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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Examgate reveals how VIP children rise to prize positions

‘VIP rooms’ at exam centres are privilege of politicians, paid clients

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 3: Results of all the high and higher secondary examinations conducted by J&K State Board of School Education (BOSE) have become suspect not only with the exposure of unfair means used by the Education Minister’s foster son in Class 10th in the year 2009 but also by the “Distinction” he got in Class 12th yesterday.

Son of the slain JKLF commander Parvez Ahmed Bhat alias Parvez Billa, who later became senior Congress leader Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed’s foster son, was placed in a particular room at Centre No: 822 on “security grounds”. Fellow candidates and members of the examination staff insist that Imam Souban Bhat S/o Parvez Ahmed Bhat was also joined by sons of few other influential politicians and at least one more Minister, again on “security grounds”. Accounts under investigation and scrutiny of Early Times indicate a little different.

Verification process inconclusive, eyewitnesses maintain that rather than providing “security” to the sons of protected politicians, including Ministers, their PSOs, men from the local Police station, as well as officials of BOSE jostled against one another to facilitate copying of the VIP examinees. Books and other published material were kept on the disposal of these special candidates. How much exactly they copied and downloaded from the ‘dutiful’ subject experts is being obtained through an application under RTI.

With the investigation underway, declaration of results of Class 12th (regular) has brought surprises of sorts to thousands of students and their parents in Kashmir valley. Education Minister’s foster son, who reportedly required two different teachers to write answers of his Class 10th Urdu paper, has done the veritable miracle. According to the result gazette, Imam Souban Bhat (Roll No: 822260) has secured the highest of 96/100 in Sociology---as many as 78/80 in theory, 4/5 in internal and 14/15 in external.

With 81/100 in Political Science, 73/100 in English, 71/100 in Education and 66/100 in Functional English, the Education Minister’s foster son has secured 387/500 or 77.40% marks in Class 12th that happens to be the qualifying examination for all professional training courses and Degrees in Medicine, Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture Sciences, Engineering etc. How the sons and daughters of the state’s mainstream politicians and a many bureaucrats crack the Entrance examination later has been already revealed in a separate matter that resulted in dismissal of another Cabinet Minister in 2010. And finally, how they beat all in making it to gazetted services through J&K State Public Service Commission and other channels has been unraveled in detail by Early Times and other newspapers, particularly in the year 2011.

This “distinction” has obviously become all the more sensational due to the fact that the candidate under cloud happens to be a permanent member of the family of Minister incharge School Education. The Minister is said to have an argument that “thousands” of candidates have secured the distinction and his son was not an exception. Fellow candidates and their parents insist that they would withdraw their accusations with unconditional apology if the candidate in question could speak on “ABC of Sociology” for two minutes before an independent panel of examiners.

Well placed sources in BOSE, as well as responsible office-bearers of a representative teachers’ forum revealed to this newspaper that placing “VIP and paid up clients” in special “VIP rooms” of examination centers, particularly in Srinagar and adjoining districts, was the worst kept secret of BOSE. According to them, children of influential politicians and bureaucrats are provided this completely illegal facility “out of goodwill”. Children of well-off businessmen, contractors and others categories are accommodated in “VIP rooms” on cash payment, ranging between Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000 from each client.

As per an infamous modus operandi, the “VIP rooms” are often kept locked from outside to escape notice, not of the BOSE vigilance but of Police and common civilians. Teachers and other subject experts write the answers on blackboards and clean the same in a jiffy in case of a stranger entry. Books, published material as well as laptops and mobile phones are also permitted and even provided by the examiners. Sources insisted to make it clear that children of all politicians and bureaucrats were not the beneficiary of this “special arrangement”. “Quite a many of them are really brilliant. They fare well in all examinations and interviews and do not resort to unfair means”, said a senior functionary of the teachers’ organisation.

