Crack In The Wall

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shah-faesalby Shah Faesal

In social gatherings people usually tell me that if I want to be remembered, like officer A or B is remembered in his own District or Tehsil, I must focus on giving jobs to people. Nothing else is remembered in Kashmir.

“Mr. A had first got this important project sanctioned for his native village and then got so many daily-wagers appointed, most of them his poor neighbors and relatives, you see”. “Mr. B was not a very senior officer but still he is remembered for having managed so many appointments for his own people, what if there is a vigilance case also against him, people acknowledge what all he did for them and that’s why he is heading the Masjid committee now”. “But look at Mr. C, he rose to become the top bureaucrat of the state, he was honest no doubt, but do you think anyone will even greet him in a wedding party or a religious gathering now that he has retired; he was like a fruitless, shadeless poplar tree, who couldn’t appoint his very poor nephews even and is living a horribly lonely life now”. “This you should remember my friend”, I am often told.

During the years of turmoil in Kashmir the backdoor was open for a very long time and there was a whole generation of officers who made the most out of it for their own kind. But the problem with new generation of Kashmiri officers who entered government service on merit in say last twenty years is that backdoor is no longer wide open and even if there is a crack in the wall these officers are least inclined to bring people in through that.  I won’t call it a pure meritocracy. But somewhere this new generation of officers who have fought their way up on merit are loathe to the very idea of backdoor.  I have seen my colleagues feeling insulted and enraged if someone asked them for favoring a particular candidate in a job interview,  making an illegal appointment is beyond imagination.

May be it is also because it is no longer as easy to appoint daily-wagers and casual labourers and class fourths as it was in earlier times.  But more than that I am sure its because of a changed governance ethic and the motivation to do things differently that has brought in a change.  I see fellow officers of my generation setting great examples of honesty and integrity inspite of the social pressure mainly because they have struggled with the system and they don’t want to leave a crack in the wall unattended.  A senior KAS officer and a wise friend who is a DC in a South Kashmir District often tells me that those who benefited from backdoor often find it quite normal to get others in without fearing anyone or tamper job lists or ‘help’ known candidates in the interview or give grace marks to their own candidates, many times in good faith, believing that they are just helping a poor guy.

So when I hear people say that corruption is growing around us, I don’t agree.  Trust me there is a complete transformation in the way most of the offices are managed these days.  I have seen young officers declaring their conflict of interest on files and recently a young KAS officer recused himself from the job interview panel because his cousin was also a candidate there.  In another case I saw that a colleague officer’s brother got dropped by half a point although another batch-mate of his had been on the interview panel and a little sifarish would have got him in.

It gives me great hope when I see fellow officers resisting social pressures and rather than playing to the gallery or appeasing their neighbours and relatives making every effort to safeguard their integrity and conscience. It is a tricky situation because deep within we always have ways to justify and rationalise these actions by saying that after – all we are just helping a poor guy get a job.  He has four sisters and his father is a cancer patient.  But we don’t remember that time that the guy who got nudged out perhaps had five sisters and both his parents were cancer patients.

There have been great many honest officers from the senior generation who have set great examples for us. But there is a vast majority of the young officers who are now doing things right because they believe in the power and strength which integrity and honesty brings to an officer. They may not make their relatives and friends happy but they have certainly pleased the God.

I am sure we will soon forget Mr. A’s and B’s because there will only be Mr. C’s around us who will give shade as well as fruit only to those who have merit and who deserve it.

(2009 IAS topper Dr Shah Faesal is currently Managing Director J&K State Power Development Corporation. This piece of his writing appeared on his facebook.)

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