Venkatesh Nayak, a Delhi based activist affiliated with ‘Access to Information Programme’ a Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative obtained some details of how the Government of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) spent the money under the Central Government’s Security-related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme since April 2013.
SRE has two components- 1) police/action plan and elections and 2) relief and rehabilitation (R&R) according to the details obtained through TRI.
A person who is not a resident of J&K cannot seek this information under the State’s Right to Information Act of 2009. As the SRE funding is provided by the Union Home Ministry the Government of J&K would have to submit some documentation for claiming those funds. So, Nayak says, “I sought copies of those documents under the Central Right to Information Act.” “I sought information about the manner of spending of these funds from April 2013-October 2014. I did not want to seek information for a longer period as that might have been treated as voluminous information,” Nayak said.
As the RTI application was sent on 1st December, Nayak said “I was not sure if the spending figures for November 2014 would have been sent to the MHA.”
Findings from the RTI Intervention:
1) A big chunk of the SRE-R&R money was spent on Kashmiri migrants – Rs. 206.76 crores in 2013-14. This is a third of the total SRE spend on both police and R&R taken together. During the first 7 months of the financial year of 2014-15 the spend was Rs. 109.73 crores. That makes it a little less than 30%. The spending may go up by the end of this financial year. “I have not come across names of the beneficiaries which are required to be proactively disclosed by the Government of J&K under Section 4(1)(b) of the J&K RTI Act,” Nayak said.
2) Relief for rehabilitation of widows and orphans costed Rs. 2.9 crores in 2013-14 and Rs. 1.14 crores during the first 7 months of the current financial year. “I presume these are for the non-migrant Kashmiri families but cannot be sure. RTI activists must demand proactive dislcosure of the names of these beneficiaries as well under the J&K RTI Act,” Nayak said.
3) Honorarium paid to SPOs (Special Police Officers) was Rs. 88.88 crores in 2013-14 and Rs. 56.85 during the first 7 months of the current financial year. If the trend of spending is maintained, the money paid to SPOs may be more than last year.
4) Interestingly air-lift charges were covered in 2013-14 budget but the rescue operations during the floods of 2014 do not seem to have been billed on the SRE budget for this financial year.
5) No money was spent on security work done in jails while the security work done by the police costed Rs. 55.28 crores in 2013-14 and only Rs. 21.24 crores in the current financial year. However Rs. 13.18 crores were spent on detenues in 2013-14 and only Rs. 3.35 crores in the current financial year. “I do not know if this is due to a fall in the prison population or what. Also no money was spent from this budget on security and communication equipment or arms and ammunition during the last 19 months. That is quite interesting,” Nayak said. Large sums of money were spent on the carriage of the constabulary and accommodation for security forces.
6) Some abbreviations are difficult to understand such as Serial nos. 11, 19, 20, 21 in SRE-Police data. Perhaps a police officer may be able to decipher them. I hope RTI activists in J&K will take this point up for deeper exploration.
7) Rs. 96 crores were spent this year for the State Assembly elections. However this figure could go up as the election expenses incurred in November and December 2014 are not included as I had not asked details for those months for reasons explained above.
8) In 2013 Rs. 4 crores was spent on the construction of a hostel for J&K students at Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMIU) in New Delhi. Sources in JMIU have informed me that the construction work has not been completed yet.
Interestingly, no question was raised in the Lok Sabha since 2009 about the spending on the SRE-Police and SRE-R&R schemes. To the best of my knowledge such queries have not been raised in the Rajya Sabha during the last 2 years either. Even the Interlocutor’s Report does not discuss how the SRE funds are being used since 1989 when the SRE scheme was started.
J&K AFSPA notifications issued by Government of J&K missing from the MHA’s files
I had also sought copies of the notifications issued by the Governor of J&K placing various districts under the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1990 (J&K AFSPA). The J&K Division of the MHA replied that it does not have copies of those notifications. In fact these notifications were available on the MHA’s website earlier as they were cced to the J&K Division. But they are no longer uploaded on the MHA website although their text is retyped under the bare Act of J&K AFSPA uploaded on the MHA’s website. Yet the MHA cannot find the original notifications and has sent me a ‘Nil’ reply. This is very strange indeed.