SRINAGAR: Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam’s statement that the political class had reduced Jammu and Kashmir to a “broken state” and a “ponzi scheme” by resorting to “misgovernance, corruption and unbelievable levels of fraud” has triggered a political tsunami in the erstwhile state. The top officer who is heading the state bureaucracy for almost two years now had talked to “visiting” reporters to assert that the full benefits of the reading down of Article 370 will come gradually to the people.
This was the reason, why, he said not a “single soul had cried” over the detention of political and separatist leaders in August 2019 in anticipation of the Article 370 abrogation and downgrade of the state into twin UTs.
In angry reactions, the political class across the board sharply reacted and termed it “political” and beyond his mandate.
“Jammu and Kashmir was a broken state and there was no system in place due to years of mis-governance, corruption and unbelievable levels of fraud committed by leaders of mainstream parties and separatist organisations,” Subrahmanyam was quoted saying by the Press Trust of India on Friday, the same day when the new Lt Governor took oath of office. He said he was given the mandate to “clean up” the state administration by none other than the Prime Minister.
The Chief Secretary said J&K was a “broken state, the governance was broken badly, there was no system, no rules and the decay began a long time ago”. “We are reconstructing things which were crumbling,” he said.
Within moments after the interview came in public domain, the political class reacted using twitter and other social media platforms. A day later, parties issued formal statements.
Delusions of Grandeur, Says Peoples Conference
In a fierce reaction, the Peoples Conference said the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary’s utterances are delusions of grandeur.
Suggesting the officer to speak “within his pay and grade”, the party spokesman said: “Kashmir has this problem where people get delusions of grandeur. It sees like the Chief Secretary is the latest victim of the same set of delusions. We extend our sympathy and hope he comes out of it. We also hope that Delhi comes out of their delusions. If the utterances of the Chief Secretary are any indicators of what he thinks of himself and this is what he briefs his bosses in Delhi, then Delhi doesn’t need enemies in Kashmir. Talk of inventing a lie and then believing in it. He takes the cake.”
The spokesman said that last one year has been the tyranny of the unelected. “An IAS officer whose only achievement in life is that he cracked an exam will never know the struggle of fighting and winning elections. Sitting in ivory towers lecturing politicians is easy, let these officers come on the streets to display their public support now that they have aspirations of replacing the elected representatives.”
He further stated that the people of J&K are fed up of the “squeaky clean image” that some of these officers want to cultivate. “Coming from states with the worst record in corruption one fails to understand the audacity of giving this honest, holier than thou image in Kashmir. There is no doubt there is a lot of space for improvement in Kashmir. But much larger spaces for improvement exist in the rest of the country. This cabal of officers is on a slanderous mission giving an impression as if Kashmir existed in stone ages. And God was finally kind and sent these select officers to Kashmir who in a matter of two years changed everything.”
The spokesman further added that the recurring theme of the administration is to project Kashmiris as corrupt and tarnish our identity.”
India as a country ranks 80 out of 180 in corruption index. The GDP of India is 3000 billion dollars. The GDP of J&K should be in the range of about 20 billion dollars. If we go by the utterances of the Chief Secretary – this 20-billion-dollar economy has the capacity to tarnish and make corrupt a 3000-billion-dollar economy. The size of the 2G scam is multiple times more than our annual budget. And the Chief Secretary has temerity to sermonize us about absence of structures and scams. He needs to get his arithmetic right. And if he so wishes, we can send him the corruption index of all states of India. Chhattisgarh, incidentally his cadre state, scores much higher than J&K.”
Unprofessional, Political, Says NC
National Conference termed the statement “baseless, politically motivated and intended to evade the genuine concerns of the public on the failures of J&K administration on every conceivable matrix”.
“The language used by CS while hurling allegations against mainstream political parties is exactly similar to what BJP is saying. If he is so keen to be a politician, I would suggest that he quit his job and join politics. With the kind of comments he has made on the J&K’s situation post-Aug 05, the veiled political affiliations of J&K’s top bureaucrats have finally come forth before people,” Imran Nabi Dar, NC spokesman said in a statement.
Imran said that such sordid allegations from a civil servant put a big question mark on his professionalism, work culture and impartiality. “It is quite alarming where a serving civil servant is overtly spewing venom against the entire mainstream political spectrum to hide the abject failures of the administration under him since 20 June 2018.”
“The allegations should not be seen in isolation, it is aimed towards uprooting the leftover roots of already withered democracy in J&K. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that such statements emanating from the top administrative positions seek to give credence to its unresponsive, undemocratic, unrepresentative rule in J&K,” Dar added.
“The statement of JK CS also reveals his own hyper-partisan disposition and the proclivity of the GOI to maintain the status quo of confusion, chaos, misgovernance and fear in J&k,” Imran said terming the assertions of CS as an attempt to give acceptance to undemocratic setup at the expense of democracy and those who have been watering it in the most trying times in J&K.
