Eradicating Corruption: from Vohra to Satyapal Malik

Kamal Sangra
Behind every great fortune lies a great crime– Honoré de Balzac
Corruption remains at the centre stage in vigilance awareness week year after year but this year the Vigilance Awareness Week is different and important for J&K in view of the impending formation of the two new Union territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh – on October 31. The Central government had on August 5 this year announced the abrogation of the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and its bifurcation into two UTs.
Eleven years ago, then Governor N.N.Vohra had expressed his concern over the menace of corruption and had called for restoring the trust of the people in the administration by making it more transparent and corruption free. And now eleven years later, his successor, the outgoing Governor, Satyapal Malik had addressed the issue directly and unambiguously and admitted that there is a rampant corruption in J&K and action would be taken against the ‘big fishes’ and against the ruling elite which was involved in corruption. One can infer that successive Governors though felt concerned about the menace of corruption but it appears that they were neither clear nor fed properly by the bureaucracy on the government’s role in eliminating corruption from the state. The selective accountability and cosmetic measures taken during the last few decades didn’t make any difference on the ground while corrupt officials continue to manage prized postings, accumulate huge wealth and roam freely sans any remorse.
Despite the fact that vigilance awareness week is being celebrated every year, corruption in different areas of administration has not shown any relent in our state. The Central Vigilance Commission, as part of its efforts to promote probity in public life and to achieve a corruption free society, has been observing ‘Vigilance Awareness Week’ every year since 2000 and this happens to be the week within which the birthday of Late. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel falls on the 31st of October.
‘Integrity-A way of Life’ is the theme for this year’s Vigilance Awareness Week beginning October 28 to November 2. The Central Vigilance Commission is of the considered view that corruption is a serious unethical practice that undermines trust and confidence in public officials and that public confidence can only be gained by promoting integrity in governance.
Satyapal Malik, during his brief stint as Governor J&K showed his serious concern on the menace of corruption in almost every platform. Equating the ruling elite with rotten potatoes and terming Jammu and Kashmir as the most corrupt state, Governor Satyapal Malik in June this year admitted before the media persons that those in power here, be it political, administrative or business live like Mughal emperor Jahangir and the poor youth who go with their ponies to earn a living during the Amarnath Yatra do so without even wearing warm clothes. He further admitted that in other states, people ask for two percent (commission), but here it is 12 percent. He even equated corruption as one of the root causes of terrorism and opined that if the message goes that no aspirant of a bureaucrat or powerful person will be given preference in recruitment, half of terrorism will end in the state.
Another admission by Satyapal Malik that the politicians in the previous government changed the entire selection list of candidates to adjust their relatives and workers in the J&K Bank, Cancellation of group health insurance policy awarded to Reliance General lnsurance Company Ltd., Cancellation of the 101 illegal appointments made in the year 2016 in Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB) during BJP-PDP government are just the tip of the iceberg of the monumental corruption and unholy legacy of the political-bureaucratic-business nexus in J&K.
In the crusade against corruption few initiatives were taken by the Governor’s administration in the last one year. On October 24, 2018, the State Administrative Council (SAC) had accorded nod to the setting up of first ever Anti-Corruption Bureau in the State to tackle and eradicate corruption in more effective and meaningful manner. Six new Police Stations under Anti-Corruption Bureau were established against two existing Police Stations. Registration of FIRs by the Anti-Corruption Bureau under Prevention of Corruption Act has seen sharp rise since the imposition of Governor’s Rule in the state. This has vindicated the stand of the Governor Satyapal Malik that no stone will be left unturned to eliminate corruption and dishonest people won’t be spared by his administration.
Establishing of Anti-Corruption Bureau in October 2018, ACB probe into fraudulent land dealings under Roshni Act, sacking of Parvez Ahmad Nengroo from Chairmanship of J&K Bank, registration of multiple FIRs in ACB against the J&K Bank officials for compromising the Credit policy of the Bank while sanctioning huge loans to the business-political elite, initiating the process to bring J&K Bank under the ambit of RTI Act, draft preparation of Corruption (Amendment) Bill to include acts of demanding and requesting sexual favours by public servants within the ambit of term ‘Misconduct’ under section 5 of the J&K Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006 and establishment of an independent prosecution cadre with a separate Directorate are few bold decisions taken by Satyapal Malik for which he deserves appreciation.
However, mere cancellation of illegal appointments in J&K Bank and Khadi and Village Industries Board, for example, are not enough. Role of concerned Ministers, Commissioner Secretaries, Chairmen, Board of Directors, members of the selection committee and the senior law officers must be enquired and if evidence is available, they must be arrayed as accused. Making lower rung officials as accused in these cases may result in rolling of few heads while the menace of corruption through the political-bureaucratic-business elite will continue to spread. Investigating agencies must bear in mind that big fishes always float in the influential and privileged deep waters of power where politicians and bureaucrats have absolute discretion in the decision-making process in which lower or middle rung officials have little or no say at all.
In a State where clearing the financial mess, fixing of financial accountability and maintaining expenditure of government funds is forte of none, Girish Chandra Murmu, Expenditure Secretary and PMs trusted aide appears to be an excellent choice as first Lt Governor of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It is for the new dispensation of UT of J&K to ensure that no act of past corruption goes unpunished and none stands above the law.