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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mehbooba leaves Cabinet meet in a huff as BJP Ministers oppose 2 IGP, 3 DIG posts for KPS

Nirmal Singh, Lal Singh rush to pacify the dejected Chief Minister at her home

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 9: Failing to get through her proposal of cadre review for officers of Kashmir Police Service (KPS) — reservation of 2 IPS posts of IGP and 3 IPS posts of DIG for KPS officers — Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday left the Cabinet meeting in a huff, without consideration of some key agenda items as the Ministers of her coalition partner BJP resisted any conversion of IPS cadre posts for promotion of KPS officers.

On instructions from Chief Minister, who is holding portfolio of Home Department, Principal Secretary Home, R.K. Goyal, on Thursday prepared a detailed proposal for reservation of 2 posts of IGP and 3 posts of DIG for the senior KPS officers who fail to get induction into IPS on time and retire only as SSPs. The Cabinet memo was duly endorsed and approved by Chief Minister and enlisted in the agenda for Friday’s Cabinet meeting.

With the support of some Cabinet Ministers of PDP, the KPS officers of 1999 batch have been demanding reservation of at least 5 IPS posts for the State police service officers on the pattern of their Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) siblings.

While as five KAS officers, without their induction into IAS, are currently holding the posts of the administrative secretaries in Government of Jammu and Kashmir, six more of them are functioning in the grade of Commissioner-Secretary to Government and holding equivalent posts on ex-cadre basis. According to highly placed bureaucratic sources, IAS and IPS officers have submitted a host of representations to Government of India while strongly complaining that the cadre posts of IAS and IPS were being diverted for KAS and KPS officers.

Sources insist that from both, political as well bureaucratic quarters, in New Delhi, “men in J&K Government” had been advised to take a tough stand and fail whatever proposal the PDP would push in a Cabinet meeting.

According to the well-placed sources, after consideration and approval to certain agenda items, including a retired IAS officer Ashraf Bukhari’s appointment as Chairman of BOPEE, the Cabinet took up the agenda item of the cadre review of KPS.

The BJP Ministers, led by Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, opposed the proposal tooth and nail, while contending that the cadre arrangement of IPS, IAS and IFS should not be disturbed without taking on board the Prime Minister’s Office that controls the IAS regulator Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), Union Ministry of Home Affairs that regulates the IPS and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forestry that regulates the Indian Forest Service.

When some PDP Ministers sought to make it clear that there were more contenders for the reservation from Jammu than from Kashmir, the BJP Ministers declined to relent. They agreed only to the extent that the grade of IG and DIG could be granted to the senior KPS officers without posting them as IGPs and DIGs. Chief Minister herself pleaded the case of the non-IPS KPS officers, pointing out that for several years of their service towards the end of their career, they are forced to work under their juniors. It causes substantial demoralisation among the senior KPS officers, CM is said to have asserted.

As the BJP Ministers in one voice continued their opposition to the CM’s proposal, Ms Mufti got up and left the meeting in a huff. For the first time since she took over as CM in April this year, Ms Mufti turned impulsive on a Cabinet proposal and she drove straight to her official residence. Minutes later, PDP’s Cabinet Ministers Haseeb Drabu and Abdul Haq Khan rushed to the CM’s residence. Sources said that in half-an-hour, they were also followed by two BJP Ministers— Dy CM Nirmal Singh and Minister of Forest Lal Singh. It was not immediately clear whether Chief Minister entertained them or not.

Consequently, a number of the agenda items could not be considered in today’s meeting, that was the first after shifting of Durbar from Srinagar to Jammu. Previously, Cabinet had met in Srinagar on October 14.

Some reports said that differences between the coalition partners occurred on the proposal of the shifting of Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma as DG IMPA on retirement of Dr Arun Kumar and the appointment of Mr B.B. Vyas as the new Chief Secretary. However, top level bureaucratic and political sources told STATE TIMES that there was “no truth” in such reports circulated and spread through social media.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Thursday, December 8, 2016

PDP Minister removes NC Minister’s 2014 plaque, lays fresh foundation stone for Budgam water scheme

With total development freeze in Valley, PDP-BJP Govt starts take-2 of foundation stones

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 7: Stealing credit for developmental works is an old trait of politicians in Jammu and Kashmir. But, what the Mehbooba Mufti government’s Minister of Agriculture and PDP’s MLA of Chrar-e-Sharief did in his constituency on last Monday is uncommon. On December 5, Minister and MLA Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjuria carried with him a team of officials to lay a fresh foundation stone for an irrigation scheme for which the foundation stone had been laid by three Ministers of the Omar Abdullah government in June 2014.

