An open letter to the Chief Minister of J&K: No Information, No accountability, No Security – Ayaz Mughal – JK Newspoint – 4 Oct 2010

To

The Hon’ble Chief Minister,
Jammu & Kashmir,
Srinagar.

1 Oct. 2010

Hon’ble Sir,

Present time is demanding the transparent and hassle free form of government and it was a very good initiative towards the e-Governance when you started the JK Grievance cell. Earlier we were very happy and hopeful with the advent of new idea but to some extent it seems to be dysfunctional and impractical. Same fate is met by the J&K RTI Act 2009 and State Accountability Commission (SAC). These meant for uprooting the corrupt practices from the society. Isn’t it? Yes, it is. But what restrain your government to give them a practical shape to laws. Don’t you feel the improvement in the JK grievance cell, J&K RTI Act 2009 and SAC. So, being a bonafide citizen of the state and feeling it necessary, I put forward a few important suggestions in the view to improve the accountability system through JK Grievance cell, J&K RTI ACT and SAC in order to make them more functional and effective. Kindly take fine look at these points which may prove to be helpful in making it powerful and transparent

The Grievance Cell:

E-Governance is the form of government which removes all the hurdles and restrictions between the rulers and the ruled. It is not only timesaving but also hassle-free. Public directly interact with the men-in-power at top level. They submit their grievances directly to the Chief Minister with the hope that they will be listened patiently and their problems will be solved. But is it functioning as it was expected? If one examined the issue, the answer will be in “negative”.

1) “The complaint was forwarded to you on .The prescribed time for disposal of the complaint received in Chief Ministers Grievance cell has already lapsed. You are requested to dispose off the complaint immediately.”

While forwarding the complaint to the concerned departments/authorities you don’t direct them to reply within a limited time. Consequently they don’t pay heed to answer the grave issues which could unmask the nitty-gritty of the department and they camouflage the truth. And frequent and dozens of reminders don’t make any positive difference. Ultimately, the poor people who have the final hope with you, are left with disappointments and discouragement. So, kindly while forwarding the complaint/grievance to departments provide them a limited time to respond and after that take a proper action against them.

Example No. 1: Complaint No. 10939 regarding the Health facility of Village Mahra in District Poonch. It was registered on 1st of March 2010 and after the lapse of a significant time and more than fifteen reminders the health department is dragging its heel in responding to grievance. What should we take it as?

Example No. 2: Complaint Number 15456 regarding the use of circular road in Jammu for the transport for the convenience of common public. It was submitted with Grievance cell on 14th July 2010 but no concrete action has been taken so far. Nothing has changed.

There are number of complaints which are facing the same attitude of the concerned departments. It imparts the signal that bureaucrats are reluctant to obey the orders and they are paid for the dereliction of duties. This shows the autocratic attitude of our bureaucrats; if they can defy instructions from the office of Hon’ble Chief Minister then one can easily figure out the outcome of the direct prayers to them by any ordinary citizen.

I talked to some complainants randomly choosing their complaints from the JK grievance cell website but it is flabbergasting to learn that none of them showed his satisfaction over the functioning of the Grievance cell. After the complaints were disposed of, none of them was approached by the concerned authorities and if it is so in some cases, no proper and solid action was taken to remove their grievances. Everybody is showing his dissatisfaction over the so called e-governance.

Sir, only marking the complaints as disposed of does not make any positive difference on the ground. The beau monde manages to solve their problems by one mean or the other but who is the guardian of the poor? Which door they knock at? Who’s going to extend the helping hand towards majority of people with no listener at all? The condition of the poor people has been worsening and the faith over the government is eroding every passing day.

The most important head-teasing factor is that the state clinches the second rank in the race of the most corrupt states. But who is responsible for it, one who is corrupt and offers corruption or the one who just watch it happening. The mute spectator is equally responsible for dragging down the position of state to lowest rank. What a common can do? Who is going to pay heed to the direct prayers when they don’t care a fig for the directions and orders made by your office?

