Bureaucrats rule the roost in JK?
‘Tilted’ Administrative Set-Up Causes Alienation, Disillusionment
Srinagar, July 14: Jammu and Kashmir seems to be in the midst of a fresh debate on bureaucratic set-up in the state, especially in the backdrop of accusations that the state government has exclusively handed over the baton of administration to an “influential group” of non-local officers at the crucial decision-making levels.
According to highly placed sources, there is a fresh spotlight on the debate in the wake of a few non-local officers being “preferred” on key positions while the state-based officers, particularly from the Valley, allegedly sidelined or given the “tasks of less importance.”
“The entire debate is about empowerment of the officers from Jammu and Kashmir,” says a senior government officer, insisting not to be named. “When you sideline the state-based IAS officers, who are equally competent as their counterparts from outside the state, you are naturally disempowering them. And this disempowerment would obviously breed disillusionment and disappointment,which is a case in the state administration today.”
The officer said elbowing out the state officers is leading to “governance deficit” as well “because the non-local officers seldom interact at the grassroots level.” “There is a problem of disconnect that it breeds. The non-local officers mostly happen to be ignorant of the ground realities vis-à-vis governance, thus leading to governance deficit,” the officer said. “They largely happen to draw projects, plans and policies from their offices, rather than taking inputs from ground.”
A number of non-local Indian Administrative Service and IPS officers are holding some of the vital positions in the state bureaucracy and police at different levels of decision-making while a Kashmir-based officer is hardly visible—except for a few places like the Director General of Police, Kuleep Khuda.
In a case in point, the IAS officer BB Vyas is holding five important portfolios at the moment. He is the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Chief Executive Officer of the Economic Reconstruction Agency and Commissioner/Secretary to the Planning and Development Department. By virtue of being Principal Secretary to the chief minister, Vyas is also holding the administrative charge of Information and Hospitality and Protocol Departments.
“Politicians in Jammu and Kashmir are talking a lot about the proposals like Autonomy and Self-Rule. But how is this Autonomy or Self-Rule possible when the leadership is not in the hands of your own officers?” asked a former bureaucrat. “You will have to seriously pass on the baton of administration to local officers if you really mean resolution of Kashmir through Self-Rule or Autonomy. It is not about being biased or prejudiced. It is all about respecting equally the competence and hard-work of local officers and ensuring their adequate representation at the decision-making level.”
Making an assertion, the bureaucrat said the Kashmir Administrative Service is a unique phenomenon in the world. “In this service, you would find officers from varied ethnic backgrounds and cultural mixes. Everyone is well-versed with the problems that the state faces. So engaging them to treat these problems is the best medicine one can think of,” he told Greater Kashmir. “And this would ensure a fine balance between different ethnicities in Jammu and Kashmir and would also bring down the feeling of alienation and discrimination, if at all it exists.”
According to sources in the state administration, it has become imperative to go for a good degree of re-orientation in the bureaucratic set-up. “Let IAS officers from the state be given some key portfolios for full term. Some of them have already proved their mettle and performed exceptionally well,” they said. “Chief Minister Omar Abdullah can take a dispassionate call on the issue in the interest of better governance and addressing the alienation factor in bureaucratic circles.”
Pertinently, it is widely believed that the ‘fine balance’ in the state bureaucratic set-up altered considerably after 1983. “Before that it would be the Kashmiri IAS or IPS officers who would hold decision-making positions in the administration. Thereafter, it was a free run for imported officers, many of whom are being accused of working against the interests of the state and sabotaging different projects,” the sources said.
Observers credit the previous coalition government for taking some of the bold decisions and starting the trend of giving reigns of the state administration in the hands of local officers like SS Bloeria, Vijay Bakaya, BR Kundal and Muhammad Shafi Pandit etc. “This trend started by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was carried forward by the former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who made some of the local officers as principal secretaries much ahead of their tenure to make sure that there is no imbalance in the bureaucratic set-up. But today the balance has again altered, which should be a matter of concern for the political circles in the state,” the sources said. “The Chief Minister should ensure this balance. His late grandfather, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, also had a desire to ensure promotion of the state officers at the highest levels.”
Political circles believe the local officers must be put at the top. “That is how it should be. The issue calls for a deeper introspection,” says Member Parliament and senior National Conference leader, Dr Mehboob Beg. “The local officers understand the local psyche and local environment much better. But then for this, we also need to examine if we have the officers in the pipeline to take up such positions.”
Beg said it is an encouraging sign that youth are taking up IAS and KAS. “It is our constitutional right to have local officers at the helm of affairs. Now that the youth are taking up IAS and KAS, they must certainly be encouraged and given key assignments. And even today, if we have the officers in the pipeline, they ought to be at the top.”
Lastupdate on : Thu, 14 Jul 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 14 Jul 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 15 Jul 2011 00:00:00 IST
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