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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Lal Singh harnesses a dead horse to kill a dying horse

Not a single Forestry graduate allowed to enter SFC; no recruitment of technical staff in 28-30 years

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Nov 25: In a radical decision, Jammu and Kashmir’s ebullient Forest Minister Choudhary Lal Singh has taken away the charm from Territorial Forest Department and added some sheen to the nearly defunct Jammu and Kashmir State Forest Corporation (SFC). Earlier this year, entire job of extraction of timber and distribution of timber among the people on concessional rates was shifted from Forest Department to SFC “in order to streamline” the functioning of the twin organisations.

In the current month, SFC has begun the task though it is only scantily resourceful to operate. Not a single cubic foot of timber was distributed in Kashmir valley this year, mainly due to the over four-month-long street turbulence after July 8. But that is not the only reason as SFC has no sufficient technical staff because of total freeze of recruitment in the Corporation in the last 28-30 years.

Interestingly, even as around 800 candidates with graduation, post-graduation and doctorate in Forestry have been running from pillar to post in search of an inferior job of a Forest Guard, clerk or Rehbar-e-Taleem teacher, not a single person with B SC Forestry has been ever appointed against a technical post in SFC.

SFC is a statutory Corporation established under the J&K State Forest Corporation Act, 1978. The erstwhile Government Lumbering Undertaking (GLU), which used to carry out extraction and sale of timber in the State, was merged into the State Forest Corporation. The objectives of the Corporation are “better preservation, supervision and development of forests and better exploitation of forest produce”.

The functions of the Corporation are defined in the J & K SFC Act, as undertaking removal and disposal of trees and exploitation of forest resources entrusted to it by the Government; undertaking research programmes relating to forest and forest products and render technical advice to Government on matters relating to forestry; managing, maintaining and developing such forests as are transferred and entrusted to it by the Government till these are handed back to the Government.

The deficiency of technical staff in SFC can be imagined from the fact that out of the sanctioned strength of 21 Divisional Managers (DMs), it is left with just 5 incumbents. Two more of them are retiring in the next two years. The last appointment of DMs has taken place 30 years back in 1985-86. None of the incumbents has a superior technical qualification over B.A. and B. SC (with DDR) but all of them are posted on superior positions of ‘incharge’ Deputy General Managers (DGMs).

Out of the sanctioned strength of 40 posts of Assistant Divisional Managers, SFC is now left with just 11 incumbents. Even as 29 posts are lying vacant, no recruitment has taken place in the last 30 years. All the incumbents are posted on stop gap arrangement against superior positions.

Out of the sanctioned strength of 50 Range Managers (RMs), SFC is now left with just 19 incumbents as no recruitment has been carried out after 1988. Four more are due to retire in the next one year. In brazen violation of Supreme Court of India’s special directions to J&K Government, all the 19 RMs are functioning as “incharge DMs” since long. The highest qualification of these incumbents is Matriculation to B.A. with in-service DDR.

Out of the sanctioned strength of 500 Block Managers, SFC has currently a total of 325 incumbents. Successive state governments have not allowed even a single of the 800 unemployed Forestry graduates and post-graduates to enter the SFC as Block Managers, a post equivalent to Forester in Forest Department.

All the 9 incumbent Assistant General Managers (AGMs) are operating on superior positions of “incharge Divisional Managers”. Seven of them are due to reach superannuation in the next 6 years. Their highest qualification is 12th pass to MA, with one incumbent being BA LLB. During service, these incumbents have also done SFC or KFC training course.

Currently, SFC has only 5 Deputy General Managers (DGMs) who are all functioning against superior positions of “incharge GMs” in violation of the Supreme Court of India directions against continuation of stop-gap arrangement beyond six months. Of the 5 incumbents, 4 are retiring in the next one year and the last one in 2020. These incumbents are simple B Sc or B Sc Agriculture with in-service training course DDR. As the last of them has been appointed in 1985, SFC has not made any recruitment in the last 31 years.

As regards the top most position of General Managers, next only to Managing Director, SFC has only 6 incumbents. While as some of the GM posts are often left vacant, some are borrowed from the already deficient Forest Department. Out of 6 of the SFC’s own GMs, 5 are retiring in the next four years. Here again the last incumbent’s recruitment has taken place in 1986. Of the 6 incumbents, two are M Sc in Zoology and Botany, three are B Sc Agriculture and one is simple B Sc. During their service career, they have done SFS or DDR course.

“Clearly, SFC has to be shut permanently in the next five years as no Government has carried out fresh recruitment of technical staff in the last 28 to 30 years. It appears that the vested interests of politicians and bureaucrats are mainly responsible for drying out of the technical staff in SFC”, said a retired MD of SFC.

