Saroori out, Gul not

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For past four weeks, beleaguered Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is holding weekly cabinet meetings, apparently because the ministers have nothing else to do. On August 26, the cabinet meeting was not altogether routine as it sent the bureaucracy frame topsy-turvy, sidelined many a prominent babus and brought in fresh ones on the basis of their own track record. In the cabinet meeting, all the ministers except one were present. The vocal Roads and Buildings Minister Ghulam Muhammad Saroori was conspicuous by his absence. Before the cabinet meeting started, the Chief Minister had shot a letter to Governor N N Vohra, recommending dismissal of Saroori from his Council of Ministers. The Governor, who received the communiqu? in Leh immediately, endorsed the recommendation.

Saroori lost his illustrious career to a blunder committed by his daughter Huma Tabassum who is one of the seven candidates from influential families  accused of ‘outsourcing’ their medical entrance examination to non-local impostors after paying them Rs 25,000 each. Saroori is a known Ghulam Nabi Azad loyalist and central figure in anti-Saifuddin Soz camp and somewhat anti-Omar Abdullah lobby in the state. His ouster is a shot in Omar’s arm and a severe setback to Azad.

After state police did the basic investigations in the case, the state government finally decided to handover the case to the CBI. The minister has been terming the reports as “misinformation campaign” launched by vested interests to tarnish his image.

Hiring competent guys from poor backgrounds for taking professional examinations of the inept wards of moneyed and powerful has been going on for years in J&K, especially in Jammu. It was detected for the first time in 2006 and since then there have been many such cases. There are organized gangs who arrange the “surrogates” from Bihar, UP, Rajasthan after identifying the potential customers in the state.

The racket that helped Omar to ease out at least one of his “problematic” ministers was exposed by invigilators on August 21 when they asked police to detain seven impersonators including two girls. They were appearing in the entrance examination of Acharya Sri Chander College of Medical Sciences (ASCOMS) for the influential candidates – four from Jammu and three from outside J&K. The imposter candidates were from UP, MP, Bihar and Rajasthan.
Police, however, could not lay its hands on Kunj Bihari, the man who had arranged impersonators for the moneyed. He managed to escape from a hotel in Jewal Chowk.

It was Ms Shruti Gaur, a resident of Mathura in UP who was appearing for Huma Tabassum. Mobeen Akhter of Astham Nagar in Lucknow was appearing for Lovish Bharat son of a National Conference leader and former minister Ram Paul besides other impersonators. All accused were detained in a case under sections 419 and 420 RPC and 2/5 Prevention of Unfair Means Act in Gandhi Nagar police station.

The scam surfaced at a time when Omar Abdullah is struggling to show people that he would mean business if he is given another chance. Therefore, when despite Union Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s direction that Saroori should put in his papers, he left for Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah (a facebook wizecrack described it as nau saw chohey kha kar billi haj ko challi), Omar Abdullah recommended his sacking. Apparently, he had received consent from the regional and national Congress leadership.

But, what happened with Saroori may not happen with others with the same track record. Around the same time when Huma Tabassum episode made headlines, Chief Minister’s Political Advisor Mubarak Gul’s son was caught red-handed while copying in Jammu University’s LLB examination. As many as 28 chits were recovered from his possession. This is the second such case where Mubarak Gul’s offspring have been caught cheating to make their careers.

Earlier, Board of Professional Entrance Examinations (BOPEE) selected Mubarak Gul’s daughter, Safina Gul, for a post-graduate diploma in ophthalmology under the reserved “Rural” category despite the fact that she was neither in possession of the essential qualification (five years of continuous working in rural areas) nor had ever applied under any reserved category. Justice JP Singh of Jammu & Kashmir High Court stayed Safina Gul’s selection and issued notice, among others to CM’s Advisor, for his alleged misuse of official position.

And, controversy is not new to Mubarak Gul. During the winter session of the assembly an opposition member informed the House that Mubarak Gul; one of the advisors of the chief minister Omar Abdullah has bagged a contract of Rs 18 lakhs from Doordarshan. An erstwhile singer, Gul is a four-time legislator representing Srinagar’s Eidgah constituency who enjoys the status of a cabinet minister. This is an “office of profit” case wherein Gul was allotted commissioned programmes for the Kashir channel in November 2009. He got it for Gulistan Productions, a firm owned by him. He is supposed to produce six episodes of Kashmir fiction for which he had appeared for interview before the DD officials in Delhi in June last. Interestingly, the DD has mentioned in the sanction file that the applicant was appointed as political advisor to the chief minister J&K after his presentation.

A common question arises here. If Saroori’s daughter committed a blunder that led him to face the music, why Mubarak Gul is not touched? In fact, he is involved in triple graft. His son and daughter are involved in cheating and he himself is guilty of entering into a deal, which was not lawfully permissible. Why the Chief Minister has two standards to measure guilt of equal proportion. Is it because, Gul does petty things for his boss, like bidding adieu to shoe-thrower Ahad Jan at police hospital the other day.

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