The High Cost Of Ignoring Development In Kashmir

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Here is a plain truth about Kashmir. Abrogation, restoration or status quo are issues mainly for the political class, and something that Pakistan uses to keep up the shrill pitch. The common man is least bothered about abrogation or restoration issues. He wants the state and the administration to focus on improving his life condition. The bitter reality is that if the state does not help the commoners and the youth realize their dreams of a peaceful and dignified life, many among them feel frustrated and defeated. Some get drawn to the option of Pakistan-manufactured secessionism readily available at their doorstep. We need to understand the Kashmir psyche. Suppose a Patwari who is a Kashmiri or a Tehsildar who also is Kashmiri or a junior engineer in the public works department – again a Kashmiri – does not provide the requisite services aptly and honestly. Then it is regarded as the conspiracy by the Indian state to keep Kashmiris away from development and personal progress. 

Administrative Inefficiency Led To Under-Utilization Of Funds

FUNDS RELEASED IN 2012, LYING UNUSED DUE TO INERT APPROACH

The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India for the year ended 31 March 2019 has revealed the inert and disinterested approach of the political system and the officers at some places in Kashmir. The report was released by CAG after studying the fund utilization made in the social, general, economic and revenue sectors. In Kashmir, the report has brought to light that even though the government had allocated funds for various sectors of development, these were not utilized by some departments and kept lying unused. Before the abrogation of Article 370, poor administration, embezzlement of funds, illegal appointments, scams etc by the political class and the bureaucracy was normal. As a result, economic and social development of Kashmir suffered.

2012-2017: FUNDS FOR DEVELOPMENT WORKS IN ANANTNAG KEPT LYING UNUSED

The CAG Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report for 2019 has made important observations on the under-utilization of funds meant for completion of development works in Anantnag. It was revealed in the report that the cost of kahcharie land in Anantnag had been transferred from the Bank Account of Collector Land Acquisition, Public Works Department and deposited in the bank accounts of Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Anantnag for the period 2012 to 2017. The funds kept lying unused.

Out Of Rs 14.08 Crore, Only 0.36 Crore Used, Railway Approach Roads Not Made

In 2013 and 2015, Rs 14.08 crore was transferred in the bank account of DDC Anantnag. The funds were to be used for the railway approach roads to be made as part of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Fund utilization for the project was very poor. Almost the entire amount remained unutilized. Rs 13.72 crore were still in the bank as on March 2019.

1.32 crores released for road construction, full amount including interest unutilised

For the road to be constructed by the State Public Works Department, Rs 1.32 crores were sanctioned. The principal amount kept lying in the bank along with the interest amount, totalling to Rs 2.94 crore. According to the CAG report, the amount was lying unused in the bank account of DDC Kistinyan road/DDC Public Works Department.

Only 1% Of Sanctioned Funds Used For Power Grid Corporation Of India Limited Towers Kishtwar Sinthan Anantnag Road

In 2016, Rs 8.56 crore were transferred in the bank account of DDC PMGSY  for the project Power Grid Corporation of India Limited Towers Kishtwar Sinthan Anantnag Road, Border Roads Organization. Only 1 per cent of the fund was used for the sanctioned project. As on March 2019, Rs 8.34 crores were still lying unused in the bank account.

Rs 1.53 Crore Unused For National Highway Project

From 2012 to 2017, 17.31 crores were deposited in the bank account of DDC for the four-laning to be carried out for the National Highway Project. Out of this, Rs 1.53 crore was lying unused in the bank account. The amount transferred for these four projects was Rs 41.27 crore. Out of this, Rs 26.53 crores (63.5%) kept lying unutilized in the bank accounts of ADC Anantnag for periods ranging from two years to seven years. The grant was not used for developmental works.

The officials concerned spent only 36.4% of the grant sanctioned for development. After this was pointed out in Audit (October 2019), the Drawing and Disbursing Officer (DDO) transferred Rs 16.40 crores to the deposit head (MH-8443). The balance amount of Rs 10.13 crore was still lying in the bank in September 2020. During the period, the tenure of various officers changed but the work was not done.

