All posts by Ayaz Mughal

Journalist, RTI & Social Activist

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

Advertisements

Set Struggle & Succeed – Ayaz Mughal – Early Times & JK Nespoint – 14 Sept 2010

Our greatest weakness”, said T.A.Edison ” is giving up; the surest way to success is always to try just one more time”. We must keep on trying until we reach the goal we have set. The golden words of Swami Vivekananda, “Arise, Awake and Stop not till the goal is reached,” exhort us to be firm. It is often that after two or three trials a person stops. He feels that he is a faluire. He is unable to achieve anything. He cannot do anything or he curses his luck for it. But it is not so. Actually, it happens because we do not have a set target before us. We are not sure about what we have to do. Therefore, be always certain about what you have to achieve or about your goal. Have dreams but don’t make your life a dream. But always try to give them a practical shape. Translate them into reality. Strive for the possible. Don’t run after the impossible. It is untrue that aperson is incapable of doing substantial things. The only thing we need is to understand how to use our faculties properly and rightly. First of all decide your aim and make sure that it is right and worthwhile. While you choose your destination, you must accept your potential and drawbacks. Before you go for a goal, assess you qualifications, interest, aptitude and power. Thomas Alva Edison used only eight percent of his brain; where as, an average human being uses only 2-3% of total. Einstein used a small fraction of mind and gave us the theory of relativity. Imagine his contribution, if he had used his total mind. We don’t even try to use that much of total mind because we are always caught between to do and not to do. It is natural for us to be upset when circumstances and conditions don’t favour us. We take it to heart. We stop trying as nothing is more for us and we lose our potential but what is lost is self-confidence. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison said after he succeeded in inventing the bulb. Now, how do you reframe failure? How do you look at it so you don’t feel overwhelmed and give up? Well, you can look at failure as a part of a process. You look at it as ways that won’t work. You draw lessons from those ways. Then you let that go, focus on the present and try again (this time perhaps in a different way).It actually effects our confidence and determination which must be strong but it is not always so. T.H. Hunbley has said, “There is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life”. Failure is a small episode of the life. We shouldn’t make it the whole life. We must always be prepared to face the faluire and the next trial. “Greatest trials,” says Francis Thompson, ‘seem to be necessary preparation for great duties”. There is always a way out of morass and every dark cloud has a silver lining. There is light at the end of tunnel. After the dark night, there is bright morning. But success never comes accidentally nor it can be achieved overnight. Yes, it comes by chance only to lucky few but not to all. But, it can be achieved through indefatigable efforts indomitable will and determination. Taking the examples of the personalities who did not utter a single note of despair even after a number of failures and left their footprints on the sand of time, try to be models for others who are following you. These personalities never thought of failure, instead they always possessed the positive attitude towards success. They had faith in their capacity for doing extraordinary things. They didn’t give up their mind at the time of great difficulties. How strong the wind may be, it cannot move the hill. Ultimately wind has to change its direction. Such is the case of a firm person. Difficulties & problems do nothing to his determination. Our mind may be called as the control room of all our deeds and thinking. Keep success in your mind. Do not leave any room for discouragement there. Many people will try to make your get diverted from your path, many obstructions will be put in you way. Don’t pay heed to them. “A successful man”, says David Brinkly “is one who lays a firm foundation with the bricks other throw at him”. It has been proved from the history of the successful persons of the past that success is that fruit, which is not easily obtainable, its seed is to be sown in the soil of mind, watered with positive thinking, determination and will power. Efforts, self-confidence are fertilizers for it. And “one more time” attitude after several failures would work as manure for it. Ultimately that seed converts into the tree and you get the fruit of success. It must be kept in mind that “As you sow so shall you reap”. It is, therefore, very important to choose the right way. Intentionally or by chance a wrong step can before you step into that way. Confirm if it right or wrong. Because time once lost never comes again and what we remain with is only regret. Don’t fish into troubled waters. La Bruyers says, “There are only to ways of getting on in this world; by one’s own industry or by the weakness of others”. Napoleon & Hitler decided to conquer the world, they did so. But the only positive thing they had was strong determination. Mahatma Gandhi on the other hand also conquered the world, but his way was right. He did so by imparting his teachings to the world. Scientists have contributed a great deal in advancing the world in various fields. But some gave us the hope of life by providing us with useful life saving drugs and on other hand hand the others made our exixtence on the planet unsafe by inventing atomic bombs. T here are countless examples of the great personalities in the history of India who had decided something to get something and they succeed. Gandhi, Mauluna Azad, Nehru, Lala Lajpat Bai, Bhagat Singh, SC Bose etc. etc dreamt to see India free, they struggled and got it. Don’t let frustration or failure to become an obstruction in your way to success. Discard all the distractions and turn a deaf eay to what others say about you. Use your faculties and qualities in proper direction. Always consider your weaknesses, drawbacks, shortcomings and confusion whenever you observe them with in yourself and discard them. You will be a successful man. Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Be your own judge and your success is guaranteed”. Always keep in mind that we are born to succeed and success is for us. But we have to achieve it. “Men are born to succeed, not to fail”, said Herry Daid Thoreau. What we require is determination and self-confidence. Always be single minded. Don’t split you mind in different parts. Be certain about a single goal you want to achieve. Don’t think of other goals until you achieve the first one. Think success, success & success.

