Governor Narinder Nath Vohra will shortly relinquish the most challenging assignment of his career. Though he has been involved in security management of the country for over three decades in one capacity or another, his best all round innings was perhaps reserved for his stint as Governor of the disturbed state of Jammu and Kashmir. When he took over the gubernatorial responsibility in 2008, his reputation as a man of crises had travelled ahead of him. He proved his mettle in sorting out the Amarnath land row and many crises. During his tenure the State had to be put under Governor’s rule four times when he was directly at the helm of affairs. He displayed his governance skills to the hilt each time.
Governor Vohra is a hard task master and never shirks from calling a spade a spade. In 1993, following Bombay serial blasts, he forcefully highlighted to the discomfiture of the establishment “the vitiated environment of an unholy nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, police, criminal gangs, media persons and strategically placed individuals in the non-state sector”. He represents the last vestiges of the ‘Steel Frame’ for whom the nation always comes first and allegiance is to the Constitution and law and not to the party in power. It is never easy for a nominee of the Centre to disagree with the mandarins in the North Block and yet complete an eventful and long tenure. This was possible, for he was widely respected and he had the knack of convincing the other side through his vast experience in state-craft and about the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
He displayed endless energy in keeping the bureaucracy on its toes and digging out citizen-centric issues from under the carpets of the State Secretariat. His penchant for field inspections was in abundant display during the past 8-weeks. He could be seen in Amarnath Yatra route, district headquarters and presiding over scores of meetings in a single day. Vohra meant business when it came to delivering services to the people.
Governor Vohra cherished democratic ideals. Despite the Amarnath agitation in 2008 and devastating floods of 2014, he chose not to defer assembly elections despite advice for postponement from many quarters. The credibility of these elections contributed to reducing the democratic deficit, paving way for increments in the peace process. He often voiced his concern over delays in holding Panchayat and local body elections. He needs to be applauded for preparations initiated to hold these elections from September this year to strengthen grassroots democracy. On issues of democratic functioning he would go by the book and not succumb to any dictates. He reminds of gutsy former Governor B.K. Nehru, who stuck to his guns when asked to dismiss a democratically elected Government.
Governor Vohra is held in high esteem by leaders of all political parties in the State. Successive Chief Ministers sought his counsel and his help to convince the central government on issues of importance. Raj Bhawan was always open to everyone for exchange of ideas and guidance.
On the security front, the Governor had a very onerous responsibility of ensuring synergy between different forces and agencies. His past experience as union Home and Defence Secretaries held him in good stead. For all forces operating in the State, he was a father-figure who understood the problems faced by the men in uniform as well as the need for providing security to the people of the State. His interventions had a harmonising effect in keeping both of these interests in view while dealing with situation on the ground. During assembly elections of 2008 and 2014, his role in ensuring violence free and fair elections will long be remembered. He was quite upset by the developments in 2010 and 2016 and loss of lives and violence pained him.
As Chairman of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, he will be fondly remembered not only for up gradation of infrastructure and facilities for pilgrims but also for fulfilling social responsibility to ensure development of areas around the holy shrine. The setting up of a Super Specialty Hospital run by Narayana Hrudalaya Chain and Nursing College at Kakryal and a Sports Stadium at Katra are a tribute to his vision and dynamism. A master plan for the entire Shrine complex has been finalized and this will allow future development in a planned manner with focus on the facilities for pilgrims. Similarly, the Amarnath Shrine Board under his stewardship has performed creditably.
Gracious and suave First Lady Usha Vohra has involved herself deeply in social and cultural affairs. Her presence in every event was inspiring and her conduct exemplary and worth emulating. Governor Vohra will go home a satisfied man having done his best to resolve, on his terms, issues that arose during the last decade. He is not a man who will opt for a well deserved rest. His admirers will keep a track of his future interests. The couple will be fondly remembered for their humaneness, sagacity and humility.
(The author is former DGP)