Rebuffing the claims of CS, he said the alleged reasons on which the state was shorn off its individuality and unique character stands debunked on the account of GOI’s failure to achieve those goals. “The administration has failed to give a sense of security to people. The deteriorating security situation in the valley is a case in point. The economy, handicrafts, tourism and agriculture sectors are all in shambles breathing their last. There is no accountability on the ground, administrative inertia has beset JK; the government’s response to the vagaries of weather and the woes of farmers and horticulturalists was poor. On COVID-19 front, the story is no different. The local administration is yet to acquire the necessary life-saving equipment for hospitals. The way the administration has managed the viral sprawl has drawn slack from all quarters,” he said adding, “Let CS come up with a report card of his performance. I bet he won’t, given his poor performance on every single front from health care, and education to providing succor to the poor and deprived during these ongoing pandemic times.”
Then Why Are We Arrested Under PSA, PDP Asks
Terming the remarks ‘uncalled for and utterly flagitious’, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that the Chief Secretary has come here with a “colonial mindset” as “chief executioner of RSS” and is running “most corrupt administration” with “a cabal of officers”.
The statement asked a series of questions to the top officer: “CS should first explain to the people what happened to the multi-crore health insurance scam affecting five lakh government employees in Jammu and Kashmir? Who was responsible for taking that scam to the administrative council? And why was that all of a sudden scrapped and what action has been taken against the involved officers? What has happened to the Chinab valley power corporation scams and why were those first approved and later cancelled? Who were the officers involved?”
Accusing the BJPs “chosen bureaucrats” of heaping “insults, humiliation, and atrocities on the people of Jammu and Kashmir”, the statement said they are misleading and exploiting the so-called nationalist sentiments in rest of the country.
The statement said that the BJP has been in rule in Jammu and Kashmir for two years but has not moved beyond mud-slinging and name-calling. “They are yet to establish a single case against any politician in Jammu and Kashmir,” the PDP spokesman said.
The statement said that the administration has started “to target the Muslim officers in the state administration in a focussed manner and are hounding them”.
PDP spokesperson added that through such utterances on issues beyond his remit the said a public servant is “merely hiding his incompetence and shrugging of accountability for his mandated work,”
“Why are our leaders still incarcerated? Why are civil liberties of the entire population suspended? Why and how are our mineral resources looted? Why has administration miserably failed in its response to COVID 19? Where is the promised development? Why has no action been taken on the reports of an unprecedented level of corruption prevalent in the system and who is benefitting from the Ponzi scheme,” spokesperson questioned.
“His only fame to glory is establishing a culture of impunity, polarised administration, systematic sidelining of local officers, fragmenting of bureaucracy on feudal lines and perpetuating the quid pro quo culture of rewarding incompetence,” spokesperson said while reminding him of gross abuse of civil service rules.
“This is the part of the RSS campaign to destroy the identity of Kashmir and they are now attributing criminal charges on almost everybody in Kashmir in the name of terrorism, separatism, and in the name of corruption,” PDP spokesman said.
Make Corrupt Accountable, Asks CPI(M)
Rejecting the Chief Secretary’s statement, the CPI(M) has asked the top officer what his administration has done to eradicate corruption in the last more than two years when there is no elected government in the region.
“Leveling baseless allegations against politicians without any credible evidence is fraught with serious consequences,” the statement said. “Bureaucrats come and go and it is not the mandate of a CS to level baseless allegations against elected representatives.”
The statement asked: “If frauds have been committed by some persons who have remained in authority, what stops the administration to make those public and book the offenders? We had been demanding transparency in the functioning of each branch of the administration including J&K Bank for a long time and bringing it under the ambit of legislature and Right to Information Act (RTI). Time and again we demanded it on the floor of the Assembly as well.”
The credibility of the institutions in the public eye will increase only when there is accountability and transparency at every level, Tarigami said. “While demanding action under law against those proved to be involved in corruption, people must remain vigilant and not fall prey to the mischievous propaganda unleashed against the political leaders in the region,” he said.
Tarigami said that there is a wide perception among common people in J&K that the administration has become more corrupt after the abrogation of Article 370 and BJP government’s claim to give Kashmir corruption-free administration and governance was simply rhetoric and has proved mere a hoax. “The CS needs to give some attention to this aspect instead of levelling unfounded allegations against the elected representatives,” he added.
Legally and Ethically Unwarranted, Says Apni Party
Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) leader and former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir Mir said that the comments passed by the Chief Secretary tantamount to breach of service rules and are legally and ethically unwarranted.
“All the government employees including bureaucrats are supposed to remain apolitical and give people a fair deal of governance which is entirely lacking in J&K,” Mir said.
He said that an officer of the rank of chief secretary in J&K seems to have forgotten about service conduct rules which warrant serving officers not to talk about issues pertaining to politics and instead should work for strengthening the institutions of governance on the ground.