings of these officers, Dada held key portfolios like Stores. For the last several years, he is operating as head of entire Administration in Health in Budgam district.

According to medical as well paramedical employees, CMO Budgam Dr Abdullah had entrusted Dada with the “powers” of transferring the staff as well as picking up candidates for the Class 4th vacancies, notified last year, and entire NRHM staff. Rates between Rs 50,000 and 1,50,000 stood fixed for the incumbents, depending upon wages stipulated for the posts. Those selected and appointed as Female Multipurpose Workers (FMPWs) in different blocks of the district in 2010 included girls who had not even appeared in final examination of the Paramedical diploma held by State Medical Faculty.

CMO of Aga Syed Yousuf Memorial District Hospital of Budgam, Dr Nazir Ahmed Qanoongo, had appointed a class 4th employee, namely Mudassir Hussain (Nursing Orderly) as chief operator of the NRHM. The Nursing Orderly landed in Police custody only when his fraudulent withdrawal of the huge amount of Rs 16.50 Lakh surfaced dramatically. Before he would reveal names of others involved in the scandal, his patrons managed to get him released on bail. Residents and the hospital staff are even suspecting the role of Budgam Police in “going slow” in the investigation that has every potential of making the investigators richer.

“These are just the tips of an iceberg. Actual embezzlement in NRHM and all other schemes, particularly those funded by Government of India, and the money collected on account of transfers and appointments runs into Crores”, said an assistant surgeon. He claimed that everything from maintaining records to conducting audit was “fudged and dubious”. According to another well informed source, officials remained posted at particular places in the district for even 20 years without change.

Sources insisted that scores of complaints with substantial allegations against these “old fossils” had been dispatched by officials, patients and attendants to Director of Health Services, Kashmir, Dr Mohammad Amin Wani. However, like his predecessors, Wani never took any action to overhaul the administration with removal of long-stay officials. Dada reportedly enjoys more clout in Directorate than the real CMO, Dr Abdullah.

Those selected as FMPWs in Budgam Block for NRHM in 2010 include a girl from Patwaw village who had not even appeared in final year of her diploma, conducted by State Medical Faculty, on the day of her selection. Almost all the selectees were from 2008 and 2009 batches of Imam Hussain Hospital. On the other hand, those dropped included girls who had not only passed the diploma from better ranking ATM School Srinagar over 10 years ago with high ‘A’ grade marks but had field experience of 5 to 12 years while working at private nursing homes. Some of the dropped girls had been working against Hospital Development Fund for years. Huge amounts of money have been collected from the selected candidates through notorious touts.

One particular girl of Sebdan village, who was selected as FMPW, did not join as she was simultaneously selected in Northern Railways. When she turned up in December 2010, she was not allowed to join for the “reason” that she was late by more than four months. However, when she paid an amount of Rs 20,000 she was allowed to join.

Sources said that on papers District Development Commissioner happened to be the Chairman of all committees for appointment of NRHM staff but the fact was that entire exercise was conducted in full view of public by Class 3rd and Class 4th officials like Dada who did everything from shortlisting to the final selection. Heads and other members of the committees are silenced with nominal share of two or three seats for their favourites. “Nothing short of a high level inquiry, consisting experts from Police, Vigilance, Crime Branch and Audit, could restore credibility of Health Department in Budgam”, a senior Block Medical Officer asserted.


CMO, MS Budgam attached; Dir Health under scanner

Minister orders inquiry into multi-Crore NRHM scam in Valley

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 9: Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, has taken strong notice of the embezzlement of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) funds in Budgam district. Amid reports that similar irregularities had taken place at a large scale in several other districts with the involvement of senior officers of Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir, Minister of Health has not only ordered a high level administrative inquiry into the NRHM scam but also immediate attachment of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Budgam, and Medical Superintendent of Aga Syed Yousuf Memorial District Hospital Budgam.

In hours of Early Times breaking the story of a major embezzlement of NRHM funds in Budgam, Minister of Health Sham Lal Sharma told this newspaper that there was no question of shielding any of the officials found prima facie involved in the scandal. He said that under his orders CMO Budgam, Dr Abdullah, and MS of DH Budgam, Dr Nazir Ahmed Qanoongo, had been immediately removed and attached. He said that Dy CMO (Dr Abdul Qayoom Khan), had been directed to assume the charge of CMO Budgam till the appointment of a new incumbent later this month.

Minister said that senior most Block Medical Officer (BMO Budgam Dr Nisar Ahmed Nehvi) had been directed to temporarily hold the additional charge of MS of DH Budgam. Both the district officers, facing charges of huge embezzlement of NRHM funds, have been immediately relieved.

Even as Police Station of Budgam had already taken criminal cognizance and launched investigation, Minister of Health said that he had additionally ordered an administrative inquiry. He said that the officials involved and their protectors had insisted on an audit by a chartered accountant but that process, he feared, had all prospects of intervention from the guilty. Mr Sharma said that misappropriation and embezzlement of NRHM and some other schemes seemed to be an act of a network in which role of the highest level officials of Directorate of Health Service, Kashmir, could not be ruled out.