Chairman SFC and Minister incharge Forest Lal Singh could not be reached for his comment.

[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Govt still undecided about collection of fee by pvt schools for period of turmoil

Chaos among parents but empowered committee receives just 2 complaints in Kashmir, both from parents of DPS Srinagar

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Nov 22: Even as chaos and confusion is prevailing among hundreds of thousands of the parents in Kashmir valley, Mehbooba Mufti government is still undecided over the fees private educational institutes are demanding and charging for more than four months of total shutdown.

Almost all the government-run and private schools and colleges remained closed for administrative and curricular activity for 130 days after the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter triggered off street turbulence in the Valley. While as curfew remained in force continuously for over a month, the separatist-sponsored shutdown went on without any daytime relaxation till November 19.

While around 90 persons got killed and around 15,000 (including some 7,000 Police and security forces personnel) sustained injuries and fractures, more than 75 vehicles and 35 school buildings were torched by unruly mobs during the period of mayhem. In all, more than 15,000 vehicles were damaged in stone pelting, mostly by the shutdown vigilantes tasked to enforce the separatists’ call.

Chairman of the Committee for Fixation of Fee Structure of Private Educational Institutions in Jammu and Kashmir, Justice (retd.) Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain, told STATE TIMES that a decision whether to collect the fees from the students for the turmoil period was to be taken by the State Government. According to him, no such decision had been taken or communicated either to the private schools or the parents or the High Court (which is hearing a PIL on the subject) or the Committee.

“A day or two before the Durbar Move from Srinagar last month, there were continual deliberations in the Government’s School Education Department on this issue. High Court too has asked the Government to explain its stand. We are told that the Government has assured the Court that it would make a considered opinion in consultation with the Committee. But, till date, this matter has not been referred to us either by the Government or by the High Court”, Justice Hussain asserted.

“We are appropriately seized of the matter and well aware that both, the parents as well as the school operators, are in distress and conflict over this issue. However, just two parents of the students of just one school (DPS Athwajan, Srinagar) approached us with formal complaints. In response to our notice, DPS management contended that our Committee had no competence to decide whether or not the fee was to be charged by the private schools. They pleaded that the Committee was empowered only to regulate the fee structures of the recognised private educational institutions. Nevertheless, the DPS management made a commitment in writing that it would examine each representation on case-to-case basis and grant concessions wherever warranted”, Justice Hussain revealed.

With regard to the months of September and October 2014, when parts of the Valley were paralysed due to devastating floods, the Committee had received as many as 300 representations. Justice Hussain said that 270 of these complaints had been decided. “Relief was granted to the students living in flood-affected areas but denied to those who lived in normal areas. We have still around 30 of such petitions under consideration”, Justice Hussaid said, pointing out, inter alia, to the directions of the High Court issued after the floods.

“We are facing a host of hardships in determination of matters and delivering justice. There are lacunae which prevent us from taking up such matters. But, the Government is now expected to bring necessary legislation. A law on the pattern of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Delhi is actively under consideration of the political executive. It will give necessary powers to our Committee and we will be in a position to deliver justice in a better way”, Justice Hussain added.

The head of the empowered Committee, that has Commissioner-Secretary School Education as Member-Secretary besides a chartered accountant and a representative from the J&K Board of School Education as Members, said that all the private educational institutes recognised by the Government and operating in Jammu and Kashmir, including those teaching curriculum of Central Board School Education, were bound to operate their fee structures with necessary approval of the Committee.

 “But unfortunately out of 6,000 schools, just 300-odd have submitted their record and sought our approval. We have taken up this issue with High Court as well as the Government and emphasised that there was no fun of having such a Committee if the fee structure of all the private schools was not to be regulated. On a positive note, some changes have been made and others are in the offing”, Justice Hussain said.

The Chairman revealed that, in recent past, Government had made it mandatory for all the private educational institutes to get their registration/recognition revised and revalidated after every one or two years.

“We have made it clear to the Government that two different committees, comprising officers of the rank of Joint Director of Education and other officials, should be constituted for this purpose in Kashmir and Jammu divisions. These should essentially operate under the control of our Committee. We will ensure that registration/recognised is renewed strictly in accordance to the guidelines and without any extraneous influence or intervention”, Justice Hussain asserted.

