January 2000 News

No bureaucratic cleansing, Abdullah tells Central Govt.

28 January 2000
Economic Times

NEW DELHI: JAMMU & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has rejected a directive from the Centre to carry out a bureaucratic cleansing in his state. Soon after the January 16 high level meeting on Jammu & Kashmir at the PM's residence, which decided on an ``offensive strategy'' to tackle terrorism in the valley, the national security adviser, Mr Brajesh Mishra had written a letter to the Jammu & Kashmir chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, asking him to consider effecting a change in the top bureaucracy in the state. Top on the hit list prepared by Mr Mishra was the chief secretary, Ashok Jaitley as well as the finance secretary and other key officials who form the crisis management group in Srinagar. Mr Abdullah's refusal is not easily explained especially since all his demands for additional funds have been met. The change should not be cosmetic, the government had warned, since the aim of the exercise was to display a sensitivity for the problems of the common people. The idea derives from the belief that the problems in Kashmir are not just externally induced.

The state administration, long reviled for being corrupt and inefficient has had an unnecessarily long innings in Srinagar, the central government believes. There have been innumerable instances of faulty sanctioning of projects, stultifying red tape, and plain old corruption. There has been little attempt at employment generation which has been reflected in the frustration of youth in the state. The administrative machinery, therefore, is in dire need of a shakeup and fresh faces, fresh ideas make a difference. However, the system of patronage that works in other states too is equally rampant in J&K and sources maintain the chief minister's refusal to touch the offending bureaucrats may not be quite as innocuous as refusing to accept the diktat from Delhi. The concern about shaping up the state administration should not be taken lightly, sources feel. In the aftermath of Kargil, Pakistan-sponsored militants who had infiltrated the valley have taken up what they called ``reformed militancy''. Therefore, instead of the citizens, it is the security forces and the state apparatus that is coming under terrorist fire.

The security forces have not exactly endeared themselves to the local population with the blatant abuse of human rights and their clear inability to tackle the terrorist menace. They are no friends of the locals either. Therefore, they are largely considered fair game by both terrorists and locals. The state administration, afflicted as it is with several problems won't find a sympathetic tear from a local if the militants decide to go after them. Alongside, it will fulfil a Pak programme to bleed the Indian state by attacking the very institutions of the state. Others remind that during the militant years in Punjab, it was a groundswell of public opinion that had been carefully nurtured in the state that, along with the military offensive, worked towards quelling the movement.

A similar exercise is being planned for J&K. But the state government too has to want these changes, it is felt. The fresh ``intensification of the proxy war'' in the state has been specially alarming after the hijacking of IC-814. The high-profile meeting a couple of weeks ago had also decided to divide the counter-insurgency grid into 49 sectors as part of a three-tier command and control structure under the unified headquarters. This would be used to not only counter insurgency, but try to win the battle of publicity, which for the present seems to be going the militants' way. Security forces have been instructed to adopt a ``proactive approach'' against the terrorists in the hinterland as well as ``establish area domination; village defence committees would be revamped and armed for counter-insurgency operations.


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