After Snowfall, Ministers Descend On Valley

After Snowfall, Ministers Descend On Valley

18 January 2012
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Srinagar: Having preferred to maintain a distance from the ‘distressed’ Valleyites during the recent snowfall, the ministers have suddenly started a beeline to Kashmir, convening “draggy review meetings for photo-ops”, as an official puts it. The sudden influx of the ministers to the valley is not only distracting the officers from their assigned jobs, but is also hampering the restoration work in the aftermath of the snowfall. “They are keeping the entire civil administration virtually hostage for hours in unproductive meetings,” lamented a senior engineer, wishing not to be quoted. For the past two days various ministers from National Conference and Congress have been undertaking tours at district level and summoning meetings to take stock of the post-snowfall situation in the valley. But a sense is growing within the bureaucracy that the ministerial tour and review programs are proving counterproductive as the officers, instead of attending to their responsibilities in the field are forced to stay in these “pointless” meetings. Sources said the long drawn meetings except for seeking coordination within different departments and taking review of the work has nothing to offer. “Long hours are consumed in the meetings. The ministers could remain in touch with heads of departments on phone and seek information. The departments are already coordinating with the Divisional Commissioners office,” said a senior bureaucrat who was part of a review meeting held here today by a Congress minister. Six ministers, two from National Conference, and four from Congress camping in the Valley for the last two days have been either holding review meetings in different districts or conducting tours. “It’s a situation of one-upmanship between NC and Congress ministers as both of them want to show their presence in the valley,” said another officer. The beeline made by the ministers to Kashmir followed strong criticism which had brewed against the government and legislators of the ruling parties for their absence from the valley during recent hostile weather conditions which had piled sufferings for people due to shortage of essentials and other facilities. Following the development, presidents of Congress and National Conference had issued whip to the party members and ministers to stay put in valley to oversee restoration work. The whip issuing by the parties is also seen as tactics by them to score political points over each other by their presence in the Valley. Minister for Health and Horticulture, Sham Lal Sharma immediately after his arrival from Jammu conducted a marathon tour of various health institutions of Budgam, Ganderbal and Srinagar districts. While inspecting various health institutions the minister had nothing new to offer. “Ensure medicine supply and better treatment to patients,” was the ministers advise to administrations. At Budgam he instructed authorities to ensure privacy in female wards and better heating arrangements in the hospital. During his tour which extended for long hours, Sharma kept Director Health Services, Kashmir, Director Horticulture, Director Floriculture, Chief Medical Officer Ganderbal, Deputy Drug Controller, Kashmir and scores of other senior officers on toes. A senior health official said the entire administration of all health institutions the minister visited had to either postpone or delay their routine work to receive the minister. “It happens whenever any minister makes tours, the officers have to accompany him,” he said. Take another example. Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, Raman Bhalla convened a high level meeting of officers in the Winter Secretariat here to review stock and supply of essentials, restoration of power, water supply and other basic amenities of life. Heads of various departments briefed the minister about various tasks undertaken by them in post snow scenario in Kashmir. However the meeting had not a single word on shortage of essentials including cooking-heating fuel-LPG, and kerosene, or black marketing which is giving troubled times to people. Heads of all departments had to leave their routine work to attend to the minister. Likewise the Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Advisor to Chief Minister, Mubarak Gul, Minister for School Education, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and PHE Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din kept the bureaucracy and lower rung official of various departments toed to them during the review meetings or tours undertaken by them today. CIVIL ADMINISTRATION FUMING Meanwhile, at the review meeting taken by the Minister for Revenue Raman Bhalla, heads of different departments are learnt to have expressed “reservation against police for trying to overshadow” the efforts put in by the civil administration to handle the Kashmir situation in the wake of recent snowfall. Sources said on Tuesday police claimed to have replaced a damaged transformer from Naid Kadal area in old city. However Power Development Department (PDD) today contested the police claim. The Electric Maintenance and RE Wing Kashmir today issued a statement saying the transformer which had got damaged on January 16 has been shifted by them for repairing. “The transformer is still under repairs in the workshop and shall be re-installed within a few days. As such claim of police authorities regarding replacement of transformer is false,” said the statement issued by the office of Chief Engineer PDDs EMnRE wing. Sources said the issue came up for discussion during the review meeting taken by Revenue Minister today. “The department has taken up the matter at the higher level (With Principal Secretary, PDD). Such types of statements create confusion,” said a senior PDD official. Sources said “resentment” is growing at various levels within other departments including R&B and SMC. “It is being felt that the departments and their manpower is not given the due credit for having undertaken the restoration task in hostile weather conditions,” sources said. Commissioner, SMC, Sheikh Mushtaq said the Corporation has a large jurisdiction and police supplemented them in their efforts. “There has to be coordination among different departments for effective deliverance of services. We also get support from police in tricky situations,” he said.