The burdens of inheritance
THE BOOK TAKES UP SOME TICKLISH ISSUES CONCERNING US ALL. I CONFINE THIS REVIEW TO JUST ONE OF THE THEMES DISCUSSED IN THE BOOK. MUHAMMAD SHAFI PANDIT REVIEWS THE BOOK AUTHORED BY ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
At first glance, the book appears to be a biography of Omar Abdullah, the youngest ever Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir State. But as one flips through the pages, what emerges is an anthology of write-ups by the author on various issues of topical importance from political, social and economic stand points. These range from the ticklish problem of erosion of the State’s autonomy to the menacing problem of unemployment, un-controlled human rights violations, burgeoning militarization, climate change, environmental issues and the State’ unsustainable financial and fiscal structure.
In a brief review of the book like the present one it is not possible for me to address all the issues raised in the book. I shall confine myself to certain selected issues and a few general comments.
What strikes a reader at the very outset, is the statement made by the author that ‘the general psyche of the masses in this region (read J&K), is somehow conditioned to be influenced by personality cults. Even though the transition from autocratic Dogra rule to a system, supposedly governed by democratic principles, took place in 1947, political succession continues to remain a family affair, cutting across all families in the political and socio-religious spectrum.
One cannot but agree with the author that while the State has travelled a long distance from one “labouring under poverty and very low economic conditions of living”, as projected in 1929 by Sir Albion Bannerji, a senior member of Maharaja Hari Singh’s Council, in terms of political empowerment (nay, disempowerment), ‘ the circumstances are not very different than(sic) those which existed prior to 1947 here’..
Let me first deal with the issue brought out in chapter 1 of the book, resulting from the ‘Congress Political Coup: Inter-District Recruitment Bill, 2010’. The author has concluded that the manner in which this bill was passed by the State Assembly in April, 2010, was symbolic of how ‘the State’s politics has remained subservient to the preferences of India’s grand old party (Congress)’. He has called this bill as ‘a recipe for political disaster of the State’. The State Government thought it fit to make provision of 8 % quota for the Scheduled Castes (SC’s) at the district level, irrespective of whether the district has any population of SC’s or not. This obviously means that 8 % posts are denied to the people of the valley, where it is well known that no SC’s live. Even if it is argued that the SC candidates do not get an entitlement to these jobs per se, because the pre-requisite is domicile within the district but, clearly, these jobs go out of the district pool at least for a period of three years, which is the minimum requirement for de-reservation. And who knows whether de-reservation will ever take place, keeping in view the possibility that the potential beneficiaries may eventually find ways of getting around the domicile requirement.
In this context, it occurs to me whether this most sensitive issue ought to have been dealt with in a more thoughtful manner. In the State of Andhra Pradesh, the Nizam of the erstwhile Hyderabad State , had legislated the Mulki Rules, providing for recruitment of locals at various levels of administrative cadres. These rules were subsequently cloaked with constitutional legality through a Presidential Order issued under article 371-D of the Constitution of India. What a contrast! In Jammu and Kashmir State, the same objective was sought to be achieved through a Government order, issued by the State Government in 1956, providing for a quota of 50 % for Kashmiri Muslims 40 % for Jammu Hindus and 10 % for Kashmiri Pandits. Obviously, the decision was intrinsically flawed, being based on communal lines and was, therefore, struck down by the Honb’le Supreme Court in a petition entitled Triloki Nath Tiku vs. State of J&K ( AIR, 1969.) The subsequent caderisation at State, Division and District levels, was also done in a half-baked manner, without providing for due protection to the local candidates. And, lo and behold, the genuine concerns of the people were given a body blow in the form of the Inter-District Recruitment Bill, 2010!
Now, let me turn to another important issue raised by the author in a subsequent chapter, entitled ‘J&K’s Myths of Discrimination’. This pertains to the perception prevailing in, Jammu and Ladakh, and fanned by certain sections of the media, with a view to giving it currency in the New Delhi civil society circles, that Kashmir valley dominates the decision making, to the detriment of the other two regions, whereas the facts on the ground speak to the contrary. The author has pointed out that the bureaucracy in the State is ‘overwhelmingly dominated by non-state subjects and non Muslims of IAS cadre’. Only eight Muslims have been Chief Secretaries in the State out of 25 since 1947. While the factual accuracy of these figures cannot be questioned, one could legitimately ask, whoever stopped the Muslims of the State from competing for the UPSC Civil Services examinations, held religiously from year to year? There is no dearth of talent in the State, as has been amply borne out by the selection of Shah Faisal at the top of the list in 2009 UPSC Civil Services Examination.
