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Editorial

Time-bound probe needed

Monitor News Bureau

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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.


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Editorial

And now Shah Faesal

Monitor News Bureau

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After Omar Abdullah and Mahbooba Mufti, it is now Shah Faesal. The former civil servant has been booked under infamous Pubic Safety Act which allows detention without trial from six months to two years. He is the seventh pro India politician booked under the PSA. Since 1990, the PSA has been used an instrument to silence the voices and activities of separatists. But with the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional position under Article 370 of the Indian constitution in August last year, pro India voices opposed to the abrogation of 370 too were brought under the scale of the PSA. Dr Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister and National Conference patriarch was the first high profile pro India politician to have been booked under the law. Ironically, the law (PSA) was promulgated in the state by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (Farooq Abdullah’s father) to deal with his political opponents. Over 25,000 people are reported to have been booked under PSA by different government at different stages. But it was for the first time that government of India booked its own people under this law. Shah Faesal is the latest politician to have been booked under PSA. Shah Faesal was an IAS officer. He gave away his lucrative bureaucratic position to join politics in 2018, and formed his own political outfit—Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Movement.

Politics in Kashmir is a tightly controlled market in which entry is free but the rise and sustenance requires resources and patronage. He was projected as future hope in Kashmir, who had the capacity to influence the young minds. He, indeed, acquired an iconic image when he qualified prestigious IAS examination in 2009 with first rank. Many young educated youth were inspired by him and in the process got to the All India Civil Services. In 2016 when Kashmiri youth overwhelmingly hit streets in protest against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, many media outlets in India tried to project Shah as the real icon of Kashmiri youth. Right from University scholars to school drop-outs, a rage of sorts was igniting the young minds into defiance. Burhan Wani, by use of social media, had indeed become an inspiration. Though militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is around 32-year old but since 2002, it had started a gradual decline. And many areas in the valley, south Kashmir in particular, were declared as militant free. It was against this backdrop that 2008 assembly elections, despite Amarnath Land row, witnessed huge participation of people. The rise of Burhan Wani, gave a new direction to the entire political spectrum. Many people viewed Shah Faesal’s political move as a counter to it. He was a part of political project aimed at influencing a change in the thoughts and minds of young Kashmir by prompting and promoting new icons in Kashmir politics. But the scrapping of Article 370 changed the entire scenario. Many well established politicians and their parties like National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) within no time became irrelevant. The novice rather naive Shah Faesal was no exception.  As a part of the lockdown in the aftermath of abrogation of 370, Shah Faesal was detained at Delhi airport on August 14, 2019 as he was about to fly abroad. He was brought back to Srinagar, and detained since. Minutes before his arrest in Delhi, Shah Faesal, in Hard Talk with BBC, criticized government of India over abrogation of Article 370. He said that in the new scenario one could either be a stooge or a rebel, and “I can’t be a stooge”. He remained in detention without trial over six months before PSA was slapped on him last week. 

 
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Editorial

AAP ki Dilli

Monitor News Bureau

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Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has dealt a stunning defeat to the BJP in Delhi assembly elections. This is the third consecutive win for the AAP since it made its debut in electoral politics in 2013. In its first rendezvous with power politics (2013), AAP won 28 seats and formed government with Congress support which lasted only for 49 days. The party, however, made a strong comeback in 2015 assembly elections by winning 67 out of 70-seat House, leaving just three seats for the BJP. Congress drew a blank. AAP almost repeated 2015 victory by winning 62 seats in the latest elections. BJP improved its tally from three to eight. Congress was again pushed to the margins of maintaining its 2015 record of zero seats. For the BJP it was a high stake election as the party has lost power in many states over the past one year despite winning parliamentary elections thumpingly. Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and more recently Jharkhand are some of the key states where BJP was edged out of power by its rivals, mainly Congress. BJP was desperate to win Delhi to arrest its declining political hegemony. The last time BJP has won assembly election in the union capital was in 1993 after it (Delhi) was accorded semi-state status. It had then won 49 seats. BJP made a clean sweep of Delhi in parliamentary elections, last year. To maintain continuity, BJP put in all its resources at its command to win the assembly elections. While the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah were the star campaigners for the BJP, around 200 of its MPs, central ministers and chief minister of various states also campaigned for the party. It was the most bitterly fought election the country has ever seen with BJP heavily depending on its nationalistic and polarizing political pitch. One of the BJP leaders compared the elections as India-Pakistan match. Some other BJP leaders made utterances like Desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro s**lo ko, Boli se nahi manega toh goli se toh maan hi jayega, Ye log aapke ghar mein ghusenge, behen betiyo ko rape karenge. All this sloganeering and smearing was made against the backdrop of street protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh where protesters have been camping on a public road 24×7 since the passage of the law on December 12 has become the epicenter of opposition to the CAA. 