According to these highly reliable sources, everything from selection of Superintendent to Deputy Superintendent, as also selection of private public schools as examination centers was being done under a scheme. Lists of examination staff are sought from Chief Education Officers of different districts but “select people” are deployed with the argument that the CEO had sent the list very late. It has been pointed out to no less than Chairman, Secretary and Joint Secretaries of BOSE that adequately equipped government schools are being omitted and centers of particular schools are set up at particular private schools so as to carry out the fraudulent system. It has also been brought to their notice that even black-listed examiners and those illegally borrowed by Youth Services and Sports Department were being appointed year after year on particular centers. However, action has been taken in very few cases.

A number of parents , as well as teachers, claimed that conducting of Class 10th and Class 12th examinations alone was “a Rs 5 to 10 Crore industry” every year in the Valley. “Hundreds of old students appear only to get a Matriculation certificate as their recruitment in Railway and some other Central government departments remains a fixed deal. They comfortably pay Rs 40,000 each”, said an insider.

Chairman of BOSE, Dr Sheikh Bashir Ahmad, however, rubbishes most of these accounts. “I admit there are a number of black sheep in BOSE. I have ruthlessly acted against them and they have all joined hands against me. I rush the vigilance squads to the centers immediately I receive a complaint verbally, written or on telephone”, Sheikh said in a conversation with this journalist. He claimed that he had “closed down” at least a dozen of infamous centers and shifted them to other places in October-November 2011.


Friday, February 3, 2012

MLA demands CBI probe, Minister’s arrest in BOSE scam

‘If Saroori was fired in 24 hours, what’s CM’s weakness in Peerzada?’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 2: Independent MLA and one-time ally of the Omar Abdullah-led coalition government, Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid, today demanded immediate dismissal and arrest of the School Education Minister, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, in the lately exposed ‘Unfair Means Scam’ of J&K State Board of School Education. Raising questions on Chief Minister’s “double standards”, Rashid desired to know why former Minister of Works, G M Saroori, had been dismissed from the Cabinet before the inquiry and why action against Peerzada, in an identical matter, would depend on the outcome of an inquiry.

Breaking the Opposition’s silence with a news conference, Engineer Rashid pointed out that senior Congress leader and then Minister incharge Works, G M Saroori, had been dismissed from the Cabinet by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah within 24 hours of the exposure of an impersonation case allegedly involving his daughter in 2010. “Now that an identical scandal has been exposed by media and Peerzada Sayeed’s son has been found to be the illegal beneficiary of the Board’s undue favour, why doesn’t Omar Sahab act against the Education Minister?” Rashid asked. He asserted that Omar Abdullah government could not have different standards for different Ministers in identical matters.

Congress party’s MLA from Inderwal, Mr Saroori, had been dismissed as Minister of Works in the middle of 2010 when an impostor had been found to be appearing for his daughter in an entrance test at ASSCOMS (Batra Hospital) in Jammu. Srinagar-based daily, Greater Kashmir, has earlier this week reported that BOSE officials had lodged Education Minister’s son in a special examination room at a centre in Humhama and engaged two teachers to write answers on his answer book.

Rather than dismissing Peerzada on the Saroori pattern, Chief Minister has directed Crime Branch to hold a “preliminary inquiry” into the facts published in the daily about Peerzada. He has indicated that action, if any, could be initiated against Peerzada on the basis of the findings of the preliminary inquiry. Talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of an official function at University of Jammu on Wednesday, Chief Minister maintained that he had not ordered any inquiry in the matter. This volte face is said to be the result of Peerzada’s threat in which he has reportedly communicated to top echelons of the government that he could expose a junior Minister of National Conference whose son had taken Class 12th examination in an identically unfair manner.

Separatist-turned-legislator, Rashid asked why Suresh Kalmadis and A Rajas at the Centre were languishing in jails but their counterparts in corruption in the state government were enjoying a field day under the nose of a clean Chief Minister. “Mr Chief Minister, it is not AFSPA in which you need Delhi’s ascent. It is a plain offence in the state in which you have to act without delay in order to retain credibility of your government”, MLA of Langet asked the Chief Minister.