“It’s an extremely serious matter that a Nursing Orderly of District Hospital of Budgam has drawn NRHM cash worth over Rs 16 Lakhs and swindled it. This can’t be possible without the involvement of senior officials”, Mr Sharma said. He asserted that the investigation would be taken to its logical conclusion and appropriate disciplinary action under service conduct rules would be taken against anybody found guilty.

Informed sources said that a group of CMOs, known for intimate relationship with Director of Health Services Kashmir, Dr Mohammad Amin Wani, was prima facie involved in fraudulent withdrawals of NRHM and other flagship funds. While action has begun in Budgam, it was likely to be initiated in Kulgam district in a couple of days. These sources said that a senior official of the Health Department today advised CMO Budgam to engage the most expensive lawyers and get the orders of administrative department stayed in a court of law. The official is reportedly shuttling between Ministerial bungalows in Jammu.

 SSP Budgam, Uttam Chand, told Early Times that, following a complaint, Police Station Budgam had arrested Nursing Orderly Muddasir Hussain of DH Budgam who admitted during the course of questioning that he had fraudulently drawn a huge amount of Rs 16.50 Lakh from the NRHM account. He said that case FIR No: 23 of 2011 under sections 409, 467, 468 and 420 was, according registered against the class 4th employee and others involved in the criminal act. He said that a court of law had ordered release of the accused even as the investigation was still underway and others involved in the scandal needed to be identified and arrested.


NRHM funds worth Rs 50 Lakh swindled in Budgam

Politicians at work to protect CMO, MS, others involved

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 8: Government functionaries in the state have been burning midnight oil to mislead Indian Association of Parliamentarians for Population and Development (IAPPD) about the poor performance observed in implementation of Government of India’s flagship programme in the heath sector called National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). The visiting delegation, that attended meetings with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and other top government functionaries, has been kept in dark with regard to large scale bunglings happening in several districts, particularly Budgam. If well placed sources in the government are to be believed, NRHM funds worth Rs 50 Lakh have been swindled in Budgam in the last one year alone.

Sources revealed to Early Times that total volume of the NRHM funds embezzled and misappropriated in Budgam district alone in the last five years was estimated around Rs 3 Crore. Though misappropriations in the flagship health programme have been observed in many other districts, peculiarity in the case of Budgam is that the officials have chosen Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s home district for the biggest embezzlement. Sources said that senior officials of Department of Health, including the whistleblower Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Nazir Ahmed Qanoongo, and Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Abdullah, are under the clouds.

According to these sources, one of the class 4th employees of Aga Syed Yousuf Memorial District Hospital, Nursing Orderly Muddasar, has withdrawn a huge amount of Rs 17 Lakh from the officials accounts in league with other officials. Following a complaint from the Medical Superintending, Police arrested the accused who has reportedly admitted to have drawn the money and shared it fraudulently with other officials of the department. Efforts are still underway to hush up the matter, though Minister of Health, Sham Lal, is understood to have learned about the embezzlement.

While the Minister was not accessible for comment on telephone, bureaucratic sources said that Mr Sham Lal had taken “very serious notice” of the NRHM embezzlement. They said that a number of officials, including CMO Budgam, Dr Abdullah, who happens to be custodian of all NRHM funds, Medical Superintendent, Dr Nazir Ahmed Qanoongo, and clerks staying in CMO’s office without change for 15 to 20 years, are being removed and placed under suspension. According to these sources, Dy CMO Dr Qayoom Khan was being temporarily appointed as incharge CMO till the formal appointment of a new incumbent, most likely MS of District Hospital Handwara, Dr Aleem. They said that BMO Budgam, Dr Nehvi, was likely to be appointed as incharge MS at DH Budgam.

Sources said that in view of large scale embezzlement of the NRHM funds, a special audit was likely to be ordered by Commissioner-Secretary Finance, Sudhanshu Pandey. The embezzlement in almost all components of NRHM has surfaced after it was noticed that the money reserved for pregnant women under Janani Surakhsha Yojana (JSY), as also funds drawn for disbursement among mothers, had not reached the concerned. It has been observed that fake entries have been made in the official records and in most of the cases the beneficiaries have either remained untraced or have complained that they had received no money.

It has been observed that the funds earmarked for promoting awareness of the programme in rural areas has been either embezzled or spent on hospitality and “refreshment” of the employees. There are flawed records of institutional delivery and the beneficiaries have been either denied the benefits categorically or made shuttle between different PHCs, District Hospital and Lal Ded Hospital in Srinagar. Most of the delivery cases have been found to have been referred to LD Hospital, contrary to instructions from senior officials.

Sources revealed that a number of officials, including CMO and MS, have immediately sought services of their political godfathers to escape disciplinary action and reshuffle. Some of them are understood to have reached Jammu. One of the Cabinet Ministers, belonging to Congress party and hailing from the Valley, is said to have assured these officials that he would prevail upon the Minister of Health and prevent action against them. 