J&K RTI Act: Headless and Heedless – Ayaz Mughal – Early Times & JK Nespoint – 7 Sept. 2010

Beware! You have to put your life at risk if you intend to know the accountability of Govt. You have to gird up the loins to defend yourself from attackers. Someone could be following you. Be careful! You must be at someone’s target. Surprised! It is not the war but nothing less than a war. Unmasking the truth by publicizing the nitty-gritty of Govt. is like playing with fire and flames. The venal, nefarious and perfidious politicians and bureaucrats involved in clandestine, fear their malafide intentions to be exposed.
A fews weeks ago, on 20 July Amit Jethwa (33) was shot dead outside the Gujrat High Court. Vishram Laxman Dodyia(50), a surat based shopkeeper was found murdered after meeting with company officials on 11 Feb. Shashidar Mishra of Bihar was shot dead by unidentified Gunman on motorcycle while he was entering his home on 14 Feb. Satish Shetty(39) was on his way to morning walk and was attacked with swords and sharp weapons and murdered. Vithal Gite(39), a farmer and a flourmill owner of Maharashtra, Dta Patil of Kohlapur district and Sola Ranga Rao(30) of Krishna disrtict Andhara Pradesh were killed at different spots by unidentified persons. But the motives behind this are identified as all of them were RTI activist and had blown the whistle on different scams and corruption by government employees through RTI.
Amit Jethwa of Khamba village was coming out of a building after meeting his lawyer when he was fired upon by unidentified persons. He has been an active crusader against the illegal mining in the Gir forest. Satish Shetty had exposed many land scams in and around Talegaon, besides the setting up of restaurants and marriage halls in residential zones, selling in the black market of kerosene meant for distribution through ration shops, etc. This point the needle of doubt towards the unscrupulous employees involved in the scam. They saw themselves being trapped and brutally snatched the precious lives.
Apart from the murders, several murderous attacks have been attempted on different RTI activists at different parts of the country. Abhay patil of Jalgaon district, Maharashtra,Sumaira Abdulali & Naseer Jalal, and TOI Journalists, Maharashtra, Murderous assault on Ajay Kumar & colleague, Priyanka Borpujari & other Mumbai journalists assaulted by locals and police at Dantewade, Chhatiisgarh, followed by FIR, firing outside Nayana Kathpalia’s house, Mumbai and many more were attacked, threatened and harassed for exposing the truth. Fortunately, they survived the attacks but the intentions of the assailants were crystal clear. They want to stifle the voice of truth They don’t want RTI to be successful. The success of RTI is the fallout of the corrupt and selfish politicians and bureaucrats. How long one can hide the truth? Truth comes to limelight on one day. According to the Holy Quran 17:81 “”The truth has prevailed, and falsehood has vanished; falsehood will inevitably vanish”.
Dr Muzaffar Bhat, Convener of J&K Right to Information Movement and 8 other colleagues who had organized an RTI awareness programme in Branwar had all the tyres of their vehicle punctured during their overnight stay in that town. After they had their tyres repaired in nearby Chadoora market, they were murderously assaulted by a mob of 20 persons, and rescued in the nick of time by CRP and police personnel. However, when the activists complained to the police, the police booked them instead, based on motivated charges leveled by Rashida Begum w/o Chaudhury Saifuddin of Branwar, who is also Halqa President and affiliated with the National Conference in the area. The activists were booked for rioting and house trespass, assault and theft (stealing gold ornaments) in FIR No. 42 of 2010 registered at Chadoora Police Station. The assailants are enjoying the impunity with the support of politicians and bureaucrats.
The issue of security of information seeker is equally important as that of appointment of SIC of J&K RTI. The perennial issue of appointment of SIC is in the Court of Law. The final hope of the people of the state lies with Court of Justice. After loosing hopes over the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, a citizen realizing his responsibility and the importance of SIC, knocked the doors of Court of Justice. The state has been dragging its feet to respond to court orders till date. Commission is meaningless until the appointment of SIC. It is worthy of note that Information Commission which is meant for providing the information within 30 days fails to find its head on one side and the govt. is mute about the reason for this failure.
The RTI without SIC is body without soul and RTI Activist without security is like a soldier without bulletproof jacket. On one side RTI gives us the weapon to combat the corruption but on the other a sword is hanging over the heads. J&K state clichés the second rank in the list of most corrupt states in the country. It’s the $64,000 question for the J&K government about the law for the protection of the whistleblower. Currently there is no such law. The Government must have a close contemplation over the matter of precious lives of the RTI activist or whistle blower in the state. J&K RTI is going to turn the state into the battle field between the corrupt employees and the RTI activists. If the state did not show the concern, it would end up dragging down image of the Government.
Both SIC and Protective laws will collectively ensure the smooth implementation of the J&K RTI act else it would be a feckless, dysfunctional and impractical efforts running though the papers only. The government has to prove itself as stringent and genuinely concerned about the security of the whistleblower. The government must frame the laws in order to ensure the immunity of the information seeker from wraths of corrupt employees, bureaucrats and politicians.
Last but not the least, the center govt. must probe into the murders and attacks on the RTI activists and whistle-blowers at different parts of the country else it would encourage the culprits repeat such heinous acts in future. The RTI activists are soldiers who combat the internal enemies of the society with the weapons of RTI Act but they are not sure where they will meet the ill fate.

