Power Sector Reforms Key To Rooting Out Systematic Corruption

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This year  Kashmir witnessed a vast improvement in power supply even in remote areas. There were cuts but they were scheduled. The non-metered areas faced power cuts for three hours and metered areas for 1.5 hours.

So why has power situation improved this year? Ever since Nitishwar Kumar, Principal Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had taken charge as its head, he made it a point to improve power scenario. He ensured the department works hard in providing relief to the people. A monumental decision was taken for the regularization of all legitimate daily wagers in the Power Department Development (PDD), who were pleading with authorities for their regularization for years.  The government decided to have courage and heed to their demands. These steps ensured  PDD department started coming back on track. There is  visible improvement as people have less  complaints.  Now the only apprehension and fear among people is  about privatization. Privatization essentially is a means to discipline the system. A tool to ensure an improved power system where consumers and the service providers are equal stakeholders. A debate has generated whether it is in the interest of the large population or not. Without digressing from the issue, let’s stick to the key issue about  the improvement in power scenario. Power theft was a major concern in Jammu and Kashmir. The PDD workers  were complicit in this theft is a common knowledge. It corrupted the people and system alike. System was systematically corroded, rusted and eventually collapsed.

However, systematic improvement in many departments remains unattended. There may have been seriousness at the highest level but at most junior level the system continued to subject ordinary people to hardships. The revenue department has been streamlined to an extent that in the coming months Patwaris would have the least role. Remember a sitting minister during PDP government had said in the assembly that Patwaris act like as if they are commissioner/secretary. In an administrative and revenue set up, Tehsildar is an important institution and it can’t be denied that this authority is misused to the disadvantage of common people. Young fresh KAS officers deputed in the revenue department are trying to improve the system. The present setup corrupted for decades still allows room for Patwaris,  Tehsildar to tweak the system, make fraud deals, mutation of land, etc for monetary gains. Recently a resident of downtown Srinagar, who didn’t want to be identified,  narrated his experience of the revenue department. He wanted to sell his property in downtown  Srinagar valued at Rs 50 lakh.  Patwari and Tehsildar told him papers are incomplete and he need to pay 65000 for them.  He didn’t have the money and requested them to lessen their demand. They finally agreed for Rs 50, 000.

He somehow was not convinced with justification for amount demanded. Being not so educated, he requested someone to inquire about the fees for this affair and later got to know that the formal fees is only Rs 1100. The said fellow confronted the officials but they bluntly  replied unless he pays them the said amount they wouldn’t do the paper  work  which he  needed. A fear creped in  that if he complains they might temper with his records. After much of cajoling, begging and persuasion they agreed for Rs 35, 000. Remember the formal fee was only Rs 1100. Some reports suggest even young KAS officers, too, are vulnerable to doctoring for financial gains.

Engineering wings of the departments remain the root cause of dissatisfaction among the people. It is pretty common that a chain of mafia runs among contractors and engineers. Petty contractors execute works below the e-tendering limits. Political workers of different political parties at the village level are also part of this nexus. It has been observed that these political workers who would earlier embezzle the constituency development funds on a commission basis are now active in the engineering wings It’s one of the reasons why DDC, BDC institutions have not been able to take root. The rural development department has become a den for such illicit nexus of VLW, JEE, BDO. The officer heading the department try to accommodate their blue-eyed political workers, rather than going by the rule book. The disaffection among the villagers is not on account of the fact that services have not improved. In fact the rural infrastructure is revolutionizing and connectivity is unprecedented. But, it is the intervention of the political workers of former ruling parties in the affairs of the grass-root governance which repulses them. There are numerous media reports of Panch’s, Sarpanch, DDCs, BDC’s protesting for not being heard by the administration at lower levels.

Recently KASHMIR CENTRAL received a call from anonymous casual laborers from Bijbehara  saying the authorities are not releasing their wages.  In 2004 under PDP rule when the wildlife park Sanctuary was constructed in Pahalgam, 17 casual laborers were engaged on the recommendation of political bosses. Then gradually more were engaged and number swelled up to 474 now. The majority of them are working at their homes. Many are doing  their businesses.  Salaries are now released for those who are marked present in the attendance registered.

KASHMIR CENTRAL on coming to know about it approached the concerned DFO. The officer on realising that we are doing a story stopped receiving the calls. He was approached by another phone and did receive the call. On being asked for more details he sidestepped the question and never gave detail. It’s is not clear how these casual laborers were engaged. It’s symptomatic of the rot in the system corrupted by corrupt politicians. Conflict was used as shied to indulge in rampant corruption by politicians who engaged numerous people as daily wager beyond the prescribed limit.  An entire ecosystem was created to facilitate this loot of state exchequer. People were engaged by taking financial benefits which were pocketed by politicians and their touts where there was no scope for such engagements. They were then promised engaging them as permanent employees, which would never happen. It’s not the system but politicians who rendered people unemployed. While the government finding itself in a fix is extending every possible assistance to such people who were engaged but a commission should also be set up to probe the role of politicians and their facilitators in department for these engagements.

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