According to Engineer Rashid, CBI investigation had become necessary in the wake of Peerzada having raised fingers on other Ministers in the government. He asserted that a state-level agency like Crime Branch was vulnerable to all pulls and pressures and it was not possible for it to proceed against the Ministers. He said it was surprising that Opposition PDP as well as independent MLAs, like Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and Hakeem Mohammad Yasin had chosen to be mute spectators to the worst ever academic fraud exposed by media in Jammu and Kashmir.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Superintendent grilled;
Chairman, other BOSE
officials being arrested

Peerzada begins to blackmail Govt over another Minister’s son

‘Crime Branch should also probe Class 12th exam bungling’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb: In an obvious attempt to get the action against him stalled in the ‘Unfair Means Scam’, Minister of School Education Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, has conveyed to top echelons in the coalition government that Crime Branch’s investigation should extend to recent Class 12th examination. If well placed sources are to be believed, Peerzada has made it clear that if he was singled out for dismissal from the Cabinet, he would reveal publicly how the son of a Minister of State, known for his proximity to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, had been provided same facilitation, as provided to his son, by officials of J&K State Board of School Education.

Embroiled in his foster son’s act of unfair means in Class 10th examination in 2009, Peerzada Sayeed is understood to have made it clear to the government that he alone was not the beneficiary of the undue favour from BOSE. Inspite of his two-liner refutation to the Greater Kashmir scoop, Minister is said to have admitted that his foster son had been the beneficiary of “extraordinary favour” from then Secretary and now Chairman of BOSE, Dr Sheikh Bashir Ahmad, and other officials. He has voluntarily revealed that similar favours had been enjoyed by his foster son in the recently conducted Class 12th examination. 

But, according to sources, Peerzada has also made it unambiguously clear to top echelons of the Government that he would expose “many other VVIPs” in case he was singled out for any action by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Peerzada has, according to sources, conveyed to the government that the son of a National Conference leader and Minister of State, known for his intimate relationship with Chief Minister, was among the “VVIP sons and daughters” who had taken Class 12th examination, alongwith his foster son Aman Sufan, at Centre No: 823 in Srinagar in October-November 2011 and copied all answers from the books and other printed material made available to these candidates. Under the smokescreen of “security”, BOSE officials had placed relatives of some influential politicians, including those of two Ministers, in a particular room and given them full freedom to pick up answers from text books and other published material.

Sources said that after communicating his threat to the government, Peerzada today drove all the way to University of Jammu where he attended a conference on education which was presided over by none other than Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Even as Peerzada’s threat seemed to be working and diluting the government’s resolve, Crime Branch proceeded with its exhaustive investigation into the Unfair Means Scam. Informed sources revealed to Early Times that at least half-a-dozen BOSE officials, who had remained associated with conducting the Class 10th examination in November 2009, were being grilled. Those who were called through Police Station Rajbagh and later detained for sustained interrogation, include then Superintendent of the centre at Al-Ameen High School, Tariq Gilani. Unconfirmed reports said that Gilani and a BOSE official, who were grilled for several hours, were finally allowed to return to their respective residences.

Sources said that the Crime Branch sleuths conducted a series of raids at different offices of BOSE, both in Srinagar as well as in Jammu, and seized all records of the examination in question. They said that the role of then Secretary and now Chairman of BOSE, Dr Sheikh Bashir Ahmad, then Deputy Director of Academics Meraj-ud-din Zargar (who has retired from service and is now acting as Principal of Iqbal Memorial School), besides an Academic Officer, namely Aaliya, was under scanner and all of them were “most likely to be arrested later this week”. Sources said that two officials of the rank of Joint Secretary, namely Mr Jallu and Mr Kanth, besides the head masters of Al-Ameen High School Humhama and Vision Public School Humhama, would also be called in for questioning. 

Sources made it clear that current exercise of “preliminary inquiry” would lead to registration of a formal criminal matter and the accused could be arrested immediately after registering of FIR. Much would, however, depend on the orders from Chief Minister’s Secretariat, which could become extraordinarily cautious after Peerzada’s threat to expose an influential MoS of the National Conference.


Munna Bhai Matric Pass’ is actually JKLF
commander’s son

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 1: The boy, whose actions have been causing embarrassment after embarrassment to senior Congress leader and Minister of School Education, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, is actually the son of a slain JKLF commander. Now exposed in the ‘Unfair Means Scam’ of J&K State Board of School Education, Peerzada’s foster son had hogged headlines last year when he had quarreled with shopkeepers in Kokernag area, reportedly in inebriated condition.

With no issues from his first wife, who died in 1997, Peerzada married widow of a slain JKLF commander. Daughter of one-time senior Congress leader, Abdul Aziz ‘Tourist’, Dr Tabbasum had married prominent JKLF commander Pervez Billa in 1990. She gave birth to Aman Sufan next year. A year later, Pervez was stoned to death by militants of Hizbul Mujahideen in Chhattabal area of Srinagar on the allegation that he had planned and carried out the assassination of the outfit’s “Intelligence Chief” Mamoon Rasheed’s father.

According to Police records, Mamoon Rasheed, who had previously worked as a Constable in J&K Police, had also planned powerful IED blast at J&K Police Headquarters on January 25th, 1992. A number of top ranking Police officials, including then DGP and some ADGs, had sustained injuries in the explosion.

Later, Mamoon’s father was assassinated by JKLF militants in the thick of an internecine clash. The assassination led to the broad daylight killing of Pervez Billa.

Working as a doctor in state Health Department, Dr Tabassum later married Peerzada. Her only son from the JKLF commander was adopted by Peerzada as his own son and he has been continuously living with the couple.

Peerzada shot into negative publicity in Panchayar Ghar Electrification Scam when he was Minister incharge Rural Development Department in then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government in 2004. Newly created J&K State Accountability Commission (SAC) held him guilty and passed a judgment against Peerzada when Justice (retd) R P Sethi was working as its first Chairman. Like many others, Peerzada later got the action against him stayed from J&K High Court. Successive governments in the state have shown little seriousness in contesting the stay orders and getting these quashed with evidences and arguments. Questions on the subject have been repeatedly coming as embarrassment to all governments in almost all the sessions of legislative business every year.

Peerzada’s second wife, Dr Tabassum, was at the centre of a controversy on recognition of ETT Schools in 2006-07. Then MLA of Sangrama, Shuaib Lone (who is now head of Youth Congress in J&K) had rocked a session of Legislative Assembly with the allegation that Education Minister’s wife had demanded and accepted bribe money worth Rs 40,000 from the MLA’s sister on account of recognition of her ETT school near Baramulla. MLA later alleged that the Minister’s wife had threatened his mother of dire consequences on telephone. Then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, consequently, forced Peerzada to resign as Education Minister and also got him removed from AICC as president of J&K Pradesh Congress Committee.

On AICC recommendation, Omar Abdullah inducted Peerzada again as Minister incharge School Education when he became head of the current NC-Congress coalition government in January 2009. Peerzada’s foster son Aman Sufan was arrested by Police in Anantnag and case FIR No: 271 of 2011 was lodged against him on August 4, 2011, when he and six of his associates allegedly rampaged into residential houses and shops in the Minister’s residential village in Kokernag.


Shutdown, celebrations go together on R-Day in Kashmir

No clashes, stone pelting, demonstration, violence reported in Valley

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jan 26: Contrary to a many speculations and apprehensions, Republic Day was celebrated today in Kashmir valley without any disruption or violence as Ministers of the coalition government unfurled national flag and took salute at colourful ceremonial parades at all the ten district headquarters. Amid a near-total shutdown, that had been called by separatist leaders and different militant outfits and was ironically enforced by government agencies, the biggest event of the day took place at Bakhshi Memorial Sports Stadium in this capital city where Minister of Finance Abdul Rahim Rather hoisted the national flag and delivered a ceremonial speech.

As usual asking the Kashmiris to observe the Indian Republic Day as a “Black Day”, almost all the separatist politicians and guerrilla groups had called for shutdown in Valley. In contrast to colourful celebrations on this day each year from 1960 to 1988, the people of the Valley have hardly associated themselves with this Indian democracy festival after eruption of militancy in 1989-90. On many occasions in the last 22 years, demonstrations, clashes with Police and guerrilla strikes have marred Republic Day celebrations in Srinagar as well as all rural district headquarters.

For the first decade of armed insurgency, blackout came as a usual feature as hardly anybody mustered courage to put the lights on.

Valley has witnessed a sea change in the last few years. Separatists and militants have been calling for the shutdown in keeping with the routine. However, nobody either calls for or observes blackout. There was undoubtedly a thick security bandobust in entire capital city and all nine rural district headquarters. Yet, the shutdown appeared to be the result of the restrictions on public movement and transport put in place strictly by Police and security forces.

Men in uniform, carrying AK-47 rifles as well as batons and tearsmoke canisters, did not allow anybody, other than the officially invited ones, walk or drive on the streets. For many in Srinagar, it was a curfew without being declared. Rest of the job was done by mother nature as a thin layer of snow overnight had considerably added to intensity of the cold wave. Networks of all government and private telecommunication operators remained fully frozen from 0700 hours till winding up of the functions at 1230 hours.

Even as columns of Police and security forces had serious apprehensions of public demonstrations and stone pelting, just one-odd insignificant incident happened at Habbakadal in the middle of old city. A thin group of youth shouted pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans and indulged in a brief encounter with Police and CRPF. Reports said that Police chased away and dispersed the demonstrators with baton charge and counter-stonepelting. Residents alleged that the men in uniform shattered windscreens and hoods of several cars, both parked and in movement. A journalist associated with English language daily Rising Kashmir, Abid Bashir, complained that he was harassed and abused and his vehicle was damaged by forces.

Situation was reported calm elsewhere. There were no black flags or the green colour Pakistani national flags that were seen on this day on rooftops, treetops and mobile phone towers at several places from 1990 to 2000. There were not even slogans or demonstrations anywhere in the Valley. Groups of youngsters were seen playing cricket on the improvised turfs and brick wickets on main streets in this capital city. Their staple target of yesteryears, Police and CRPF enjoyed the “match” everywhere. Reports said that no anti-national slogans were scribbled on walls or road surfaces as witnessed at many places in the past.

Reports said that schoolchildren in good numbers participated in the Republic Day celebrations not only at ll the ten district headquarters but also at a number of Tehsil and Block headquarters. With the sun coming out of the clouds and the VIPs concluding their speeches and slautes, students in colourful outfits danced and sang patriotic songs. However, at some places, their parents complained that the children did it “under duress” as Principals and Headmasters conveyed it to them in plain terms that their absence would badly affect their academic prospects.

Some people in Kupwara complained that Army forced teachers and students celebrate R-Day at different schools. They alleged that Army officials forced their presence as “chief guests” and hoisted Tricolour on rooftops of school buildings. A Defence spokesman, nevertheless, asserted in a press release that the teachers and students celebrated the R-Day out of their own will and enthusiasm.

At certain R-Day parade venues, folk artists and musicians entertained the organized audiences. Officials at other places announced prizes, awards and honours in favour of people in their respective areas who had achieved excellence in different fields.

At Bakhshi Stadium in Srinagar, Minister of Finance and senior National Conference leader, Abdul Rahim Rather, unfurled the Tricolour, took salute at the ceremonial parade and delivered a speech. Minister of Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir was the chief guest at a well attended R-Day function at Budgam, Minister of Education Pirzada Mohammad Sayeed at Baramulla, Minister of Irrigation and PHE Taj Mohiuddin at Kupwara, Minister of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Qamar Ali Akhoon at Bandipore, Minister of Rural Development Department Ali Mohammad Sagar at Ganderbal, Minister of Forest Mian Altaf Ahmad at Kulgam, Minister of Social Welfare Sakeena Itoo at Pulwama, Minister of Animal Husbandry and information Technology Aga Ruhullah at Shopian and Minister of State Aijaz Ahmad Khan at Anantnag.