STATE ON FIRE Apne ghar ko aag lagi apne hi chirag se – Ayaz Mughal – The Northlines – 2 August 2010

The situation of state has been worsening since the day the new coalition took over the affairs of this ill-fated state. With the advent of Omar Abdullah as the new pilot to fly the plane of state-craft into the new horizons of progress, cropped up the fresh hopes and aspirations in the minds of our youth in terms of better avenues and better fields of development. The world of journalism compared him with Anil Kapoor, a famous bolly wood Star for the reasons best known to them. It was a general and proud perception that the command of the state had come into the hands of young generation and a revolution in the field of development was highly expected. All possible entrances and exits were expected to be closed on the lords of corruption in Toto and a responsible & accountable governance was felt to have been bestowed upon our state. Above all, the people of the state took this Youngman as an icon of free and fair governance and the harbinger of a suitable programme to resolve the long pending issue of Kashmir which has almost become a dead horse to flog. But frequent U-turns and flip-flops has sent across a signal to the masses about the desultory attempts of the government. The coalition Govt. headed by Omar Abdullah stands tarnished by the people he depended the most. Life does not seem to be as secure as a few years back. An administrative and law and order anarchy is prevailing all around in the Valley sending across a bad signal of insecurity. The men-in- power are unable to maintain the peace in the valley and men in uniform are reluctant to respect the Human Rights. Fake encounters, custodial deaths, mysterious disappearance and rape and murder cases by the men-in-uniform have become the order of the day in the valley. Whether it is double rape & murder case in Shopian yesteryear or Michel Fake encounter of three innocent boys a few weeks back or death of young boys in unprovoked firing by the watchmen of law and order at different places depicts a crystal clear picture of the failure of Omar’s government as a result of, perhaps, Omar’s inability to understand the language and sentiments of Kashmiri youth. Cops have been left unbridled without any curb and control to make suo moto reaction to the situation which can otherwise be controlled peacefully. Consequently they are making the worst use of the best powers vested in them by AFSPA. AFSPA indeed reminds us of the Rowlatt Act 1919, a similar law imposed by the British Govt. on Indians a century back which empowered the viceroy Govt. with extraordinary power to conceal their cruelty by silencing the press, confining political activists without trial and arresting any individual without any warrant. And now India is free from the foreigner imperialism but the same treatment is being meted out to the people of free India. it is likely to use the same policies against the People of Jammu & Kashmir. An army officer enjoys powers to open fire on innocents with no accountability at all. The Rowlatt Act was termed as a ‘Black Act’ and also the recently implemented AFSPA is rejected by HRW and the masses of Kashmir as ‘A tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination. The Rowlatt Act banned the media and some thing of the sort has also happened to the freedom of Press during the recent tension in Kashmir. The curfew passes were withdrawn from the media persons and even from the ministers. This is the height of moral and ethical transgression. Where there is no security for the creamy layer of the society, how can the safety of life and honour of a common man be expected? The entire Kashmir was under such duress that the entire Print-media remained suspended for days together. In Jammu also the voice of three well-established Dailies were choked for the truth is always bitter enough to be swallowed. The media was attacked by the CRPF combo. Why Tufail Mattoo, carrying a school bag was shot dead in spite of his non involvement in any protest? Why more than two dozen youngsters who were shot dead by the forces when they were protesting against the human right violations? Why the stones are being answered with the bullets without accepting the fact, known to every body. The spark which could be extinguished at the infantry stage was allowed to become a dreadful fire which has gutted down the entire valley and has consumed thousands of human lives till now and this process is still going on. The Force can never change the radical ideology. And the use of bullet and draconian laws like AFSPA and Disturbed Area Act will do nothing but fan the flames of resentment among Kashmiris against the current system. Omar’s image stand dented beyond repair & failed to cover up killing incidents by firing on funeral procession. Omar and his colleagues did not utter a single note of condemnation against the incidents and didn’t bother to visit the bereaved families. This unfolds the casual attitude of the govt. Instead of decreasing the differences with the masses and visiting the bereaved families Chief Minister Omar Abdullah enforced curfew and deployed army. It was quite contrary to what the people demanded i.e. the revocation of AFSPA and demilitarization. Moreover! Home Minister P Chidambaram holds the LeT and HM responsible operating from across the country for the current situation in the valley. It’s indeed a fact and nothing to say to contradict it, but basic question is that how a handful of people from across the state are controlling the entire system? How can they, through their mentors in this area, rule the minds of the common people and entire India on the other hand is left helpless in maintaining the trust of her people? What is the source of mass communication with the Forces across the border to pass on their ideologies to Kashmiris? Why do they succeed in their motives sitting across the LoC? It is not a revolution which has led this valley to this stage but an evolution of conflict which took birth more than half a centaury before. History is a torch-bearer for the people to remember the lessons and learn from their mistakes. The state is being administered directly by the center which indicates that the current state govt. has utterly failed to withstand the situation and bringing the Kashmiris round. It is tantamount to handing the state again over to the Center what Maharaja Hari Singh did 60 years back. The same mistake has been repeated by the Omar Abdullah. The mistake which is repeated in this way could lead the state to dangerous fallout. Kashmiris do not want violence at all. They are fed with gun culture in the valley. They are in search of sterling peace now and the peace cannot be brought under the shower of bullets. And PDP President Mehbooba Mufti rightly said, “J&K State is at war with its own people.” If incidents like this did not stop, who will save Kashmir?

