Monday, May 1, 2017

Letter to ed. Daily Excelsior

I write this in disgust, not at the account published in your daily at 23.4.17 of the machinations at the Public Service Commission, but at the reaction; or actually, the lack thereof, of the public at this disclosure.

I must confess, I was not surprised at the blatant mismanagement, and the devious behaviour of the commission; because at this point, nothing seems too outrageous in this state. I would go so far as to say that this jaundiced view of the state machinery is not only a personal view, but also shared by a majority of my peers not only from the Jammu province, but all over the state.

So much so that when I meet students from our state in the rest of the country, the topic of discussion is not corruption and mismanagement, for it is taken for granted, but on the degree of outrages, shared in the blackest of humour. It is as if we as residents of the state are afflicted by Stockholm syndrome, resigned to fall in thrall of the state, which has taken us collectively hostage.

Even if we take it for granted that the government and its agencies are corrupt, it still behoves the political representatives of the state to actually represent. The Bureaucrat class, as it is, is so separate from the masses, that they have no legitimate claim to represent the rest of us. But the political parties, be that the BJP, the PDP, Congress, Panthers Party et cetera, seem to be under the impression that crass political stunts, such as death panels for the Rohingya Refugees are the real issues that the state faces, rather than the issues which will actually make the difference.

To put it more specifically, the revelations of the goings on at the Public Service Commission should scare all of us as residents of Jammu and Kashmir, because these betray the underlying rot that is the real trouble in this state.
To quote your report, ‘much needed transparency and accountability in JKPSC is at stake due to nexus of some officials, who have been assigned all the key assignments and access to [the] entire secrecy section which even the members of the recruiting agency don’t enjoy. This deep-rooted nexus is leaving no stone unturned to deprive candidates from Jammu region of selections for various posts in Government departments.’ (Daily Excelsior, Jammu Ed. 23.4.17 pp.1)

While there may or may not be a conspiracy to deprive qualified candidates from one province, one would assume that interview panels, headed by equal numbers of members from each province, aided by impartial visiting experts, would lead to little favouritism, at least in principle. However, what is disconcerting is that the very same officials mentioned in the quote above, also select and brief the impartial visiting experts. (Daily Excelsior, Jammu Ed. 23.4.17 pp.11)

I assume that a grand conspiracy to deprive qualified candidates from Jammu from positions in the state administration and jobs in the government bodies is a canard. That being said, if this conspiracy did exist, the situation at the commission would be ripe for it. The conclusion I drew from the report, and which any reasonable reader would draw from the same, is that the perfect circumstances are in place for gross corruption to take place in the body.

Since the officials mentioned have such wide ranging powers, no oversight, and involvement in virtually all parts of the public recruitment process, who can say that the officials themselves are not profiting from their positions? Who knows if the doctors from the medical officers recruitment, now serving in the hospitals are not there on basis of merit, but instead on basis of political influence and suitcases full of money?   

Some would argue that the statements made above might be slanderous, but one would argue that the very fact that the appointment of these officials was so out of standard protocol, again as mentioned in your report, would be grounds for suspicion. And in Jammu and Kashmir, with our track record of financial probity of government employees, one suspects the worst. It would have been a simple matter for the powers that be in the commission to have nipped these concerns in the bud, but the lack of action on this matter is similarly suspicious. A nexus to engage in social engineering? Maybe, maybe not. A perfect setting for payoffs and corruption, almost certainly yes.

But allegations of government corruption and ineptitude are a dime a dozen in this state. What is really disheartening is the lack of public response. The day after the article was published, I saw a protest in Kachi chawni, where the protesters, all young men who are of the age to be giving exams conducted by JKPSC, were holding up placards which seemed to read “Nationalism Up, Up; Communism Down, Down”. I fail to see the pertinence of these protests, because the last time I checked, Burhan Wani and his ilk were not really students of Marx, Lenin, and Mao.

What it was, was an attempt to enter the mainstream dialogue in the rest of the country by just showing up. This situation was diagnosed in an editorial I read an year or two ago in Greater Kashmir, where the writer suggested that in lack of proper political leadership in Jammu, the political elements had tied their moorings to the cause of Delhi without due cognisance of the political realities on the ground.  The political parties in Jammu, therefore, have become mouthpieces not of the people of Jammu, but of the politics in Delhi and the State Durbar.

I would understand the BJP not taking any steps to rock the boat on the fragile coalition, because things as they are touch and go anyway. But what of the ABVP, the Youth Congress, and the Congress Party? The ABVP and the Youth Congress are supposed to represent the students and the youth, who are directly affected by the goings on at the Public Service Commission. The Congress is in the opposition. It was their collective responsibility to raise a voice against the status quo in the commission, at least to give voice to the growing resentments. But what we heard was silence.

This is the rot that I have mentioned. The powers that be are, or appear, corrupt. The representatives do not represent. And the people, who are supposed to be served by the aforementioned two, are left in a lurch. This is an issue that not only affect the people of jammu, but people all over the state.
What happens to the good people of Kashmir when they find out that their candidates, who studied and worked hard for a government job, lost out to someone with influence and money as his only support? The public memory is fickle, but the start of the militancy was when idealistic candidates were robbed of their seats in the government because of rigged elections.

What about the people in Leh, who already have to go above and beyond for a proper education. What happens to them when they realise that what is rightfully theirs is denied to them, continuing a trend of them being side-lined in the narrative of the state.     

 It is intriguing to note that while the rest of the country is seeing rising youth movements, such as the ones in JNU, led by Shehla Rashied, one of our own, and the ones in DU, Jammu and Kashmir has had nothing. Of course, there are the protests in Kashmir, but they are of the violent nature, which I cannot condone.

What happened to fighting for what is rightfully ours? What about the 4 who died in 1966 agitating for educational opportunities? What of the protests of JJAC in 1998, when MLA’s from the Congress, the BJP, Janata Dal, and Awami League collectively occupied the well of the J&K Assembly, again protesting disparity in selection of MBBS candidates? It seems that we the people in Jammu and Kashmir are resigned to being sheep, preyed on by both the political parties and the bureaucracy. It seems a fitting end for a people who choose not to fight their own battles.