It is indeed a pity that during the last fifty years of administrative integration of the State, only five Muslims of the State have so far made it to the IAS, but four out of these have made it within the first ten ranks of the relevant lists. This calls for introspection on the part of Kashmiris as to why eligible Muslim candidates from the State are not competing in large numbers for the UPSC Civil Services Examinations and not even for the State Civil Services (KAS). Do they have a preference for the Medical, Engineering and other technical professions or are they feeling diffident? Bright young persons from the State need to get their priorities straight. Whereas we need a lot of talent in all professional fields in order to progress, we also need our brightest minds in the civil services both at the central and state levels in order to participate in the process of governance (administrative and political) and policy formulation for socio-economic development. After the recent burst of enthusiasm generated by the news of selection of Shah Faisal, it was hoped that the local aspirants would seriously think of competing for the civil service examinations in large numbers. Alas, according to a recent report in the Greater Kashmir, only 33% 0f the applicants for the newly notified KAS Examination were from Kashmir valley. This is even less than the numbers achieved in 2009.
I should, at this stage, like to remove a wrong perception created by the author that some additional Muslim candidates could have made it to the KAS list of 132 in 2007, had they not been ‘beaten’ at the interview level. I find it morally binding on my part to correct this impression, based on my personal knowledge, since I, in my capacity as the erstwhile Chairman of the J&K PSC chaired the panel which conducted the interviews. First of all, it has to be understood that interview is not a determining factor for making it to the KAS (or for that matter the IAS ) list, because it accounts for only 12.5 % of the total marks for the recruitment process, whereas 87.5 % marks are for the performance at the written examination (KAS Mains). If a candidate has obtained above average marks in the written examination, with even satisfactory performance in the interview, he or she has a good chance of getting into list of selected candidates. I can quote my own example to prove this assertion. If I had obtained even zero marks in the interview for my UPSC Examination in 1969, I would still have been in the IAS list, probably around 65th rank instead of 5th rank at which I figured(which eventually improved to 3rd ).
Having made these points I should hasten to add that the basic assertion made by the author that Kashmiri Muslims are not duly represented in the bureaucratic set-up of the State, is indisputably valid and irrefutable. However, the author ought to have also drawn attention to cases of deserving Muslim officers from the State having been denied appropriate positions at the state as well central levels, despite having had attributes of seniority and performance.
The author has asserted that the current insecurity amongst Muslims in the State has to be seen in the light of the constant decline in the Muslim population as a percentage of the total state population, from 68.30 % in 1961 to 66.97 % in 2001. He has given figures highlighting the changing demography in various districts of Jammu region. On the basis of Census figures, reflected in an article in the Frontline news-magazine (Oct. 2000), the author has pointed out that the Hindu population in Doda district had grown by 47.23 % between 1971 and 1981 but that of Muslims by only 11.97 %. Similarly, in Udhampur district, the growth of Hindu population for the same period was 45 % against 6.35% of Muslims. In Rajouri district, Hindu population grew by 47.72 % against 33.01 % of Muslims. The position in the other two districts is more appalling. In Kathua district, the Hindu population was reported to have grown by 39.31 %, while for the Muslims the population had fallen by 14.57 %. In Jammu district, Hindu population was reported to have grown by 36.14 %, while the Muslim population had fallen by 29.98%.
The concerns implicitly expressed by the author in this regard are totally valid and need to be addressed by the Chief Minister in the right perspective.
Altogether, the book has been conceived well and makes a good reading, with enough food for thought. In any future re-print of the book, the author would surely remove certain minor errors including grammatical ones, which have crept into the present edition.
(Muhammad Shafi Pandit is Former
Chairman, J&K Public Service Commission.
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Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 17 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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