Sham of a decision

Political bosses are taking the state bureaucracy for granted while making decisions that are of vital public importance. Kashmir life brings an inside view of the “selection” of Director Health for Kashmir that never took place.
Transfers, selections and appointments to vital positions have remained critical concern for all the successive governments. Many times, policies are drafted only to be flouted. In most cases, money or ‘right connections’ help people to be at positions which they little deserve.
Of late, it was the continuation of Dr Muzaffar Ahmad as Director Health Kashmir that made news. A highly mobile officer with please-all profile, he had been at the helm of affairs in health department for 12 years and finally superannuated on December 31, 2008. But that did not mark the end of the story. Governor’s regime gave him an extension for three months ending March 31, 2009. By then, the elected government had taken over.
Bureaucracy that was supposed to hunt for the ‘suitable boy’ had already done its exercise. It was actually on March 5 – over three weeks ahead of Dr Muzaffar’s expected departure, that establishment and selection committee had met under the chair of chief secretary S S Kapoor. Its members included Commissioner Secretaries for Health, GAD, Home and Planning & development.
The criterion for selection of the Director was that he should be from the Deputy Directors and A-grade specialists of the J&K Health & Family Welfare Gazetted Service with seven years of administrative experience. The committee was also supposed to consider various injunctions from court in cases of various claimants to the coveted post.
In case of Dr Gulzar Ahmad Sofi, an in-charge A-grade specialist, the committee said he lacks administrative experience and is not “eligible for the post”. For Dr Waseem Qureshi, Medical Superintendent SMHS hospital Srinagar, another claimant for the post, the Committee said he was neither a Deputy Director nor a grade-A specialist and not eligible for the position. The committee considered the case of Dr M A Wani, who heads the State AIDS Prevention and Control Society for the last eight years besides the Chitaranjan Mobile hospital. “Since he does not belong to the J&K Health & Family Welfare Gazetted Service and does not fall in the categories eligible for consideration for the post of  director, he was also found not eligible for the said post,” the committee notes.
Besides, the committee considered the cases of Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Shaheen, Dr Ghulam Jeelani Zargar, and Dr Eijaz Ahmad Khan, in-charge medical superintendents of state run hospitals in Budgam, Baramulla and Kulgam respectively. But claims of none of the three doctors were found good for elevation to director health services post.
The first case that the committee discussed was Dr Siraj-ud-Din Ahmad, the in-charge medical superintendent JLNM Hospital Rainawari. He held the post of Chief Medical Officer Pulwama from September 21, 2005 to April 30, 2008. Since May 1, 2008, he continues to head the JLNM. He proved to be the only claimant to have a PG degree but even he suffered. Against the mandatory requirement of seven years of administrative experience, he lacked three years and seven months.
Dr Siraj had informed his high-ups that his lack of administrative experience owed much to an order that the government issued in 2000. The order issued by the principal GMC Srinagar, asked 41 doctors (registrars and demonstrators) in various GMC run hospitals in Srinagar to stay put even after the expiry of their tenure appointments “in view the acute shortage of the skilled and qualified staff”. The order made Dr Siraj stay in the Children’s Hospital for around 12 years.
Objective assessment of all the claimants did not prevent the Committee from drawing the conclusions. It suggested that “the only doctor who is closest to fulfilling the requirements of eligibility for the post of Director is Dr Siraj-ud-Din”. The ACRs were also reviewed only to find that “the officer was rated as very good”. At the end of the discussions, the committee “decided to recommend relaxation of administrative experience in case of Dr Siraj-ud-Din by three years and seven months to the competent authority so as to make him eligible for holding the post of Director, health services. The committee further recommended that Dr Siraj may hold the post on in-charge basis”.
But such decisions in J&K are not necessarily implemented. On March 31, Commissioner Health Atal Dulloo – who was part of the establishment cum selection committee – issued an order “re-appointing Dr Muzafar Ahmad as Director” for three months ending June 2009.
It was not an end but just another start. On June 30, 2009 – the last day of Dr Muzaffar’s leadership of Health Services – government issued another order “in the interest of the administration”. Dr M A Wani, Project Director AIDS Control Society was ordered to “look after the duties of Director Health Services, Kashmir in addition to his own duties”.
Dr Siraj approached the court of law. On July 20 last, Justice Sunil Hali issued a direction that the (existing) arrangement “shall not continue beyond September 1, 2009”. Officials were directed “to make appointment to the post of Director Health Services, Kashmir on substantive basis after considering all the eligible candidates for the same”.
Status of the case: Dr Siraj-ud-Din has four months to Superannuation. Once he reaches the age of superannuation, the existing positions are likely to be formalized “in the interest of the administration”. Who cares?

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