Sham Lal Langer
As a child my memories go to very small thing like price of atta in fifties. We at Jammu were getting atta at 50 paisas per kg at the ration shop but same atta when it reached 300 km away on almost katcha single lane road to Srinagar from Punjab would cost 45 paisas per kg. Mind it 5 paisa was not a small sum those days. City bus trip was costing 5 to 10 paisas those days. Same was true for sugar. Surprising transportation cost was deducted from the price which Kashmiris paid. No question asked to Abdullah’s and Bakshis of that time.
After I passed my Engineering from BHU in 1967, I appeared for PSC exam in 1970. In the list which came out after written and interview I was at number one and my childhood classmate topper from Srinagar with 80 percent marks was at no 2 in the list of 18. But out of that list only 8 from Srinagar were given the appointment orders. Most of them were at the bottom of list with less than 55 percent marks. Our orders were issued after six months thereby making us junior to those eight who were at the bottom of list. No questions asked being special state.
I was incharge of running Chenani power house which we had commissioned in 1970. First in Jammu region. If there was shortage of power, instructions were to supply power to Srinagar first even if Jammu was in dark, because power center of Abdullah and Bakshis could never sit in dark. Benefit of special status.
When it came to corruption officers in Jammu were taking full advantage of special status. When I made first maintenance estimate of the power house, my AE incharge threw the same in dust bin telling me, ” Langer you do not know how to prepare the estimate, I will tell you how to prepare the same.” What he prepared and gave me to sign, threw my entire Engineering costing to dust bin. I cannot share with you the figures but shock was so big that I left J&K service on the first opportunity I got in 1974 and never looked back. I was also afraid when my turn came for promotion, somebody else from Srinagar will spring up and will be declared senior to me and I will have no choice except to keep looking at special status. This was also very common.
Despite running around offices for two months I did not get my Provident fund and pension benefit for my services in J&K. No record maintained and no questions could be asked because of special status.
During those days, losses in power distribution system were more than 65 percent. Revenue collection from Jammu region was 60 to 70 percent where as collection in Srinagar was not even 10 percent even though power consumption was three times that of Jammu. To reduce the losses under APDRP scheme GoI must have given more that Rs 35000 crores to state govt but losses are still at more than 50 percent whereas other states have brought down the same to 15 to 20 percent. I understand collection from Kashmir remains still at 15 to 20 percent . Special status.
Those days Engineering College, Medical College, Agriculture College all went to Srinagar first. None in Jammu. When it came to development of tourism, even till date not a single tourist spot has been developed in Jammu even though places like Sanasar, Patnitop can easily be developed into world class skying/ golfing resort. Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Kud, Rajouri, Poonch , Basohli in Jammu province have a potential of becoming world class tourist attraction. Now RTI act will be applicable, I wish some of the activists going to SC against bill, ask State Govt to give the statement of Central Govt grant spent in Jammu and Kashmir year wise since 1960. I can bet, ratio will be 10 to 90 percent. Special status.
Try to list out the properties made by an Executive Engineer / Chief Engineer or a revenue officer from Srinagar and from Jammu . None will be above board but difference will be mind boggling.
Now that special status is gone , I only hope GoI makes sure that Jammu and Ladakh are provided resources to undo the neglect of last 70 years. At the same time, through anti corruption act BJP leaders and state officers are to be kept under close watch. Otherwise habits die hard. God only can predict how much will be actually utilised for development.
Sham Lal Langer