Is this the Governance model for J&K?

When I went through a whatsApp message on Thursday evening about an Indian Forest Service (IFoS) officer being appointed as Administrative Secretary School Education Department in J&K, it surprised me. I didn’t believe it and thought it was a fake news. As the news-link was carried in a reputed local English daily, I immediately accessed the General Administration Department (GAD) website and went through the latest orders. The news I had seen popping-up on whatsApp was very much true. Mr B K Singh, an Indian Forest Officer of 1989 batch had been appointed as Secretary School Education Department by J&K Government. What was more shocking for me was Dr Asgar Samoon, who held the charge of both School Education and Skill Development was left with only one departmentI i.e. Skill Development Department. This is a newly created Department with least importance in the state bureaucracy. Skill development department would usually be taken care  of by an administrative secretary of some other department like science and technology etc. Relieving a senior IAS officer from the school education department, who holds the rank of a Principal Secretary, and asking him to look after a newly created un-important department and then appointing a Forest Officer to take over as Secretary School Education is like discrediting a senior IAS officer. I am aware of the fact that Dr Singh, a 1989 batch Indian Forest Service (IfoS), is also a senior officer of the rank of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), but Govt could have instead appointed him as Secretary Environment & Forest and nobody could have questioned the Government? But the way the Govt has appointed a Forest Officer to head school education, this will definitely send very wrong signals especially at a time when most of the Kashmiri Muslim officers in the state administration and police service are posted on un-important and insignificant posts.

Revamping Forest Department

In the past 2 months I have written several articles on the loot and plunder of our forests. Govt has itself acknowledged it and a recent team which was constituted on the orders of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) also acknowledged that there has been destruction of forests in Yusmarg area of Doodh Ganga forest range. In such a scenario what is the Govt supposed to do? They should instead revamp the entire Forest organization. If Govt thinks Mr B K Singh is upright and hardworking, he could have been given some special task to streamline the forest department and to ensure there was no loot of forests. IFoS officers are posted in many ministries as Joint Secretaries, they are equally competent and bright but school education sector is all together a different thing. Secretary Forest would have been the best posting for Mr B K Singh. We in fact need experienced forest officers like Mr Singh in J&K, but the Govt seems to have some other priorities. During last year’s lockdown and ongoing COVID 19 pandemic forests in J&K have been vandalized at large scale. Instead of focusing more on conservation and protection of forests in J&K, the Government is asking experienced and senior most officers of the forest force to take care of school education?  This is a completely a ridiculous idea.

Premature transfers

Along with Dr Samoon, Govt transferred Sheikh Arshad Ayoub, Director Libraries as well. Mr Ayoub has been posted as Special Secretary Housing and Urban Development Department. On the one hand GAD issues orders to strictly follow transfer policy and issues related to it but on the other hand it continues to violate the same. Mr Arshad Ayoub was posted as Director Libraries on May 28th 2020 and within a period of just 5 months he was transferred. In my own district Budgam we have seen 4 Deputy Commissioners in 3 years of time. We had 4 commissioners posted  in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) in the last 2-3 years of time. Bashir Ahmad Dar who was recently posted as Director Social Welfare Kashmir has been transferred at least 5 times in last 3 years. Mohammad Harun who was posted as DC Budgam in June 2017 was prematurely transferred within a year. Dr Sehrish Asgar who was posted as DC Budgam on 23rd June 2018 was transferred on July 31st 2019. Tariq Hussain Ganai who was posted as DC Budgam on July 31st was transferred prematurely on May 27th 2020. I have a long list with me and at the appropriate time I will write about it in detail. Transferring Govt officers is like an unregistered industry in J&K and it was expected that under new Lt Governor’s rule it will stop, but there seems to be no end to it.

Conclusion

On the one hand Govt claims that they would ensure good governance and corruption free administration in J&K , but when we see on the ground such arbitrary decisions are taken which creates more and more divide between Govt and people. We have never ever heard in the past that a forest officer has headed the education department? I am not trying to demonize anyone; he would be an able and upright officer, but his posting as Administrative Secretary in school education is like dismantling the bureaucratic structure and hierarchy of administration. Tomorrow a police officer like DIG or IGP will claim to be posted as Secretary Rural Development department or an Indian Railway Service Officer will be appointed as Inspector General of Police (IGP) or Director General of Police (DGP). This should never be encouraged.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement