The question of ‘administrative accountability’

Initiatives like the recent KUOA seminar can go a long way in addressing the varsity’s problems



A man on a street was asked a question: “Why do you find it difficult to walk properly?” Unable to find a plausible answer, he replied: “Must be something, I am not sure.” In this ‘let-it-be’ mode, the man couldn’t grasp the gravity of the problem till the time a few doctors suggested that his foot requires to be amputated. It had been a year since the man had been finding it extremely difficult to walk at ease—something he ignored, only to find himself in a much deeper trouble. While a timely diagnosis might have helped him address the problem, the callousness cost him too dear.
 In the past two decades of turmoil in Kashmir, we have been the victims as well as the perpetrators of this ‘callousness’ and ‘let-it-be’ mode for long. We have been witness to a number of problems on social, political, literary, cultural and academic fronts, sometimes too deep in nature to be resolved. What has essentially compounded these problems over the years is primarily our approach to handle them and/or subsequently stop them from aggravating. We kept mum while we encountered so many issues at a collective level. Our ‘self interests’ sometimes overshadowed that collective interest that could have saved us from many a disaster. Our failure to acknowledge the problem areas, and then the bigger failure to discuss them at individual and collective levels, cost us too much: it led to the failure to help us evolve into a people with a deeper understanding of issues, and of course, with a responsibility to address our problems ourselves. For instance, a number of us failed to write about issues confronting us at different levels, and, with the result, the ‘outsiders’ found (rather find) Kashmir a safe haven to write about problems that essentially are ‘ours’. They talked about foot-ache when the problem we experienced was headache. But we can’t blame them. We ought to share our part of the blame for having failed to take up the assignments on our own, for our collective welfare. While this ‘let-it-be’ scenario hit us from all possible sides, it caused a bigger problem of our failure to build institutions that mattered to us.
 Like people, academics have been a casualty of the conflict. While our schools and colleges suffered a great deal, the Kashmir’s highest chair of learning—the University of Kashmir—too bore the brunt on several fronts. It would be amateurish to say that Kashmir University attained the Grade ‘A’ with the help of any single individual. If the varsity took strides despite pulls and pressures, it is its academics and officers collectively—who withstood the test of the times—who must be credited for it, and the leadership that existed from time to time. If academics and officers resisted the ‘copying menace’ and ‘threats’ in 1990s, it helped the institution grow on professional lines rather than produce dumb teachers and scholars. But having said this, it would again be amateurish to go on and say that the institution didn’t suffer at all or that all was well with it. It experienced its own problems and issues, sometimes even the bigger issues concerning ‘autonomy’ of the institution. Political factors aside, the varsity—like other institutions—did experience the failure to take up the issues on its own and address them in the larger interest of the student community of Kashmir and welfare of the institution that has come off turbulent times. But, what must cheer up all of us is that the trend ‘let-it-be’ seems to be changing for the greater common good of the institution and those studying therein. A recent seminar by the Kashmir University Officers Association (KUOA) on ‘administrative accountability’ is a case in point that leads us to a larger question: have we come to realize that we are to solve our problems, if any, ourselves?
 The seminar was presided over by the KU Vice-Chancellor Prof Talat Ahmad and also attended by the Registrar, Prof Zaffar A Reshi, besides some of the senior officers of the University with the sole objective to “throw light” on the importance of ‘administrative accountability’ in the University. At any rate, one cannot underestimate the importance of effective administration in the University. The University’s General Administration Department and the allied wings of the Registry form a key component of the University functioning, which has a direct bearing on academics as well. Apart from individual capacities, as officers heading different wings, the KUOA has a greater role to play in the institution-building as an Association. For instance, if any of the Registry wings is unable to dispose of files in time, it is the responsibility of the Association to fix the problem by making the necessary amends. If routine transfers have to be a routine for better vision and growth of the officers, the KUOA ought to welcome it and ensure that no one opposes it. If the students feel ‘troubled’ in the examination wing, the officers have to step in to arrest the problem. And if, at any given point in time, the University’s overall autonomy seems to be getting squeezed, the officers ought to play their role therein.
 Like the importance of the theme, it is also important to mark that the seminar, second of its kind by the KUOA, is to be seen as part of that larger change to help build our institution by addressing the problems it faces. It goes without saying that the problems that Kashmir University might be experiencing can be best dealt and addressed by the men who are behind its daily functioning: academics, officers and the ministerial staff. That is the reason why the KUOA seminar on the vital theme of ‘administrative accountability’ holds a lot of significance. While a few officers at the seminar vowed to take the University to new heights in terms of administrative accountability, some of them even went to the extent of assuring the University administration their all-out support in its better functioning—something that requires to be appreciated  as the officers have offered themselves for the scrutiny, voluntarily.
 However, while the seminar discussed some of the important issues concerning the University administration, it becomes all the more important to see the follow-up action that the officers take thereof.  The officers at the University are well aware of the system: its strengths and weaknesses, its problem areas, the issues it faces and the goals and objectives that are required to be achieved . In any case, without holding a discussion on all this, it would be impossible to come up with firm solutions. It would be encouraging if all officers, in future, volunteer themselves for annual performance appraisals, and thereafter, hold the University administration accountable on different fronts.
 The KUOA can suggest ways and means to better financial situation of the University by proposing ideas on effective financial management for sustained growth and development of the varsity. If the University is to realize its cherished goal of becoming an internationally-recognised centre of excellence, the stakeholders have to come forward and discuss the issues and problems concerning the institution, and redress them in time. For all practical purposes, the KUOA seminar seems to have set the ball rolling in this direction. It can help us avoid ‘amputations’.

(Faheem Aslam is Public Relations Officer, Convocation
Complex, University of Kashmir. Ideas expressed are personal)

Lastupdate on : Tue, 4 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 4 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 5 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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