Kashmir: Shuffling the Administration

jammu secretariat

(For past some time the officers in the state administration are being shuffled like a pack of cards which renders them ineffective)

Apart from various political and security issues, the State of Jammu & Kashmir is bedevilled by lack of governance and unresponsive administration. Both the issuers emanate from the virtual absence of accountability which is a direct offshoot of the political uncertainty that the state has been facing for last 70 years or so. However, there have been certain periods when in spite of all the drawbacks, the State did have good governance and responsive administration. In mid-seventies of the last century, the State did have a responsive administration. At that time, the officers in both the Central and the State Administrative Cadres were real stalwarts. However, one of the reasons was the almost fixed tenure of two to three years for the officers posted for manning various departments. Pre-mature transfers were neither allowed nor liked by the top bureaucracy. It was thought that if a person is kept moving from one department to other only after few months the administration suffers. Normally it takes a person at least six months or a year to get familiar with a department and its working.No doubt the officers of the Central and the State Administrative cadre have to be versatile to man and run all departments yet to fully get the grip of a department and show results an officer needs to be given sufficient time.

For past some time the good governance and responsive administration has not been the criteria for deciding the place of posting of an officer. There are umpteen other considerations including the choice of the ministers when there is an elected government. Often the ministers want the people of their choice to be placed as administrative heads and heads of various departments under them. Unfortunately, in recent years, these administrators at all levels including the local KAS (Kashmir Administrative Service) have been shuffled like a pack of cards sometimes even within a couple of months or so. In addition, as already mentioned, there have been political compulsions as the minsters have been demanding officers of their choice. It has also been observed that before certain events especially those connected with various kinds of polls, the officers not only in administration but in police also get shuffled. Normally, under election model code of conduct such transfer is not allowed but nevertheless, these happen.

Then there are certain technical or professional departments which normally should have specialists in various fields but here too sometimes administrative officers are posted. Such departments would include Floriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries, Tourism, and a number of other fields. There is no harm in posting members of administrative services as the heads of department but in that case there have to be specialists in various fields working under the head of the department. Let us take the example of the Tourism Department. Officers right from the rank of an Assistant Director are from the administrative cadre. None of them have any specialisation in various fields connected with the development and the promotion of Tourism. In the past, the officers till the rank of a deputy director were from the field of Tourism especially, the adventure tourism which is an important segment of Kashmir Tourism. Same holds good for the Tourism Development Corporation, Cable Car Corporation and so on. The Tourism Development Corporation is primarily connected with Hotel Management field and a person trained and experienced in that field would be an ideal choice to run the corporation. Again there are some corporations such as the Power Development Corporation which have been sometimes headed by administrative cadre officers rather than by trained and experienced electrical engineers.

In case of Tourism, in the past there used to be a directive that no transfers would be made during the Tourist Season which normally lasts from March till November. Most of the transfers were made in the lean period. Not now. During the current year all the officers right from the administrative secretary to the deputy directors have been transferred in mid-season. Incidentally, the Travel Agents Association of India held its 64th Annual Convention in Srinagar this year. About 600 top travel agents of India participated in the conclave and declared 2018 as the “Visit Kashmir Year”! Immediately after the convention all the top tourism officers who had worked hard to arrange the convention in the most difficult situation were transferred!

It has been repeatedly pointed out that apart from the perennial political problem the main cause of unrest has been lack of good governance resulting from an unresponsive and unaccountable administration. It is not a difficult job to make the administration accountable and responsive. However, the need is to post right people in right jobs and give them full trust and opportunity to show results within a stipulated time. Shuffling officers like a pack of cards results neither in good governance nor ensuring a dedicated and a responsive administration, the basic criteria for good governance!

Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir


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