The highest level administrator in Jammu & Kashmir, Governor Satya Pal Malik, has revealed the extent of corruption plaguing the state. Corruption is rampant, unchecked and has completed eroded all sane levels of governance. It is one of the principal causes of disaffection with the Indian government and a huge barrier to all attempts at economic development. Instead of money going to the people, it has been steadily squirrelled away by state politicians and bureaucrats.
Governor Satya Pal Malik, speaking at a seminar in Patna recently, said financial assistance provided by the Centre was never utilised optimally by successive governments in the state because of corruption and nepotism.
"The Centre has been generously doling out funds for the development of Jammu and Kashmir, which is essential to bring about peace in the state. But those at the helm of affairs in the state have never been up to the mark. The twin evils of corruption and nepotism are at their peak in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
In late October, the Governor had scrapped the Group Mediclaim Health Insurance Scheme for employees in the state, the contract for which had been awarded to Anil Ambani’s Reliance General Insurance., saying it has been cancelled as it was ‘full of fraud’ and its implementation was erroneous. He revealed that the tenders had been opened ‘secretly on a holiday to suit a particular company.
A day earlier he had exhorted state government employees to perform or suffer. He claimed he has been directed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to build a "badhiya (wonderful) Kashmir" where corruption, inefficiency and sluggishness are not tolerated.
"The message to the bureaucracy is that corruption, inefficiency and sluggishness will not be tolerated as I am going to be very harsh with such people", he said, adding that all state government officials including officers from the Kashmir Administrative Services would have to furnish their property details, which will be put up online like in the case of All India Services officers.
The extent and spread of corruption in Jammu & Kashmir is well known. Everybody in the administration is aware how pervasive and widespread it is. Earlier this year, the State Vigilance Commission (SVC) had prepared a report identifying the most corrupt departments in the state as well as the patterns of corruption in each department. The SVC report was based on complaints received from the public. The most corrupt departments included Works, Rural Development, Revenue, Police, Social Welfare, Health and Medical Education, Power Development, Forest, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution and Education.
The Daily Excelsior (30 January 2018) reported: “State Vigilance Commission has taken into account the number of complaints received during last four years and hearing of these complaints. The report has dealt with each indicated department and discussed in length the pattern of bribery and corruption. A common factor of the practice of corruption noted in all these cases is that of withdrawals made against non-performed works and assignments by producing fake and false reports and vouchers. It shows that bribery is rampant among all cadres and that there is a nexus between various agencies to hoodwink the Government. Ordinary people cannot get their problems solved unless they pay bribes and bring in political pressure. Thus, political class is emboldened to play negative role in indirectly encouraging bribery and corrupt practices.”
Sadly, this is not the first time that someone at the highest level has taken note of widespread corruption and promised to tackle it. In the past, several state governments have promised to end corruption in the state. In 2002 for instance, the Mufti Saeed government days after assuming power promised action against corruption.
“Days after assuming power in Jammu and Kashmir, the Mufti government has listed corrupt officials and ministers in the previous government in the state. The Congress-People’s Democratic Party (PDP) combine has asked the state vigilance organisation and the crime branch of the police to follow the cases pending against officials and initiate proceedings accordingly. State chief secretary I S Malhi, during a cabinet meeting held recently, had reportedly expressed dismay over the delay in the investigation of cases pending with the state vigilance organisation and the crime branch of the police. He had attributed the delay to the political clout enjoyed by the corrupt officials”, reads a 2002 news report in The Times of India.
Writing in a paper by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), research fellow Ayjaz Wani observed: “When corruption is well established in any state, it not only undermines the state institutions and their authority but also creates widespread anguish and anger among the masses. When left unaddressed for decades together, it creates an unstable environment that is susceptible to disturbance triggered by internal as well as external factors. The state institutions lose the trust of their citizens. The traditional forms of societal control get eroded. In conflict zones especially, acute corruption deprives the poor and vulnerable masses of essential services.”
Similar pledges to crack down on corruption have been made by every administration and yet over the years nothing much has changed. Today, corruption has become a security threat in the state and yet one cannot but be sceptical about promises to remove it.
14 November 2018