Once again the siphoning of food grains worth crores and allegations of massive corruption in Public Distribution System have come to fore. And with it, once again the rot in the crucial Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs department along with the State Road Transport Corporation stands gaping. Contrary to government’s claim of making procurement and distribution of food grains transparent, monopoly and corruption seem to be ruling the roost in these setups. Otherwise, how does one explain hiring the same company to transport ration over and over again in the last one decade. How does this fit in the scheme of things that a contractor continues for years even when as many as 98 of its vehicles carrying ration are missing from the scene.
But, even with these eye-opening disclosures and controversies that many have tried to unwrap over the years, there hardly has been any mentionable action taken against those involved in these scams and massive irregularities.
The reason for this lack of seriousness and utter disregard, one could only assume, is the deep nexus that runs right through the hierarchy in a top down approach. Hence, not only are the blatant cases of corruption written-off, the officials, at the helm of affairs, find themselves encouraged to keep up with their corrupt practices.
Ideally, there should have been a far stricter approach in Public Distribution System since it directly dealt with the basic necessities of the entire population. That it provided food to those living below the poverty line should in itself have carried a moral and ethical binding on those responsible. However, ironically here in Kashmir, this system is mostly identified by cases of corruption and scams that, over the years, have been dug up.
On Monday only, the State’s Food Minister itself accepted in an official handout that there were a “few unscrupulous elements in the department” who were responsible for “pilferage of food grains”. The statement permeates a far softer approach to this otherwise major issue. The truth remains that these “few unscrupulous elements” are not few but too many and their nexus seems to be too strong to wrench. The Food Department has 6,000 employees but how strong is its internal vigilance setup, is a question that, time and again, is answered by the repeated scams and double-dealings that come to fore.
On top of that when the Food Department ropes in SRTC, which already is infamous for the mess it is in, things are bound to get a lot messier. The Food Minister talks of bringing in a “robust surveillance system” to monitor the food distribution”. Installation of a few surveillance cameras or fitting GPS systems in the vehicles may be a novel idea but what about the human resources in whose control these ideas are? How is the government planning to seep into those layers and layers of corruption that defy whatever little measures the administration tries to put in here and there.
The reality remains that until someone does not dig in the past and weed out the corrupt practices and officials, any new venture to being transparency would, more or less, prove futile. It is similar to buying new locks for your home and giving the keys to the one planning to rob it. It is high time that the government should understand the importance of this matter and set up an independent, timely and a thorough probe into this recent scam. As an immediate measure what the authorities can do is suspend those officers and other employees who prima facie are found to be involved. At the same time, a thorough overhaul of official records should also be done so that a water-tight case is made against the erring. Any missing link, record should straightway lead those probing to the actual loopholes. The authorities, if they are really serious on improving their image, should, henceforth enable the internal vigilance mechanism in both Food and SRTC department. Bringing accountability would only be possible when those erring are brought to book so that they remain an example for any such future wrongdoings.
Kashmir is reeling under yet another deadly disease—Swine flu also known as H1N1. The valley recorded the year’s first casualty last week when two persons died of the disease in the premier SMHS hospital. One more patient is battling for life in the hospital with H2N3 virus. The H1N1 or swine flu is now considered a seasonal flu which mostly survives in cold humid conditions. At least 30 people died due to swine flu in Kashmir Valley where a total of 147 cases were reported last winter season. In the past three months, 12 people have fallen victim to the fatal run of the swine flu till date. The first death of this season occurred in September, last. Official record shows that 50 people have been admitted in SKIMS under the influence of the disease out of which 42 have been discharged after the treatment while eight are still being treated. Doctors in the hospital have warned that H1N1 is a contagious disease and can transmit from one person to another. They have asked for taking precautionary measures to escape the disease. This is matter of serious concern. The even more alarming is the shortage of medicines. Report says that the valley hospitals are without proper medicine.
Barring SKIMS and SMHS hospital, there is no flu vaccine available in any hospital in the valley. This leaves SKIMS and SMHS as the only testing and treatment centre. Experts say that the swine flu outbreak can be contained but only if medicines reach the affected on time.
When the hospitals are not equipped with the testing and treatment drugs, how the disease could be contained. There is every reason for the people to feel panicky and authorities need to take the problem seriously and equip hospital with adequate medicine before the panic take over the valley. The panic has gripped even the medical fraternity as well as the lack of relevant vaccines has put the lives of doctors at risk. Doctors at SKIMS, who are dealing with patients at the Emergency and the OPD of the hospital, too are vulnerable to the disease and could catch infection in the absence of immunization and protective gear. Doctors and other hospital staff are not provided with personal protectionequipments while dealing with H1N1 patients thus putting them also at risk of contracting the virus.
There are no H1N1 vaccines which are to be given to high-risk persons with diabetes, elderly, children below 5 years, pregnant women, chronic diseases, immuno compromised and healthcare workers as the virus can be fatal in them. The designated laboratory for testing at SKIMS does not have the desired Biosafety-3 level for handling and processing H1N1 samples which is dangerous to staff and community. No sensitization and awareness programmes are conducted in hospitals with the result majority of H1N1 patients are overlooked. What is even more criminal is the silence by the concerned authorities. They have maintained complete silence over the deadly contours of the disease and the non-availability of the medicines. It is no less than criminal that despite these disturbing realities, some sections in the government would give false hope to people and come out with advisories of ‘no-panic’. The state administration should, in first place, take note of health hazards in the wake of fast spreading swine flu and activate the administration to take necessary measures, provide relevant vaccines and other medicine and expertise for the disease.