One should give full credit to Arvind Kejriwal who kept cool even in serious provocations. One of the BJP ministers even called him a “terrorist”. Kejriwal rather remained stuck to positive campaign and his “Kaam ki sarkar”. He sought people to vote for him and his party for the work they did in the past five years. AAP is credit with providing quality education, affordable healthcare, and free water and electricity to the people of Delhi. He asked people to vote him and his party only if they thought that the AAP was good at governance. This struck a very chord among voters who put their weight behind Kejriwal. This is for the first time many years that people have voted any party to power merely on its performance. What added to the credibility of the AAP is also the clean image its ministers enjoyed. AAP was born out of a anti corruption campaign begun by senior social leader Anna Hazare of which Arvind Kejriwal was an important part. The victory has not only given a boost to the AAP to strengthen its position further but would also help its expansion plans.  The election has a serious message for the BJP as well that common people care more about needs of their daily life. They want the government to deliver. Mere slogan shouting is not enough to get them along.

 
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Editorial

Promises for power continue

The Kashmir Monitor

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As parliamentary elections are underway, election promises by the candidates and their campaigners are all time high. They are promising everything under the sun. National Conference leadership, the state’s key pro India party, is leading the election campaign with all the promises it knows would never be fulfilled. National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah once again repeated his rhetoric of abolishing Public Safety Act(PSA) if his party comes to power. The former chief minister, during a rally in Khanabal,Anantnag, said the party will withdraw all the cases against the stone pelters and will also abolish Public Safety Act (PSA) if it is voted to power. Interestingly, the party has made similar promises in the past as well but once attaining power, it, like its rival PDP, has put the issue on the back burner. Instead, the draconian law that PSA is has been used with more impunity than ever in the recent years. In north Kashmir alone, official data reveals that as many as 779 persons have been slapped with PSA from 2009 to 2017.Omar and president of his rival party PDP, Mehbooba Mufti, both served as J&K’s Chief Ministers during these years. The law was introduced during the Sheikh Abdullah government in the 1970s, initially to discourage timber smuggling. However, it has often been used by the successive state governments against their own people, drawing severe criticism from human rights groups at home and abroad.At present, according to January 2019 figures, there are as many as 230 people who have been booked under the Public Safety Act in 2018 alone. Recently, after Government of India banned the socio-religious group, Jamaat-e-Islami (J&K), the authorities detained hundreds of its members and slapped PSA against many of them. Other than this protection of special status of the state has been the scoring point for valley based political parties. Kashmir-centric political parties, on threatened to fight against BJP’s election commitment of abrogation of the Article 370 and annulling the Article 35A. The BJP has made the promise in its election manifesto .Peoples Conference leader, Sajad Lone, whom the BJP has been supporting, has also criticised the move and said it would be a “disaster”. National Conference chief, Farooq Abdullah, who is seeking re-election to the Lok Sabha from Srinagar, said abrogation of Article 370 will pave way for “Azadi” (independence) for the people of the state. Pakistan has also warned that abrogation of the Article 370 will not be accepted. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal had, on Saturday, claimed that abrogation of the Constitutional provision by India is violative of UN resolutions.PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is using the special status of the state and the buzz surrounding it to stage a comeback after her party’s coalition government with the BJP fell last year.She has adopted a more hardline posture than any of the regional parties on the issues related to Article 35A and Article 370. “The relationship between our state and the country is based on our special constitutional position that legitimises it. If we remove, what legalises this relationship, it will turn into an occupation and colonization,” she recently said. On the other hand Sajad Lone, who was a minister in the PDP-led coalition government in the state from the BJP quota, has also vowed to defend the state’s special status.”Article 35A is a matter of faith and dignity for the people of the J&K through which the Constitution of India guarantees to safeguard the special identity and unique status of Jammu & Kashmir. In matters of pride and identity, profit and loss is immaterial. Can a country allow a foreign country to undermine its sovereignty and national pride just for the sake of some monetary gains,” Lone asked.Although Congress leaders in their campaign have focussed more on issues dominating the discourse at national level, the local leaders have made it a point to raise the issue of protecting the special status in electioneering in the valley.”No power in the world can revoke Article 370 and Article 35-A,” state Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, who is contesting from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, claimed.

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