J&K RTI: An eye-wash – Ayaz Mughal – The Northlines – 22 July 2010

The corruption as assumed by the people is mono-faced and limited to taking bribe. But the fact is that it has a multi-dimensional connotation which enfolds delay in disposal of even primary issues, dereliction of duties, miasmic administration of justice, sometimes unjustified decisions, encouraging caste-based politics and community considerations, misusing powers for ulterior motives and above frequently notable anarchy of work culture, accountability and transparency in regard to the public affairs. The politicians, the bureaucrats and the government officials at the gross-root level are, somewhere responsible for the eruption of this obnoxious pestilence of corruption and if we have a deep insight into the state of our affairs, we will be shocked to find this deadly disease seeped into the blood of the entire civil society in general and India in particular. Black money has become the symbol & fashion of high society bureaucrats and politicians which has rendered a irreparable set back to the economy of our country leaving more than 20 crores people of nation thriving on left-over crumbs and many of them starving every day. Our society is marked by the complete moral and ethical degradation and scathing erosion of human values.
Under such circumstances the poor public is bound to pin its hopes and repose its confidence in the Government that has been formed by the dint of their votes. And the govt. is not genuinely serous about it. Where will the public go and beat its head, the matter is of great concern. Non administration of justice to the public even from the spacious corridors of absolute powers is the most likely to snowball into a great confusion and chaos in the system with the bigger amount of adverse impact on the Government. Our democratic age of our country is 60 years and as old is our J&K State too. But it is the time for us all to introspect and see whether it is the same country which our national stalwarts like Gandhi, Patel, Azad and others had dreamt of. Could we take proper care of values and culture these great souls had entrusted to us after the appearance of a new sun on the on the horizon of free India? Could our leader design their lives on the patterns of their political ancestors? Is our country really an abode of peace and harmony, justice and honesty? Our country has been rated as rated as in topmost corruption countries of the world and even worse is the plight our state. The Governments come after every spell for six years with revised promises but set an example of the same routine negligence doing nothing meaningful. Till yesterday we were exploited by the British imperialism and today we are being subjected to the tortures of our own people. For a common person it is all the same. The Black and White Governments are simply the two sides of the same coin with not even bit of difference in between. Actually in our country and State the concept of national politics has dwindled into the motive of money and power politics. Our leaders want make their generations comfortable in a single stroke of power since they are quite diffident about future in view of their quivering sensibilities. After all what steps have been taken so far to stem the over burgeoning tide of rampant corruption? What and if have initiated something to check, have we ever been serious about the results? Do we really want to make ours a corruption-free state? A host of questions crop up in a fertile mind but with no suitable at all. The character of our state is being called in question. Merely framing laws, publishing them in the government gazettes and delivering impressive speeches do not make any positive difference to the society at all. It is right time for implementation and enforcement of laws in letter and spirit. Strengthening confidence in the masses is the matter of great concern for the coalition government who is surviving under the shades of very tough opposition and our leaders will have to practically prove that they are not play foul with their public.
