Did Azad timber lobby act to remove MD SFC?
Contender for CCF Kashmir, Qayoom Khan fired for ‘malpractices’ in Doda tenders
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Qayoom Khan, whose year of induction into IFS is 1986, was shifted in the minor reshuffle as MD SFC on April 20th, without any mention of his posting in the Government order. He was replaced by Director Soil Conservation, Abhai Kumar, IFS-1983. Khan’s unceremonious shifting from the prize posting, 10 months short of his retirement, has surprised many in Forest sector as he was known to be strong contender for the key position of Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF)
With many in Forest Department expecting Qayoom to take over any time, Manzoor Ahmed Khan, IFS-1986, has been holding the charge of CCF Kashmir since Maulvi Shafat Ahmed’s superannuation earlier this year. Notwithstanding his infamous suspension and Vigilance investigation into IWDP-I, Qayoom had emerged as the former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s only choice for SFC when Aijaz Ahmed Bhat landed into a major controversy and became the prime target of Kundal Committee in 2007. An influential timber lobby of Doda, that included two of Azad’s brothers, supported Qayoom for the ‘sensitive’ posting.
If Minister of Forest Mian Altaf Ahmed’s D.O No: PS/FST/2088 Dated 07-03-2011 has to be loosely interpreted, Qayoom had hobnobbed with so-called anti-Azad timber lobby in receiving tenders for extraction and transportation of timber in three particular compartments. Azad’s brother, Sajjad Ahmed Bhat, was the loser in these particular compartments.
In his demi-official order, copy of which is with Early Times, Minister of Forest and Chairman of SFC Mian Altaf, wrote to Qayoom Khan: “Specific complaints have been received regarding tendering process in compartment No.72/Bhaleesa, 79 Bhaleesa and 18/Padder wherein it is alleged that large scale malpractices have taken place. The said tenders be cancelled and called afresh maintaining proper transparency”.
Through a Tender Notice, issued vide No: 1511-40/CGM/PP/J Dated 17-02-2011, SFC had called sealed tenders for “extraction, off-road transportation and road transportation activities in various coupes/compartments of SFC extraction divisions Doda, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar East and Kishtwar West”. The compartments notified included 1 ab/Simbol, 18/Padder, 25/Padder, 26/Keshwan, 17 ab/Marmat, 20/Marmat, 72/Bhalesa, 79/Bhalesa, 34/Jal and 63/Neru.
MD SFC constituted a committee of senior officials for the purpose of opening the tenders on 07-03-2011 and subsequently issuing the letters of allotment. Director General Finance SFC, Chief General Manager PP SFC, GM North Circle Sopore, GM East Circle Doda, DGM PP SFC, DGM Estates SFC Jammu and Divisional Manager Finance SFC Jammu were appointed as members of the tender opening committee.
When a comparative statement was framed, Sajjad Ahmed Bhat lost 18/Padder to one Mohammad Rafiq Rather. Rather offerered the 1st lowest rate of 59% above while as Sajjad’s rate was 122% above. Similarly, Rafiq Rather emerged as the 1st lowest with his rate of 48% above in 72/Bhalesa while as Sajjad quoted a stupendous 147% above. In 79/Bhalesa, Rafiq’s son, Rahil Rather, quoted 49% above and Sajjad 135% above.
According to well placed sources, Chairman SFC, Mian Altaf Ahmed, who convincingly enjoys the reputation of being Omar Abdullah’s most honest Minister alongwith only two others, was subjected to tremendous pressure from
Delhi to Jammu to . His directive, asking MD SFC to selectively cancel quotations in three particular compartments, was dashed off within an hour. Srinagar
Interestingly, the D.O did not desire cancellation of quotations in 25/Padder where Tariq Hussain Bhat stood the 1st lowest with 124% above, in 26/Keshwan where Azad’s brother Ghulam Mustafa Bhat was the allottee with 99% above and in 34/Jal where again Gh Mustafa Bhat was the 1st lowest with 100% above. Even in 63/Neru, which received only one quotation, tender was not sought to be cancelled.
Instead of obeying the Chairman without argument, MD SFC wrote to
, Shant Manu, that the Minister’s contention was not based on facts. In his UO No:43/Cvi/SFC Dated 08-03-2011, Qayoom Khan recorded that members of the tender opening committee had all performed their assignment “in a most transparent manner and the tenders were opened within one hour of their receipt in presence of the tenderers”. He added that the members would “welcome an inquiry in this matter by any independent agency as may be decided by the Government”. Commissioner-Secretary Forest
MD further pointed out that cancellation of the tenders in three particular compartments, where the rates quoted were “most competitive”, would be unjustifiable as the notification had been floated together for 10 compartments. He asserted that the rates in all other compartments, which according to SFC norms are offered to bidders in such cases, were as high as 145% above against Rather’s 48%, 49% and 59% above.
“In case of re-advertisement of these (three) compartments, keeping in view the trend in other compartments, there is probability of getting higher rates which shall be later difficult to justify”, MD SFC wrote and cautioned: “Further, the partial cancellation of the tenders in public domain can be read as discriminatory and against the principal of equality”.
Facing the thunder from many quarters, Qayoom Khan cancelled tenders of all the ten compartments within two days vide SFC Order No: 149 of 2011 dated 10-03-2011. He was removed from the post of MD SFC on 20-04-2011.
However, informed sources insisted that the contractors had resorted to “pool” (friendly competition in which one particular bidder pays money to all competitors and quotes a high rate) in certain compartments. They said that it was not without reason that those very people of an influential timber lobby, who had projected Qayoom in 2007, had been gunning for him in 2011.