SIC MEET TODAY: All eyes on Omar, Mehbooba
‘Commission Should Be Strong, Impartial And Pro-Transparency’
Srinagar, Jan 26: Now that January 26 has passed off peacefully in Jammu and Kashmir, there is total focus of the civil society on the Chief Minster Omar Abdullah and Opposition Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti who are scheduled to meet in Jammu on Thursday to constitute the much-awaited State Information Commission.
According to the proponents of the Right to Information Act, Omar and Mehbooba must ensure constitution of a credible and strong State Information Commission—comprising of the Chief Information Commissioner for Jammu and Kashmir and two State Information Commissioners.
In the backdrop of reports that a top bureaucrat and a police officer were lobbying hard to assume the coveted post of the CIC, the RTI proponents are vehemently critical of any such selection, asserting that it would mar the essence of the Right to Information Act and indicate that the state government was not serious in bringing about transparency and accountability in the system.
“The process for having the Commission for promotion of transparency must be transparent and consultative in the first place,” says Vankatesh Nayak, the Programme Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Commission (CHRI), a New Delhi-based non-governmental organization that promotes the Right to Information Act.
“This is the demand that we have made for constitution of the Central Information Commission and other State Information Commissions. Right now the trend is that the process is neither transparent not consultative and with the result we have seen retired bureaucrats assuming such coveted posts,” Nayak told Greater Kashmir over phone.
He said. “The question is why intelligent, upright and honest officers from other fields, other than bureaucracy, are not considered for the positions which are primarily aimed at promoting transparency in the system.”
Nayak said the RTI Act provides wide choice for having the SIC. “The persons can be from the civil society who are the strong proponents of transparency. They can be from other fields like management, science, journalism or law,” he said.
Omar and Mehbooba is understood to face litmus test on Thursday, given the reports that the top bureaucrat of the state, overlooking the entire state administration right now, has been seen lobbying in the power corridors for the position of the CIC, as he is scheduled to retire this month. But, according to reports that have emanated in the media circles at international level, the officer is accused of having resurrected the favourite retired officers in the state administration, drawing flak from many a officials.
Another person allegedly lobbying for the post is a senior police officer, formerly associated with the state intelligence. This, according to observers, would mean “strangulating transparency” as it is not advisable to have a police officer as the CIC in a fragile state like J&K where police has been accused of denying information to RTI activists in many cases.
“The persons who would form the first SIC would leave an imprint on the institution itself. They have to be visionaries so that leave behind a strong institution. It should not be taken as a vacant position which should be filled by someone to enjoy sarkari perks. This would defeat the very essence of the RTI Act,” Nayak asserted.
He suggested that people who have proven their merit and are experienced must form the SIC. “Primarily they should be the persons who believe in transparency and have a credible track-record in this arena,” Nayak said.
“The government should go through the Bio-Data of the applicants properly and carefully so that the Commission is strong and impartial at the end of the day. Such selections must not be done secretly or to favour someone favourite.”
According to officials, the SIC members should be from within Jammu and Kashmir and those who have not been associated with the state bureaucracy or administration.
In the recent past, some of the appointments in academic and administrative circles of the state have drawn complete flak from the civil society.
To top this was the appointment of the vice-chancellor for the SK University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Kashmir (SKUAST-K) who has allegedly been selected from number three in the panel submitted by a search committee for the coveted post. At number one position, sources said, was a local candidate who was not selected for “political reasons.”
Likewise, the appointment of heads for Electricity Regulatory Authority, the Finance Commission and the Economic Advisor has also not been taken well in the civil society circles.
“There is a strong feeling in Kashmir that such selections are made by New Delhi. That should not be the case with SIC constitution because it concerns public welfare and good governance,” said a former bureaucrat, insisting not to be named. “In the past two years, the Chief Minister has been repeatedly promising to curb corruption which has infested the state departments. If the SIC would comprise of retired bureaucrats, it would clearly mean that he is not interested in addressing the problem in letter and spirit. Let the CIC and ICs be the honest and upright persons from within the state and not from outside who are most often unacceptable to the civil society.”
Pertinently, in the state there is a strong resentment among various circles with regard to appointment of top officers and it is felt that Kashmiris are not being considered for such positions though many of them deserve to be there.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti said, “If you recall, I had written a letter to CM that there are certain names doing rounds in the media with regard to SIC. I had asked him that it should not be something pre-conceived. The Chief Minister responded and said that there was nothing like that. I hope we go there with an open mind and contribute positively.”
Mehbooba said merit would be the sole criterion for selecting the candidates. “We will respect merit. These are important positions and people have so many aspirations associated with it. The experience of the RTI activists in the state has been very bad. So let’s see how the meet turns out to be,” she said.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Jan 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Jan 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Jan 2011 00:00:00 IST
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