According to an official press release, issued by Department of Information vide No: PR/DI/16/5564 on December 5, 2016, and got published in many of the newspapers, including STATE TIMES, Mr Hanjura laid foundation stone for construction of Water Storage Tank at Arzan-Garzan in Chrar-e- Sharief constituency. The Minister said at the occasion that the Rs 25 crore irrigation scheme would irrigate 1022 hectares of land in Chrar-e-Sharief constituency.

“The project has been sanctioned at an estimated cost of Rs 25.28 crore under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP). On completion the project will irrigate 1022 hectares of land of seven habitations of Chrar-e-Sharief constituency. These areas include Charwani, Zakhipora, Kakavring, Palpora, Dardpora, Hathpora, Tangnar, Chack and Mohanjdaur”, said the press release.

Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said that the Government is committed to provide basic amenities like adequate drinking water, power and road connectivity to the people of the State especially in rural and hilly areas. He said several initiatives have been taken in this regard adding that the Centre has already sanctioned a package of Rs 80,000 crore for the overall development of State”, said the press release further while highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Rs 80,000 crore economic package which was announced by the PM in Srinagar on November 7, 2015.

“Mr. Hanjura said the present Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti is carrying forward the mission of Late Mufti Sahab and she had recently laid foundation stone of two Nursing Colleges at Awantipora and Chrar-e-Sharief”, it added.

The press release said that Deputy Commissioner of Budgam, SSP of Budgam and “senior officers of Irrigation and Flood Control department” were present on the occasion.

Conducting a reality check, STATE TIMES learned that none of the senior officers of Irrigation and Flood Control department accompanied the Minister. Minister of Irrigation and Flood Control Choudhary Sham Lal, MoS Irrigation, Syed Farooq Andrabi, as also Chief Engineer, SE and Executive Engineer were conspicuously absent from the function. However an Assistant Executive Engineer was obediently in attendance.

Insiders revealed to this newspaper that the officers of their department stood away as it was difficult for them to attend the foundation laying of a scheme which had been approved in the previous regime and for which even the funds had been released. They provided a full album of the photographs which make it clear that the same scheme’s foundation stone had been laid by Omar Abdullah government’s Minister of Irrigation and Flood Control Sham Lal Sharma, Minister of Finance and National Conference’s Chrar-e-Sharief MLA Abdul Rahim Rather and Minister of State for Irrigation and Flood Control Nazir Ahmad Gurezi at the same spot on June 26, 2014.

The news item and photograph of the foundation laying was released by the State Information Department on June 26, 2014, and got published in newspapers on June 27, 2014.

“As the honourable Minister insisted that he would lay a fresh foundation scheme, we spoke to our Minister. When we explained to him that the foundation stone had already been laid in June 2014, he advised us to stay away. None of the senior officers attended it. We chose not to be part of it”, said an official. According to another official, AEE was put under pressure through the district administration and forced to accompany the Minister. “This scheme had not been executed in the last two years but that doesn’t mean we could remove the old stone and lay a fresh one for the incumbent Minister’s pleasure”, he said.

Attempts to reach Mr Hajura failed as his mobile phone was constantly not reachable. Chief Engineer Irrigation Kashmir Mir Javed Jaffar and SE (Hydraulic) Budgam-Srinagar Imtiyaz Ahmad Dhar did not respond to phone calls.


[Published to today’s STATE TIMES]

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

J&K Govt website shows Bali Bhagat as Forest Minister, Suresh Kumar as Director FPF

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 6: Jammu and Kashmir Government’s nonchalance and non-seriousness towards the all-important Forest sector could be gauged, inter alia, by the official websites of its departments which have not been updated even once during 8-month-long regime of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Incredibly, the official website of the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Protection Force (FPF) declares BJP leader Bali Bhagat as Minister of Forest and Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Suresh Kumar Gupta as Director of FPF.

As a matter of fact, Mr Bali Bhagat is Minister of Health and Medical Education in Mehbooba Mufti’s government since April 5, 2016, when Chief Minister allocated portfolios to her Cabinet Minister a day after taking oath on April 4, 2016. Since that day, BJP leader Choudhary Lal Singh is Minister of Forest, Environment and Ecology.

It appears that FPF’s website has never been updated in the current year. In Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government from March 1, 2015 to January 7, 2016, Bali Bhagat was Minister of Forest and Lal Singh was Minister of Health and Medical Education.

On August 12, 2016, Mehbooba Mufti’s government appointed Suresh Kumar Gupta (IFS-1991) as Managing Director of Jammu and Kashmir State Forest Corporation (SFC) while as Dr. R.K. Tiwari (IFS-1993) was appointed as Director FPF. Both the officers took over their new assignments within days of the reshuffle in August.

Adhocism and non-seriousness in FPF can also be imagined from the fact that a junior officer of State Forest Service, who is still not confirmed as Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) and has worked as “incharge DCF” for some time, has been appointed as Joint Director of FPF in Kashmir Division.

According to the law and rules, JD of FPF is equivalent in rank to Conservator of Forest (CF) in Forest Department.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, December 5, 2016

Forest Protection Force fails to recruit 60 ADs in last 20 years

Lack of interest evident after a Forest Minister failed to appoint his own daughter and a top separatist leader’s son through backdoor in the year 2000

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 4: When National Conference regained power after a seven-year-long pause of Governor’s and President’s rule in October 1996, it attached top most priority to protection of the State’s depleting sylvan cover. Creation of the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Protection Force (FPF) in December 1996 was highlighted as the Farooq Abdullah government’s significant decision and a remarkable achievement.

The Government accorded sanction to creation of 2,257 posts including one Director of the rank of Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), two Joint Directors of the rank of CF, 30 Deputy Directors of the rank of DCF, 60 Assistant Directors of the rank of Range Officer Grade-I, 150 Inspectors of the rank of Forester and 1500 FPF Guards equivalent to Forest Guards. Government decided to create 30 operational units of FPF which in jurisdiction would be co-terminus with equal number of Territorial Forest Divisions in the State.

Jammu and Kashmir Forest Protection Force Act 2001 came into force subsequently on April 12, 2001. A committee of officers was constituted for drafting of the ‘Working Rules’ and ‘Recruitment Rules’ with standing instructions that the same be got drafted and notified within a year. Even as the Force is completing 20 years of its life this week, it has failed to draft and notify the Recruitment Rules in the last two decades.

While the successive governments borrowed senior officers, including Director, JDs and DDs from the Forest Department, they picked up a profusion of favourites to fill up the lower rungs of FPF Guards, Inspectors through recruitment board. One of the most important levels—60 Assistant Directors—was left vacant after a Forest Minister failed to appoint favourites, including his own daughter and a senior separatist leader’s son, through backdoor.

Farooq Abdullah’s government was forced to drop its plan when a leading national newspaper reported that Forest Minister Peerzada Ghulam Ahmad Shah was planning to appoint 60 hand-picked youths, including his own daughter and a separatist leader’s son, on so-called ‘ad hoc’ basis. The idea was to subsequently regularise the appointees against the substantive vacancies of AD in FPF.

But cognizance by media and judiciary brought no relief to hundreds of the unemployed youths with graduation, post-graduation or doctorate in Forestry. Many of them crossed the qualifying age bar while a number of them chose to pick up inferior jobs like orderly, Rehbar-e-Taleem teacher, clerks and drivers. Others kept running from pillar to post in search of a job but failed to get one. Even some marriages and engagements broke as the boy or the girl carried the ignominious tag of ‘unemployed’.

The Minister’s daughter had DDR training and the separatist leader’s son another course. Neither of them was equivalent to Bachelor of Forestry (B Sc Forestry). While as the separatist leader managed to absorb his son through backdoor in a University, the Minister sent his daughter to pursue MBBS. She has been working as a doctor in the State Health Department for long. Thereafter, successive governments of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti demonstrated no will to either fill up the 60 vacancies of AD in FPF or provide employment to 800-odd Forestry graduates and post-graduates. Doors for them remained permanently shut in Forest Department, J&K State Forest Corporation, J&K State Pollution Control Board, Social Forestry Department, FPF and other departments and organisations in Forest sector.

Why exactly has the Government for 20 years slept over this issue and failed to make Recruitment Rules that would have helped Public Service Commission (PSC) and Services Selection Board (SSB) to make selection of candidates for appointment as ADs?

“There was, in fact, a bunch of litigations. Some people wanted the rules and recruitment on the pattern of Police Department while as others insisted that these should be based on merit and qualification as in Forest and other civil departments”, Commissioner-Secretary Forest Mohammad Afzal Bhat told STATE TIMES. “Finally, the J&K High Court clubbed the writ petitions and gave us direction last month to notify the Recruitment Rules within two months. We have accordingly redrafted the Rules and currently the same are pending with Department of Administrative Reforms, Inspections and Training. I am sure, we will notify the same within two months”.

According to Commissioner-Secretary Forest, the FPF Recruitment Rules would be duly processed and cleared by Departments of ARI Training, General Administration Department, Chief Minister and Department of Law. Thereafter, these would be notified by way of SRO by Department of Law.

