Sunday, February 24, 2008

Corrupt to the core

Corrupt to the core
Is hamam mein sabhi nangai hai, the minister sums up the whole story himself.
No doubt all are naked in this hall of shame and ignominy.

By:Salman nizami

The recently concluded Session of the Legislative Assembly, being the last Budget Session of the 10th Legislative Assembly, was highlighted by the Coalition Government for their achievements on account of some historical events which took place during their tenure. They also took credit for the completion of some big projects, creation of some new districts and tehsils and opening/upgrading of some degree colleges and schools, thereby putting the opposition National Conference on the back foot. Opposition NC on the other hand did not leave any stone unturned in letting them down.
Ever since Ghulam Nabi Azad took over as CM, he made tall claims of eradicating the menace of corruption and even went to the extent of declaring "Jihad" against corruption in the State which had been stigmatized as the second most corrupt State after Bihar. NC having a political dominance of decades, lost the power in General Election of 2002 owing to miss-governance and promotion of nepotism and favoritism in the State. To what extent has CM been able to eradicate the menace of corruption was evident from the recent events that rocked the current Session of the Assembly. Allegations and counter allegations by the ruling alliance and the opposition parties in the Assembly is an eye opener for the general masses.
It seemed that the whole and sole aim of joining politics in J&K means amassing wealth by whatever means and at the cost of the people of the State. The only biggest regional party having a glorious historical past was dethroned and rejected by the people, and the PDP in alliance with Indian National Congress formed a coalition Government in the State. And the then CM Mufti Muhammad Syed and the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti promised a healing touch for the people. And with the passage of time it became clear that the healing touch was a hollow slogan, as they were more interested in letting their political rival NC down than doing good for the people of the State. The fact is evident from the unjustifiable allocation of funds and sanctioning of different centrally sponsored schemes on the basis of party affiliation. The deteriorated condition of the roads, lanes and by-lanes in proper Srinagar city speaks itself of the criteria fixed for such allocation. The present Government is claiming credit on account of upgrading the schools in the State. But Government Middle and Primary Schools in Srinagar city had all along been accommodated in single or two roomed houses hired privately by the Education department on rent. And the students along with the staff had to face wrath of the tenants every now and then for the rent which is not even paid to them in time.
When Ghulam Nabi Azad was sworn in as the CM along with 10 Ministers, only cutting down the jumbo size Council of Minister of his predecessor, there was a ray of hope among people that he will mitigate the sufferings of the people of the state by changing the age old conventions and precedence set by earlier governments. No doubt the number of Ministers inducted in the Council of Ministers was the lowest as compared to the previous Governments, but the Chief minister could have made history by keeping it only 15% as is the case with the Parliament of India. Huge Ministerial expenditure would have been saved if CM would not have accommodated more and more ministers in the Council. He could have kept this percentage as 15% in the bill. Besides the recent induction of two Cabinet ministers and two Ministers of State in the Council of Ministers, and keeping a single portfolio with three Ministers is the worst example of political corruption any democracy has ever seen.
Another Bill passed during Azad's tenure was: The Members, Presiding Officers, Ministers and Deputy Ministers Salaries and Allowances (Amendment) Bill,2006 by virtue of which 40,000 Per month was fixed as salary of the Legislators, Presiding Officers, Deputy Presiding Officers and Ministers of the State. Perhaps the highest salary being paid to the Legislators in the country except in UP, thereby upholding the special status of the State by virtue of Art.370 of the Constitution of India. This salary is even higher than that paid to the Members of Parliament. This four time hike in the salary of Legislators was made keeping in view not the services rendered by them but taking a political mileage out of the issue. But it was never thought while passing the Bill that there are scores of Public Sector Undertakings, daily wage workers and casual laborers who are not being paid for months together and are living a miserable life. And at the cost of state exchequer, the Government illogically appointed political advisors may be in order to earn the goodwill of some top elite bureaucrats in the administration. Such appointments obviously eroded the constitutional position of these representatives who are already receiving huge salary as well as the constituency development funds for overall development of their respective constituencies.
The political corruption exceeded limits when late Rtd. Justice R.P.Sethi was forced to resign as Chairman Accountability Commission owing to the fact that a Cabinet Minister was trapped in Electric scam in Rural Development Department with all the cogent proofs and evidence against him which made him to observe that it was proved beyond doubt that the Minister was involved neck-deep in the scandal. But he was never listened to. On the contrary, a Patwari or a clerk while taking a bribe of Rs 500 or 1000 is apprehended, letting free the big guns who take bribes of corers of rupees. Shoaib Nabi Lone leveled allegations against the said Cabinet Minister recently in the Assembly session, who in spite of his involvement in the scam could not be apprehended owing to his high influence. But this time the CM did not succumb to the pressure from any quarter as the allegations were leveled by a public representative and that too in the House which led to the ministers subsequent resignation as a Cabinet Minister and PCCI Chief. Prior to this, a high level enquiry was ordered to be conducted into the acts of gross mismanagements and creation of artificial scarcity of timber in the State and allied matters of the Forest department and the State Forest Corporations by B. R,Kundal, the then Financial Commissioner (HOME) in the month of September, 2007. The Minister In charge Forest, Qazi Afzal was suspended as being the Minister I/C Forest by the Government.
That time it was considered as a welcome step taken by the Government as the CM stated that in order to conduct a free and fair enquiry the suspension of the Forest Minister has become indispensable. However, the clamorers of the big change and healing touch came to the rescue of their colleague who was instrumental in winning the prestigious seat of Ganderbal constituency for PDP. And as usual the Chief Minister was brought under tremendous pressure and had to bow down. And even before concluding the enquiry, the charge of Forest Department was given back to the Minister.
The allegations and counter allegations by the present and ex-ministers saying that "Is Hamam mein sabhi nanage hain" itself speaks of the ill motives of the politicians of the state. Under such circumstances, how can these politicians escape the responsibility and justify the transparency and eradication of corruption from the State? The incurable problem of unemployment is only for the children of those people who do not have any access to the political galleries and the rest is fine for others for whom posts are being designed and created. Tall claims of eradicating the menace of corruption have proven to be mere slogans and nothing else.

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