Ungoverned

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Verdict is clearly split and it has already been 10 days. Deliberations are expected to take two weeks more. Is anybody around who could think of offering some semblance of governance to J&K that is on auto-pilot since the September floods, reports R S Gull

Floods-2014-in-Kashmir

Days after the Omar Abdullah government collated data from different sources and submitted a memorandum of Rs 44000 crore to New Delhi, a team of World Bank experts visited Srinagar. They were expected to create an impact assessment study on basis of which J&K government would get some kind of a relief to rehabilitate and rebuild the flood-decimated Kashmir.

“After preliminary visits, they (WB) decided to station a team of its experts in Srinagar by October,” a senior Revenue Ministry official said. “State government was supposed to okay the plan, so we did and believe me the central government is yet to give approval to the plan.”

This resulted in professional documentation of Kashmir’s Himalayan crisis in 100 years. Once the new government will start working on the rehabilitation, there will not be a scrap of study on which the relief will be based. “Then it will become largesse.”

At the time of elections, political parties and a section of state bureaucracy strongly campaigned against holding elections. This, their plea was, will divert the attention. Election Commission of India flew to Srinagar assuring them all that relief and rehabilitation process shall remain immune to the moral code of conduct that usually dawns on state during elections. But what happened?

Officers associated with the post-flood operations said they have just used the available resource – topped up by centre by a small special grant, to manage the relief part. “While a substantial sum has gone to the infrastructure, we distributed Rs 156 crore in Kashmir and another Rs 42 crore in Jammu,” an officer said. “This is all by debit to the SDRF money that was available with us.” Most of this money has gone to those families who had their members dying in the tragedy or the family who lost their houses to the deluge – nearly 208,000 accessed so far. Rentals were also paid to the displaced.

The officer said that government will face a lot of music in coming days for lack of resources. “Under normal scheme of things, J&K was supposed to get Rs 2000 crore and not a single penny has come,” the officer said. “Interesting part is that so many months are lost and there is not a single instance in which central government raised even a query on the memorandum we submitted.” The only instance is that the centre told the court that it is under examination.

On its part, Delhi has taken 15000 names from the state government for distributing funds from PMRF. “They have given Rs 1 lakh each to the family in 4000 cases as others are under verification,” the officer said. “PM has also released Rs 20 crore from the PMRF for purchasing text books for the children from affected families.” The new government, the officer said, will face crisis for there is not a single penny for the rehabilitation.

General insurers were the only exception. It took Rs 1300 crore hit. “We paid Rs 800 crore in 22000 claims and it is a first ever record in the history of general insurance in India,” Aijaz Khan of Bajaj Allianz said. “The nearest equivalent could be Thailand.”

This is the situation on floods front even after it was kept outside the purview of MCC. What happens in other sectors is grave.

A Deputy Commissioner rank officer said though the state has been on auto-pilot despite a government for a long time, there are practical issues being faced at ground zero. “The last government did not conduct district development board meetings in 22 districts but authorized us to spend the development plan in full,” one peripheral DC said. “We still have not got half of the plan.”

Working session in Kashmir is over as Chilai Kalan, the worst part of the chilly winter has set in preventing any major work. The financial year is over in next three months.

The policymaking in the civil secretariat is defunct. “Secretaries and Commissioner perform on basis of the powers which are delegated to them,” a senior Commissioner said. “Since no ministers had delegated his authority to an officer, we are powerless because we lack authority. We merely manage running the show with the powers left with us which is usually sanctioning leaves or settling pensions.”

“Nothing is moving as things are a standstill,” another commissioner rank officer heading a major department said. “Nobody is willing to initiate any process fearing he may have to explain things once the new masters set foot in the civil secretariat.”

Certain things which are routine are not taking off. Revised estimation of the budget, for instance, is usually over by December but this year it is yet to start. Nobody is thinking about consultations with the stakeholders for the next fiscal’s budgeting process. This would eventually lead to the next government starting with a vote on account and then passing the regular budget later next year.

The fact is that state’s own finances are stressed. The liabilities pending before the treasuries are Rs 2200 crore. Lot of resource is stuck-up in the central pool. Under the plan, for instance, J&K was supposed to get a Special Plan Assistance of Rs 2064 crore but only Rs 904 crore stands released and rest is in waiting.

The concern is getting down to the streets. Now even people want somebody to bell the cat. “It is the responsibility of the single largest party to end the stalemate,” industry lobbyist and social activist Shakeel Qalander said. “If this party doesn’t want to forge an alliance with any other party then it should make the things clear, so that people don’t suffer.”

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