Insiders, however, are pessimistic. "Our politicians and bureaucrats have huge vested interest in absence of technically qualified staff in Forest sector. When you have these vacancies filled up with young and energetic Forest officers who would come from PSC or SSB, who will provide timber free of cost to hundreds of influential politicians and officers in Friends Enclave and other posh colonies?", said an official, insisting that he may not be identified.

Without providing job to a single of the 800 unemployed Forestry graduates, Mehbooba Mufti’s Cabinet on June 22, 2016, reorganised the cadres in FPF. Out of the 60 gazetted posts of AD (which were equivalent to gazetted Range Officer Grade-I in pay scale of 9300—34800/GP 4280), 30 posts were downgraded and named as AD Grade-II and made equivalent to non-gazetted Range Officers Grade-II in pay scale of 9300—34800/GP 4200). At the same time, 30 posts of Inspectors (equivalent to Forester in pay scale of 5200—20,200/GP 2800) were upgraded to the level of AD-II.

Now only 15 vacancies of AD-I will be filled up directly through PSC while as the remaining 15 vacancies of AD-I, besides all the 60 vacancies of AD-II, have been reserved for promotion of in-service Inspectors. It has further reduced prospects of a job for the unemployed qualified and trained Forestry graduates in FPF.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Chief Justice Thakur finds his Jammu high school library without books, lab without test tubes; sheds his tears

‘I am indebted to Mohammad Sharief Sahab who taught me Urdu — the language I love and speak with pride’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 3: When on April 25, 2016, India’s 43rd Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur shed his tears at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he had very compelling reasons: 44 per cent judges missing in high courts, 25 per cent in subordinate courts and 19 per cent in the Supreme Court; judges in the busiest courts spending an average of 2.5 minutes to hear a case and about five minutes to decide one; Law Commission of India having cried itself hoarse since 1987, along with 15 successive CJIs in 29 years, about the need to increase the number of courts and judges drastically for justice to have any real meaning but the system having failed to provide necessary replenishment and the shortfall piling up with thousands of lawsuits every day.

But Saturday’s occasion at Central Basic Higher Secondary School in the dense Purani Mandi interior of Jammu had an altogether different reason. Thakur turned nostalgic and emotional at mentioning reminiscences of his school days how Master Govind Ram created him into a terrific orator; how other teachers taught him drawing and mathematics; and, how Master Mohammad Sharief tutored him Urdu “the language I love and speak with pride and comfort after English”. Several of his teachers, now in 80s and 90s, were in attendance.

In flawless Urdu, Thakur narrated how Govind Ram would give him prize of one Rupee for the best performances in debates and at home father Devi Das would multiply the same by five, in 1960s.

“In South India, people believed that judges could only write eloquent judgments but could deliver a speech. They used to ask me which Convent had brought me up. They looked incredulously at me when I would reveal to them that I was the product of a nondescript, free-education government school in Jammu”, Thakur said with all the punctuations of pride, pathos and nostalgia. For long, his handkerchief failed to mop his eyes and his voice remained choked almost all through the speech.

Notwithstanding his father’s attainments of success — a leading lawyer and subsequently a judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Minister in Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s Cabinet, Deputy Chief Minister in Ghulam Mohammad Shah’s government and Governor of Assam — Tirath Singh failed to realise his dream of becoming a student of the most attractive Ranbir Higher Secondary School (Parade Ground).

At Central Basic, like all other students, he would clean the dust from underneath the jute mating and then take a seat. Fifty years later, he said, nothing had changed for good at the school situated at a stone’s throw from the house of his host and Minister of State for Education Priya Sethi.

Even while accepting Mrs. Sethi’s request to adopt the forlorn school that created India’s 4rd Chief Justice, Thakur was terribly pained to notice that little had changed there. “I am afraid this premises of knowledge and learning would soon be converted into a shopping complex or a car parking. That would be the saddest day of my life”, he said.

“In the last 25-30 years, we have seen challenges confronting the education. The elements, who want people to remain blind, burn down schools in Kashmir. Fortunately, we are better off here. But what has changed? My esteemed teachers here will bear me out that its condition was far better than what it is today. The desks were newer and stronger; the classrooms were more comfortable; the library was packed with books and the laboratory with equipment. Today, I see a library but no books, a laboratory but no flames and test tubes”, Justice Thakur said while pledging to attract the Corporate Social Responsibility of some friends’ businesses for the school’s development after his retirement on January 4, 2017.

“It’s very difficult for a man like me to seek help for my old school’s development. But as an alumnus, I will least hesitate as I feel whatever I am today, I am because of this institute of learning”, he asserted.

[Published in STATE TIMES of December 4, 2016]