Can JK become corruption free Union Territory?

Corruption took roots in J&K since the times of autocratic rulers and has now permeated in every government office
Representational Image
Representational Image File/ GK

BY NASIR KHUEHAMI AND UMMAR JAMAL

Corruption is indeed a menace which erodes trust of people on a system and weakens democracy. It comes in the way of economic development and further aggravates inequality, poverty, social division and meritocracy.

It has disproportionate and drastic impact on poor and vulnerable sections of a society. World Bank considers corruption a major challenge to its twin goals of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and increasing shared prosperity for the poorest 40 percent of people in the developing world.

Across the globe and in India corruption has prevailed from time immemorial in varied forms. Presently, India is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2019, which ranks 180 countries, awards India a score of 41, rendering it the 80th most corrupt country in the world.

Among the Indian states/UTs J&K is one of the most corrupt places. Before its bifurcation into union territories, the erstwhile state of J&K ranked among the worst in the country’s index of most corrupt states.

In 2018 Justice (retd) Bashir Ahmad Khan, chairman of Jammu and Kashmir’s anti-graft body, called the erstwhile state India’s most corrupt. The level of corruption and nepotism that prevails in Jammu and Kashmir can be gauged from the appointment of Additional Advocate Generals, Deputy Advocate Generals and Law Officers  in 2015. At least 12 of these appointments by the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in Jammu and Kashmir were relatives of either ministers or ruling PDP leaders, or of then sitting and retired judges, and bureaucrats.

Corruption took roots in J&K since the times of autocratic rulers and has now permeated in every government office. Of late, a ray of hope has emerged from the stern anti-corruption campaign initiated for some time now by the LG administration under the leadership of LG. It has created hope of corruption-free Kashmir.

Over the decades, corruption is spreading like a blood cancer in Kashmir. Here everyone wants to become a Ratan-Tata throughout night by hook or crook! There is no doubt in that, Previous regimes has earned the anger. Relatives and family members of ex Ministers and MLA’s must be terminated with one stroke as illegal appointments have been made at the cost of deserving educated unemployed youth of the J&K in previous regimes.

Most deserving and qualified people have been ignored previous regimes and left out as no opportunity was provided to them to compete. People were given prized positions in the administration which they were not entitled to. The fallout is that deserving students have been left out. Thousands of blue-eyed candidates were appointed on a daily rate.

According to a revelation by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in its latest annual report `Crime in India- 2020, there was a continuous decline in the number of corruption cases reported in Jammu and Kashmir from the year 2018 to 2020.

While 82 corruption cases were reported during the year 2018, the number decreased to 73 in 2019 and 71 in 2020. In  2018 a the State Vigilance Commission (SVC) has found, inter alia Revenue department, Medical Education, Power Development, Forest, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution and Education to be most corrupted. It is worth-eulogizing that zero tolerance has been adopted on ground against these corrupt departments by the  administration.

Between 2018 to 2020 the ACB registered 219 cases against corrupt officials from different departments in J&K. Alone between January to July this year the ACB registered 94 graft cases in J&K. At least 16 top Revenue department officials including Tehsildars, Naib Tehsildars and Patwaris have fallen under Anti Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) net so far in 2022. Similarly, LG administration on in June this year terminated the services of nine employees involved corruption  from the housing and urban development department. There are many such appreciable examples.

These terminations sets an example for other employees having tendency to indulge in corruption. It serve as a hindrance for corrupt and unwary officials. Data shows that earlier there has been inordinate delay is disposing the corruption related cases.

In Jammu alone, no charge sheets have been filed in as many as 226 cases registered from 1998 to 2018. Data gathered from the anti-corruption court in Jammu have shown that charge sheets had not been filed in a large number of cases, some of which were more than 22 years old. This is when the outer limit to file the charge sheet in a corruption case is 90 days if the accused has been arrested.

However, in July this year, Jammu and Kashmir administration took a serious note of inquiries into corruption cases getting delayed. It directed departments to dispose of all the matters quickly. In 2013, the BJP, when in Opposition, had demanded that the then Jammu and Kashmir government should appoint a Lokayukta. “The state coalition government should bring in a legislation in the next Assembly session to appoint Lokayukta as per Lokayukta Act,” BJP leader Jitendra Singh, now a minister in PMO office, had said.

However, the Lokayukta act was not implemented in Jammu and Kashmir as the erstwhile state had its Accountability Commission which had powered to act against public servants and Vigilance Commission to look into the complaints of corruption against government servants.

With the reorganisation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two UTs on October 31, Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission ceased to exist. After abrogation of Article 370, the UT is directly ruled by the president and LG is is vice, yet there seems no headway or indications for appointing Lokayukta to put a check on uncontrolled corruption in the UT.

Though the government has given the good start for curbing the corruption but, people hope that the campaign against corruption is more intensified and Lokayukta is appointed so that this menace is uprooted from J&K which has been reeling under it for decades.

Right to Information, good governance and transparency should be increased  in J&K government.

To curb the corruption strong steps are needed in public service and welfare departments like food and civil supplies, rural development, police, revenue department and municipal corporations General public must also get the baton for corruption-free Kashmir.

We have full hope if we will make a strong desire and determination to help administration in curbing corruption from J&K, we can accomplish it irrespective of all the obstacles. Where there is a will there is a way!

Nasir Khuehami is the National Convener of the J&K Students Association. He is pursuing Masters in Conflict Analysis and Peace Building from Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi. He tweets @Nasirkhuehami

Ummar Jamal is the National Spokesperson of the J&K Students Association. He is Pursuing BA. LLB from Kashmir University, Srinagar. He tweets @ummar_jamal

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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