The J&K Right to Information Act, 2009 came into force on 20 March 2009, repealing and replacing the erstwhile J&K Right to Information Act, 2004 and the J&K Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2008. The Act is based closely at par with Central RTI Act of 2005. With the advent of RTI, a ray of hope emerged among the masses but the point to be noted is that a major chunk of our population is not at all aware of what this RTI is about and majority of those who understand its objectives do not have much courage to come forward for their certain vested interests. Actually The RTI legislation took a big amount of time reach its final stage after surpassing many hurdles and threadbare discussions. The delay in its finalization speaks the language of some of our selfish leaders and holds a mirror to their intentions. RTI is basically an instrument to strengthen the voice of people and ensure the fair and frank functioning of the state-craft. It was an attempt to invigorate the people’s democracy. This Act empowers a citizen to have a check on the activities of the Government and examine the government records, take stock of the performance of the administration and play a vital role in providing corruption-free atmosphere in the state and transparent functioning of the government but unfortunately nothing of the sort has happened till now. It will not be out of place to call it merely an eye-wash and a foul play with the innocent public of this state. Isn’t that the government feels helpless in implementing the law. Coalition government headed by Omar Abdullah is feeling the political pressure from the infected elements of the society who are presently enjoying the impunity under all circumstances. All promises, initially, made by the state government regarding its immediate implementation have ended in a smoke with no tangible results at all for the reasons best known to them.
One more question which has been striking the understanding minds in relation to the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner. Obviously the Chief Information Commissioner has to an absolute authority in the state that has to work fairly and fearlessly. He will is bound to be as independent in the conduct of inquiry proceedings as the Chief Electoral Officer. But the Govt. has, till now, failed to fill up this vacancy for the reasons best known to it. Government’s intention to have an Information Commissioner from within the state may be one of the reasons behind this abnormal delay. Government may be afraid of the disclosure of most of the political and bureaucratic dons involved in corruption and that is why some one from outside the state is being imported for this positions. It is because the most the officers from out side the have happened to a little headstrong in formulating the procedures. It somewhere sounds about the diffidence and guilty intention of our Govt. The most discouraging part of RTI act is that people have to shell out for the RTI application and for photocopying documents. The information seeker should necessarily be J&K state subject and has to pay a fee of Rs. 50 along with application on prescribed form which is too high as compared to that of Central RTI Act. Central RTI act charges Rs. 10 for the same. Again to get the copies of the government records, the state subject has to pay Rs. 10 per copy of A-4 or A-3 size paper while under Central RTI Act, the prescribed fee is only Rs 2. If a citizen requires information loaded on a diskette or a floppy, he or she has to pay Rs 75. The fee for such kind of job under Central RTI Act is only Rs. 50. It indicates insincerity of Govt. in regard to the implementation of this Act.
It is inferred that coalition government headed by Omar Abdullah utterly fails to seek and appoint an Information Commissioner despite lapse of a significant amount of time. Despite advice by CIC Govt. of India Wajahad Habibullah, the structure of High fee has not been reduced which proves beyond a shadow of doubt that the present coalition government is least interested in receiving complaints from its people. In my opinion RTI Act 2009 will meet the same fate as that of State Accountability Commission (SAC) which at presents is like dead horse or tooth less tiger.
Moreover, the tall claim of government that reply to an RTI application has to be made within 30 days but it takes more than two months as a whole when found in practice.
If our Govt. is really serious about creating an atmosphere of transparency, work-culture and accountability conducive to the birth of a corruption free state ensuring the proper administration of justice, it is right time to give a practical shape to the pre-election manifesto of promises and enforce RTI Act with immediate effect. The forthwith implementation of this Act, in letter and spirit, will work a lot in giving a positive dimension to the Govt. functioning. The mode of payment should be made more convenient and the information and official records should be digitized and uploaded on websites. It will not only save time of the people and the officials but is likely to leave constructive impact on the functioning of our Govt. Online acceptance and replying of applications, updating the status of application may prove to be successful in weeding out the corrupt practices in the society.