Despite Raj Bhavan Thrust, Babus In No Mood To Improve Governance
CAMPA staff suffering, grievances not redressed by Forest Department
Post the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, a curious situation has developed. The bureaucracy in Jammu and Kashmir is enjoying the fruits of abrogation as much as the political elites of Kashmir were reaping the benefits of the special status guaranteed under the constitutional provision. The bureaucracy has emerged stronger than ever before. The situation now is that the bureaucracy in Jammu and Kashmir has become arrogant to the extent that even orders from Raj Bhavan are ignored or even downplayed on one pretext or the other. There are hundreds of examples where Babus observe the orders in the breach than in compliance.
The seriousness and sincerity of Lieutenant Governor Shri Manoj Sinha is beyond doubt. Why is the delivery system so poor? Why have even essential services have become inconsequential. Why is there chaos and disconnect?
It is precisely because of this lackadaisical attitude of the bureaucracy that the people are disgusted with them. These and many more questions deserve answers. The allocations are not poor. But the benefits do not reach the common man in Jammu and Kashmir. This is because the Babus are in no mood to improve the governance.
Consequences of The Arrogance of Babus
Unfortunately the Babus don’t bother about the consequences of their arrogance on the overall political scenario of Jammu and Kashmir. They have little or no idea about the implications of misgovernance on the ground situation in Kashmir. Is the bureaucratic inefficiency deliberate? If that is the case, then the arrogant Babus are part of the ecosystem that does not want that Kashmir should be normal and Kashmiris should be at peace. About political parties and the political actors, we have argued that for decades, they have developed huge stakes in the conflict machinery, and they never want peace to prevail in Kashmir. We have argued that it is the party interest, not the national interest which dominates the discourse at the end of the day. But what about the Babus? They seem to create more impediments than resolving the issues.
Shockingly, ground reports suggest that the directions from the Raj Bhavan are not only ignored but disregarded and disrespected by the officers. The poor are the ultimate sufferers of this callousness of the Babus. It is amazing to see that even file work is hampered. The elected representatives like members of the DDCs, BDCs, Sarpanches and Panches are subjected to humiliation. The otherwise petty matters become intractable.
It is not just the general public which is suffering. Government employees who are working as daily wagers on contractual bases are also paying the price for being poor and on the edges of the social strata. There are hundreds of such employees who are without wages or are suffering on other accounts. Take for instance the contractual appointees in CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management & Planning Authority) Cell. CAMPA is part of the Office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, the Forest Department of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Contractual Appointments Of CAMPA
In 2012, J&K Government advertised about 50 vacancies in CAMPA on a contractual basis. Vacancies were advertised twice in several newspapers including the largest circulated Daily Excelsior and Greater Kashmir. After a year-long process, some 50 or 60 candidates were selected by a highest level committee headed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forest. The candidates selected and appointed on contractual basis as Technical Assistants included 12 candidates who were BSc Forestry, MSc Forestry or PhD in Forestry. For years together, these contractual employees are paid a measly salary of Rs 20,000 per month. Even the Class 4 employees of the department, who may be illiterate or educated up to Class 8 in most cases, are paid higher salary of Rs 45000 per month.
Since the government refused to regularize the services of the Forestry graduates or post-graduates, six of them resigned. Now only six Technical Assistants are on the payroll of CAMPA, in addition to 45 clerks, accountants, drivers, computer assistants etc.
Poor Salaries For Contractual Staff Despite Huge Assets of CAMPA
J&K CAMPA has Rs 1100 crore in the bank. Every year interest of Rs 60 crore is accrued on it. Under CAMPA rules, the government has to spend Rs 33 crore (60 percent of annual interest accumulation) on the salaries of the CAMPA staff. But sadly, the government is denying enhancement of wages as well as regularisation to the CAMPA staff, and paying them total of Rs 72 lakhs. One Technical Assistant Massarat has 2 PGs and one PhD. She is more qualified than the individuals at the top rungs of the Forest Department. Despite this, Massarat is not getting her due because of the negligent attitude of the powers that be.
CAMPA Contractual Staff Has To Run From Pillar To Post For Salary
The CAMPA contractual staff is never paid on the first of a month. After they shuttle between different offices, they get wages for five or six months. They have been paid only once during the Covid pandemic since March 2020, that too on directions from the Raj Bhavan. This denial of wages is in gross violation of the Prime Minister’s commitment that no government employee shall suffer on account of salary during the pandemic. According to the CAMPA Fund Rules (Rule 6), interest accrued on the deposits in the State Fund shall be utilized. Rule (6a) provides that not less than 60 percent of the accrued interest shall be utilised on forest and wildlife conservation activities, and for meeting salary and allowances of regular and contractual staff of CAMPA.
Sources reveal that more than Rs 1100 crore have accumulated in the public account of CAMPA. With average annual interest rate of 5 per cent on the deposits around Rs 55 crores is estimated. Of this, 60 percent of the amount, viz. Rs 33 crore can be utilized on salaries/wages of CAMPA staff as per the rule 6 (a) of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules 2018.
Currently, the wages of the staff are met from the same source. Creation of posts under CAMPA are based on the same fund source, but these funds mostly remain unutilized. It is alleged that there have been only a few recruitments of Forestry graduates as ACFs/Range Officers in Forest and Forest-related departments in J&K in the last 40 years because of political misrule. The regularisation recommendation of the contractual employees was sent to the Government by the PrCCF office in 2016 vide letter No. PCCF/NG/450/II/1270 dated May 30, 2016. The recommendation was based on the high qualification of the concerned staff and the experience gained in the field. Unfortunately, there has been no positive action. Almost all these contractual employees have crossed the age bar of 40 years. This makes them ineligible for all regular government recruitments in Jammu and Kashmir.
Problems of CAMPA Contractual Staff Shall Be Resolved Soon, Assures Department
KZINE took up the problem faced by the CAMPA contractual staff with the Office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and HoFF, J&K Forest Department. The following is the communication received from the department.
This is w.r.f your email dated 12.08.2021 regarding release of wages of casual Watch & Ward and need based persons under CAMPA. Terms of engagement including wages of casual watch and ward and other need based persons under CAMPA are regulated in accordance with the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Rules, 2018. The budget for such wages is included in the Annual Plan of Operation (APOS) of CAMPA for the relevant financial year. As per the CAF Rules, 2018, the APOs are required to approved by the Executive and Steering Committees of CAMPA and finally by the National Authority, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India.
The approval of the National Authority, for APO of 2021-22 has been received only for the time-bound afforestation related activities. Their approval for infrastructure related activities, which includes wages of the said categories of persons is awaited as the Authority could not examine the detailed activities of various State Authorities, including Jammu and Kashmir CAMPA due to disruption caused by the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. The approval of the National Authority expected to be receive soon, and the wages will be released thereafter.
Sarvesh Rai, IFS
Addl. Pr. Chief Conservator of Forest/ Chief Executive Officer
J&K State CAMPA