Asked why the issue of charging the fee for the turmoil period had been lying in limbo for long, Justice Hussain said that Commissioner-Secretary Education, Directors of School Education in Kashmir and Jammu besides BOSE authorities had got entangled with the examinations of Class 10 and 12, besides resuming operation of the closed down schools in border areas of Jammu and Durbar Move for about a month. “We are hopeful that the Government will either take a decision or refer this issue to our Committee. We will examine it in view of arguments from both, the parents as well as the school owners, and take a judicious decision”, Justice Hussain said.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, November 21, 2016

J&K Govt’s 3 senior officers seek de-induction from IAS

Pervez Khateeb, Sarmad Hafeez and Farooq Lone ‘not satisfied’ with 2009 as their year of allotment

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Nov 20: Three of the senior officers of the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS), who had been inducted into the prestigious Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in the year 2014, have sought repatriation to the State service while complaining that their service before induction into the Technical Quota of KAS in the year 2000 had not been counted in fixation of their year of allotment into the IAS.

Sources in the State bureaucracy revealed to STATE TIMES that Commissioner Commercial Taxes, Paraiz Iqbal Khateeb, Labour Commissioner, Sheikh Sarmad Hafeez, and Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, Dr Farooq Ahmad Lone, have submitted a representation to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, with a copy to the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) of the Government of India, seeking de-induction from IAS and repatriation to the KAS.

While the IAS service regulator, DOPT, was still processing the representation, a favourable communication from Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government in 2015 recommended review of the year of allotment of IAS in favour of the three officers, stressing that their pre-KAS induction service should be counted. Coming from different State service streams, the three officers had been inducted into the TQ of KAS in the year 2000.

It is for the first time that any officer of the J&K Government has sought repatriation to the KAS and opted to forgo the glittering IAS after induction into the all-India service. Over a decade back, then Secretary to Government and now Cabinet Minister for Education Naeem Akhtar’s decision to spurn the IAS, reportedly for its “Indian” tag, had hogged headlines. Even thereafter, KAS and non-KAS officers had been jostling for their induction into the IAS.

Even after the J&K Government raised the age of superannuation for KAS and all state government employees from 58 to 60 years, a Chief Secretary recommended IAS induction for 10 incumbents, including some friends and relatives, and sent a special messenger with the courier to New Delhi. However, allotment of over a dozen slots of Secretary to senior KAS officers, coupled with hike in the age of retirement, has made the State service distinctly attractive, though it has irked the regular recruits (RRs) of IAS.

Placed in the grade of Special Secretary (Junior Administrative Grade: Rs 15,600 — Rs 39,100 GP Rs 7,600) before their induction in IAS, the three officers would have been by now in the grade of Secretary (Selection Grade: Rs 37,400 — Rs 67,000 GP Rs 8,700) and Commissioner-Secretary (Super Time Scale: Rs 37,400 — Rs 67,000 GP Rs 10,000) like a number of their juniors and at least one of them (Sarmad Hafeez) would have risen to the rank of Principal Secretary (Higher Administrative Grade: Rs 67,000 —  Rs 79,000) before his retirement. The induction into the IAS has only brought them down to the rank of Additional Secretary (Senior Time Scale: Rs 15,600 — Rs 39,100 GP Rs 6,600).  

“We had expected 2006 as our year of allotment into the IAS. Unfortunately, our pre-KAS induction service was not counted and 2009 was fixed as our year of allotment. In KAS, many of our batch mates and juniors have been elevated to the rank of Secretary to Government and placed in selection grade (37400—67000 GP 8700 and 37400—67000 GP 10,000). Some of them will retire as Principal Secretary to Government. Now, only one of us (Sarmad) will reach the rank of Commissioner-Secretary and two others (Khateeb and Lone) will retire as Special Secretary because of being close to superannuation. What’s the fun of this ornamental rank of IAS that reduces us to the rank Additional Secretary?” said one of the three applicants. He pointed out that Mohammad Saleem Shishgar “who is far junior to us all in KAS” was now a full-fledged Secretary to Government and had been holding the key portfolio of IT and Technical Education. 

Sources in General Administration Department (GAD) confirmed that the three State officers had sought de-induction from IAS and repatriation to KAS. “However, we haven’t received any communication in this regard from the DOPT, even as we have subsequently recommended that the three complaining officers’ service prior to their induction into KAS in the year 2000 be counted and their year of the allotment into IAS be fixed afresh. As and when this happens, it will benefit not only the three applicant officers but also others of the KAS to be inducted into the IAS in future”, said a GAD official.

“If Government of India does not acquiesce into our proposal, hardly any J&K officer, to be inducted into IAS in future, would reach the rank of Principal Secretary”. In other words, all the superior bureaucratic positions of Principal Secretary, Financial Commissioner and Chief Secretary would remain occupied by the IAS RRs, mostly from other States.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]