Instead of keeping the lack of medicines a secret, the administration should approach central government for immediate help by providing medicines. An awareness campaign through advertisements in the media should also be launched to keep people abreast of the dangers of the disease and measures to be taken at individual level for self protection.
Graveyard of reputations
For the past few days Shah Faesal, the former IAS officer, has been at the receiving end of a barrage of social media mélange of praise and ire for his decision to give up bureaucracy. The 2009 IAS topper hit media headlines on Wednesday last week when he announced his resignation from the Indian Administrative Services “in protest against the unabated killings” in Kashmir. Some political and peoples’ sections welcomed it as “voice of conscience”. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Omar Abdullah too were among those who were impressed by Shah Faesal’s decision. Mirwaiz sounded cautious saying “hope his outrage over killings and his sentiment that #KashmiriLivesMatter guide his choice of politics”. But the way Omar Abdullah reacted to Shah’s decisions, it looked that he was already in know of it and he knew about Shah’s future plans as well. He called it “bureaucracy’s loss is gain of politics” and welcomed Shah to the “fold”.
Omar’s reaction was a clear indication that Shah was eyeing to enter mainstream politics after giving up a thriving bureaucratic career. Some later statements of Shah also corroborated the fact that he is contesting upcoming parliamentary election. Profession is a personal choice. Politics is not a forbidden profession. Like any other person, Shah Faesal is free to try his luck in politics. How he is going to pursue this is a matter of time, which he has asked from the people. On Sunday, Faesal asked Kashmir to give him six months and then “judge” him. His post on Facebook read: “People who have seen nothing but betrayals for last seventy years can’t be expected to trust someone easily. In fact I am totally against blind-faith in individuals and uncritical follower-ship. Kashmiris know what agencies can do and again, the agency angle is also totally understood. Kashmiris are not paranoid, Kashmiris are angry and heartbroken. So I won’t ask you to trust me at once. I have given up a lot to be here and at this moment I am not even claiming that I did it for you. Let the time decide who did what and for whom. I want you to give me six months and then judge me. Just six months. Will you?”
Kashmir, being a graveyard of reputations that it is, can, however, afford to give Faesal these six months. Only time will tell that whether the state lost a cut-above-the-rest bureaucrat or gained a politician whose words and deeds are in sync with each other. Only time will tell whether this young blood will bring any positive changes or he, like scores of others, too will be sucked into the political marshland of Kashmir: a space that, for now, involves only mudslinging, desertion and broken promises. Will Shah Faesal be able to inspire the young minds of Kashmir the way he was when he made it to the top rank in exhaustive IAS examination? Or will those youth find themselves on the wrong side of the spectrum once he takes a formal plunge into politics? Only time will tell…
Sorry state of affairs
It is matter of grave concern that crimes against women in Jammu and Kashmir are increasing at a dangerous pace. An official report has revealed a grim picture.The year that passed (2018) was the most trying. The year recorded nearly 1000 cases of crimes (mainly rape) against women. Reports suggest that the actual number is more than the double as many victims have not reported to the police due to social stigma attached to such incidents. The figures show that after every 24 hours a woman was raped in the state. It is a serious reflection on the moral and social conduct of the people of the state. It is not going overboard to say that Jammu and Kashmir is at the brink of moral annihilation. What is even more concerning is that some of these heinous crimes were communally motivated. The rape and murder of 8-year old Muslim girl at Kathua in Jammu is a point in case.Though the case is under judicial scrutiny but some of the shades of the case exposed by the investigators are horrific and heart-wrenching. The communal slant of the case became public when thousands of Hindus led by BJP and Congress leaders held street demonstrations in support of the criminals involved in the rape and murder of the hapless girl. Even the lawyers sided with the alleged perpetrators of the crimes.
They tried to stop police from filing chargesheet in the court. A latest case wherein a minor Muslim girl was repeatedly raped has surfaced in Ramban district of Jammu. A 13-year-old Muslim girl from Ramban district of Jammu region was, allegedly, repeatedly raped for several months by a man from the same area. The incident came to the fore after the girl became unwell a few days ago. Victim’s family, who live in Varnal Sarbagni area of the district, rushed her to the hospital where doctors told them she has been raped multiple times. The victim narrated the incident before the magistrate that she was raped for the last three months. Following which the police arrested the accused Sanju Singh of Varnal area of Ramban. Property dispute, personal enmity, drug addiction, sexual lust and several other reasons also contribute to the alarming trend. In September last year, a nine-year old girl was raped and murdered in Baramullah shocked the entire valley. She was raped and murdered by her step-brother and his friends at the behest of her stepmother who was jealous of her husband’s second wife. Moral waywardness is regarded as the main reason for such social crimes.
Drug-addiction is deemed as the most motivating factor for one to indulge in immoral acts. The menace of drugs is catching up the young Kashmir dangerously.Be it a way to fight personal crisis, means to wipe the mental scars or just a sign of being cool, a section of youth in Kashmir have fallen into the net of drugs. Charas, brown sugar, cocaine, cannabis, psychotropic drugs et al are the new weapons of mass destruction for the youth. Around forty per cent of our youth, a majority of them students, have become habitual drug addicts. What is more disturbing is that drug peddlers have found their way in the most sensitive areas of our society.
They have by now entrenched themselves into spaces of educational institutions as well. Some lower rung employees of educational institutions are reported to be in involved in trafficking of drugs in colleges and schools. It is sad to note that the state administration is acting as mute spectator to the deteriorating moral and social standards of the society. Police, which has the primary responsibility to curb such crimes, is found, in many ways, partner to the crimes. It is the responsibility of the state’s religious and political leadership as well to aware people of the harmful effects of such social evils.