Sources said that role of the MS of DH Budgam was under investigation in view of his advantage that he had lodged the complaint with Police and sought a detailed investigation into the NRHM misappropriations. There was still a strong point of indiscipline against him as 46 officials of his hospital were found absent by additional Commissioner of Kashmir when he conducted a surprise inspection last week.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Prof Gani, Omar must force others to tell the truth

Time of confession for armed forces, guerrilla groups in J&K

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 7: ‘I-am-the-good-you-are-the-evil’ has been the hardline of all actors of violence in the Kashmir conflict. Consequence is inescapably the casualty of truth. Players of all hues, without exception, have indulged in causing harassment to opponents, kidnapping, murder, enforced disappearance and displacement.

Kashmir is a small place and, in most of the incidents, it does not take years to learn who has done what. Public perception has erred in very few cases. What a slain separatist leader’s son has been saying and withdrawing for years and what the senior Hurriyat leader, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, has revealed at a conference here in the beginning of last month, are actually open secrets in the Valley.

It appears reassuring when the Hurriyat and MUF founder is holding “our own people”---euphemism for separatist militants---responsible for killing Kashmir’s politicians, clerics and intellectuals in 22 years of the armed conflict. And, equally reassuring when Chief Minister is unambiguously holding his own troops guilty of killing an innocent civilian in Handwara.

Prof Gani and Omar Abdullah have a bounden responsibility to be clear in the matters of ‘mystery killings’. The only politician of quotable quotes in the separatist camp, Prof Gani is, by his own admission, personally aware that innocent people like his brother, Mohammad Sultan Bhat, Professor of Law Abdul Ahad Wani and cleric-politician, Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, were eliminated by none other than militants. Before returning to power in January 2009, Omar had repeatedly said that his government would constitute ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ to narrow the chasm between followers of diverse political ideologies in Jammu & Kashmir.

Had the half-truths and total falsehood remained restricted to the State and the non-State actors of violence, it would have been no strange. It, in fact, assumed menacing proportions when groups claiming to be constituting and representing civil society, opted to become cheerleaders of the political icons and populist narratives. They showed little hesitation in according the society’s sanction to merciless killings of innocent and uninvolved civilians, let alone blowing up Tehseen Billas into shreds on the streets in Srinagar.

Constituents of the civil society laboured to hide the truth when gunmen, widely perceived to be separatist militants, wiped out families, like that of Gopalpora (Chadoura) in December 2002, when babies were gunned down in the laps of their mothers and thousands of others were hanged or shot dead under the labels of ‘informants’, ‘anti-movement elements’ and ‘pro-India political activists’. Scores of the kidnapped are still untraced. Mainstream politicians in the state were critical of such ghastly incidents only when they were out of power.

On the other hand, everybody from the nationalist media to the political and bureaucratic leadership in New Delhi equipped the Police and armed forces with a free license to kill, kidnap and persecute.

Massacres at Gawkadal, Chota Bazar, Hawal, Tengpora Bypass, Habbak Crossing, Handwara, Sopore and Bijbehara had no obscurity. Few were condemned and fewer investigated. There were scores of “high level inquiries” but no prosecution, no punishment to the guilty. Even in the recent matters of the killing of five innocent civilians at Pathribal, that was impressively investigated by CBI, Army at the highest level has taken the stand of rescuing the guilty officers. J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act continues to be the ultimate weapon in the arsenal.

If this is the behaviour of the world’s “most disciplined army” in the world’s “largest democracy”, what could be expected from the half-baked, illiterate, frenzied and indoctrinated guerrillas in the matters of individual killings or the massacres of Wandhama, Chtitisinghpura, Sangrampura, Mir Bazar Qazigund, Kokernag, Lasjan and Nadimarg.

Now that the best-kept secrets with regard to Kashmir’s bloodshed are unfolding fast in a natural manner, leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Bilal Gani Lone, Shabir Ahmed Shah and Yasin Malik should take the lead in breaking the ice if they have to morally defeat their opponents.  

The political parties, their armed wings and those who have meticulously shifted from pressing triggers to filing petitions in the Indian courts, have directly and indirectly claimed responsibility of killing hundreds of people in their daily statements, particularly in 1989-2000 period. They must now claim the greater moral responsibility---confess and apologise.

On the other hand, Corps Commanders like Syed Ata Hasnain should stop to rescue the guilty with cliché arguments. How does it matter whether 21-year-old Manzoor Ahmed Magray was taken away from his home or gunned down in ambush outside. Greater facts are that he was not a militant, did not carry any guns or grenades, had a right to life and died from the State’s bullet. SOP was violated by way of not involving local Police and the village headman with the “operation”. Even an apology and ex-gratia relief from the organisation should not be enough.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has succeeded in dousing the fire in Handwara but heads of security forces should realize that same can not be the case at every place. Telling of unadulterated truths---and a transparent follow-up action--- from both sides alone could bring the real thaw in Kashmir’s misery.