For Victims Of Fire Mishap In 2007, Rs 5.41 Crore Including Interest Still Undisbursed

A major fire engulfed the Army’s  Khundru Field ordnance Depot, Anantnag in August 2007. The Ministry of Defense, Government of India (GOI) released Rs 26.74 crore in favor of Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag for disbursement among the victims of the fire mishap. CAG records for February 2020 revealed that compensation amounting to Rs 23.19 crore was disbursed to the affected people up to December 2009. Thereafter, no payment on account of compensation was made. The balance amount of Rs 3.55 crore which was intended for compensation remained un-disbursed in the bank account of the DDO for more than 14 years. According to the CAG report, the principal and the interest totaled Rs 5.41 crore. The specific reasons for why the compensation was not disbursed were not provided to the audit team by the DDO concerned. 

Cash Compensation Of Rs 7.84 Crore For Victims Of Militant Violence Remained In Bank Accounts Of DCs For 10 Years

According to The General Administrative Department rules, cash compensation of Rs 4 lakh in lieu of government job is given to the family members of civilians killed in militancy-related actions. The office of the concerned Deputy Commissioner is supposed to deposit the amount in the bank account of the next of kin of the deceased person. The amount is deposited provided the claimants furnish willingness for acceptance of cash compensation in lieu of government job.

The audit for October-November 2019 of the related records in the offices of DC Anantnag and DC Baramulla revealed that compensation in lieu of government Service had been claimed by 372 and 111 people respectively. The disbursement was made only for 281 claimants by DC Anantnag and 84 claimants by DC Baramulla. Rs 14.88 crore was drawn from 2008-09 to 2017-18 by DC Anantnag from the Treasury. It was credited into the bank account of the DDO. However, cash compensation of Rs 3.64 crore drawn for 91 claimants was lying undisbursed as on March 2019 in the bank account of DC Anantnag.

Similarly, as per the information furnished in November 2019 by DC Baramulla, cash compensation of Rs 4.44 crore was withdrawn from the Treasury. Out of this amount, Rs 3.36 crore was paid up to March 2019. This reveals that balance of Rs 5.71 crore and Rs 2.13 crore were still lying in the bank accounts of the DCs of Anantnag and Baramulla respectively in March 2019. According to audit observations, compensation amount was not disbursed due to non-completion of requisite formalities such as want of Fixed Deposit (FD) receipts, not opening of bank account by the beneficiaries, non-submission of willingness by the claimants for acceptance of cash assistance in lieu of government job.

The bottom line is that compensation amount totaling Rs 4.72 crore was drawn from the treasury for payment to the family members of persons killed in militancy-related incidents. The amounts remained parked in bank accounts of the Deputy Commissioner for about ten years, which is against the principles of financial propriety. When this was pointed out in the audit in October 2019, the DC Anantnag transferred 4.77 crores in November 2019 from the bank account to the deposit head, leaving a balance amount of 0.94 crore.

Administrators Failing The People

According to reports, 131 DDOs of the Revenue Department, Public Work Department and Rural Development Department had total deposits of 116.41 crores in 1138 bank accounts in 2014, which increased to 399.94 crores till 2019. The increase in accumulated balance was due to undisbursed funds of relief/ compensation for natural disasters, victims of militancy, improper planning and non-completion of schemes, retention of funds, retention of statutory deductions and land compensation outside the government account, etc. The administrative machinery was unable to spend the money allocated to it. As a result, people could not get the benefits of these projects. All these unutilized funds are keeping people away from development, be it better road connectivity, compensation funds or electricity services.

182 Bank Accounts Opened In Private Banks – Violation Of J&K Financial Code Rules  

According to Rule 2-33 of J&K Financial Code VOl-I, unless otherwise expressly authorized by any law or rule or order having the force of law, money may not be removed from the public account for investment or deposit elsewhere without the consent of government. The account must be opened with Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited. Where there is no such office, the account may be opened with the Post Office, Saving Bank or with the prior approval of the Finance Department, with any other bank. Despite these orders, 44 Drawing and Disbursing Officers (DDOs) had opened 182 bank accounts in private banks without obtaining prior approval of the Finance Department.

 

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