Riyaz Ul Khaliq
As Durbar was closed in winter capital and most officials flew to Srinagar to cool their heels, a minister in PDP-BJP coalition government drove to Chenab valley to review the working of Panchayats and Block level offices.
The Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Panchayats and Rural Development, Abdul Haq Khan, held a daylong meeting in Town Hall Doda on May 02. A Minister, Khan represents Lolab constituency in state legislature.
Witnesses said that the hall was full and many people were sitting outside the hall and some of them were listening to what was happening inside the hall sitting over the roof. It was a crowded meeting.
All the top officials including DC, ADC Doda, Director Rural Development and other officers were present in the meeting. Besides all the Panchayat and Block level officers were present in the meeting. The minister reviewed the working of block and Panchayats and enquired about the government assets in the district.
However, when one Panchayat Secretary representing Gandoh was called to present himself before the minister, everybody was shocked.
“Kya Aap Secretary Ho?” the minister asked Mohammad Hanief, Panchayat Secretary Gandoh. His BDO, GRF and other employees too were present.
Hanief, 56, is a resident of Kyancha, tehsil Kahra in Doda. He is serving Rural Development for last 25 years.
A matriculate, he is in Gandoh for last six months. It was in between 12 and 1 PM that the turn of Gandoh Panchayat came. “Ji Han,” Hanief replied to Minister’s query.
“It seems you have been brought from some Masjid,” the minister told Hanief. “What are you wearing? Where is your Pant, Shirt?”
Speaking to Kashmir Life, Hanief said, “I was wearing Kameez-Shalwar with a Topi which irritated the minister.”
“Ye Nai Chalay Ga (this won’t work),” the minister said.
Hanief said, “I tried to respond to the minister but the people standing behind the minister’s chair signalled me not to speak.”
And immediately thereafter, the Panchayat Secretary was show door. Hanief said, “every senior officer of mine was present in the meeting but no one dared to speak.”
“The Minister talked about how he removed non-performing officers and that might have scared my officers present in the meeting from intervening,” he said. “I am lower rung official; who will listen to me? It is just a matter of three years and I am off.”
When contacted, Abdul Haq Khan, told Kashmir Life, “It is routine that an official should be wearing pant-shirt.” “He should look-like an official. I have asked my employees to wear official identity cards which the official in question wasn’t wearing.”
Khan added, “one must know how to go to office; one can’t put on dirty clothes.”
But is there a dress code? The last time when dress became a governance issue was during G M Shah’s government when he reacted to then young IAS officer Iqbal Khanday coming to a meeting wearing jeans.