J&K RTI Act 2009:

The ray of hope was flashed when your current government implemented the much awaited J&K RTI Act 2009 yesteryear. But it proves to be nothing less than an eyewash. The State Information Commission is still headless even after more than eighteen months and your government have been dragging its feet in responding to reasons for this. After a number of reminders, OpEds and letters directly referred to you are expected to be put in the garbage can. And after that a responsible citizen of the state Lalit Kumar of Jammu, after realizing the importance of the State CIC, filed a petition in the court of law. A petition was filed in the Hon’ble High Court for the issuance of direction to appoint Chairperson and Members of the SAC and restore the functioning of Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission and to fulfill the commitments made before the Court on 1st January, 2010 and make the SAC functional. Upon this the High Court issued notice to Chief Secretary of J and K State on 20 April 2010. Despite the lapse of more than six months, J&K SAC is maintaining the status quo. The orders of the court are seem to be taken for granted. It’s an in-your-face attitude of the Government towards the public appeals, grievances, letters and above all the orders of Hob’ble Court.

But your government is not looking the matter seriously. No concrete and proper answer is being delivered. Only beating the bushes and piling up fresh excuses drag down the image of government and your government cannot afford it.

Whistleblower Protection Law:

Framing the Protective law for RTI activist is equally important as appointment of State CIC. The RTI activists are the crusaders against the corrupt elements of the society. They have announced open war against the corruption. But don’t you think the politicians, bureaucrats and employees involved in clandestine activities feel embarrassed when they are going to be exposed to the public. If law gives us the power to ask anything from the government then it is pertinent to note that who is going to shield the crusaders from the wrath of the nefarious segment of the society. Several incidents have been reported across the court.

Eight RTI activists have been killed by the scrupulous employees across the country. They have blown the whistle against the corruptions at different parts of the country. J&K State is not untouched from these types of incidents. Below is a list of the notable incidents of physical violence, manhandling, and threats against RTI activists in J&K:

On 26 February 2010, after organizing an RTI awareness programme in Branwar on 26 February, eight people from the J&K RTI Movement including the Convener (Dr. Muzaffar Bhat) were threatened by a mob of 20 locals wielding bars and axes. They fled to the safety of the forest and were rescued only by the timely intervention of a local CRPF unit. It was later learned that the mob had been organized by a ration shop owner in Branwar whose corrupt practices were being questioned by a local RTI activist group. Later, these elements lodged a false FIR against us, claiming rioting and house trespass, assault and theft of gold ornaments. Several of them were arrested on these preposterous charges and paraded through Chadoora town in handcuffs. Read more: http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=1732
On 31 May 2010, Ghulam Nabi Shah of Budgam was beaten in the head when he sought information regarding Indira Awas Yojana and NREGA funds from Block Development Officer (BDO) of Khansahib. Read more: http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=2352
On 17 April 2010, Mulkh Raj of Ramnagar was gheraoed, received death threats by phone, and was driven from his village home after he filed an RTI application seeking some expenditure details at the Ramnagar Higher Secondary School. Read more: http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=2352
On 7 Oct. 2009, Dr. Muzaffar Bhat and a team of journalists/cameramen from CNN-IBN were manhandled while visiting the State Motor Garages with respect to an RTI application he had filed. http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=986
On 13 Sept. 2007, Dr. Muzaffar Bhat was physically beaten by SHO A.R. Wani and his junior officers after he had used RTI to expose irregularities at a local office of the J&K State Financial Corporation. http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=2796

Say something about the draft bill being prepared at centre. Sir, the Whistleblower protective law and appointment of State CIC will collectively ensure the smooth functioning of J&K RTI Act 2009 and will be a milestone towards the corruption-free state.

Please take these suggestions positively in order to culminate the laws-in-paper to law-on-ground.

Sincerely Yours,

Ayaz Mughal

Mob: 9797582733

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