Srinagar: Barely 17 days after he joined as Mission Director of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Hilal Bhat, an eminent child protection expert, has been removed from the post. Sources in the ICPS department unanimously said that the removal of Bhat has inflicted a huge setback to the child protection scheme that has failed to take off in Jammu and Kashmir for the past four years.
Social Welfare minister, Sajad Gani Lone had recommended Hilal’s name for the position of MD ICPS. The minister’s recommendation was approved by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Sajad Lone had written to the chief minister that the person who will head the department should have an international profile and Hilal was eminently qualified for the task of ensuring the welfare of children and in addressing the various challenges that the state faced in this regard.
Sources said that pressure from various political circles led to the removal of Bhat. This pressure was exerted after Bhat demanded an explanation for the dropping of a competent and qualified candidate who was recruited as a counsellor in the ICPS department.
“The competent authority succumbed to the pressure and rolled back the appointment orders of a person who deserved the position most among the entire lot,” said a source in the civil secretariat.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir enacted the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act in 2013 but could not roll out the Government of India’s ICPS scheme because of not having expert staff. The High Court, after hearing a PIL on the issue, gave orders calling upon the state government to “wake from the deep slumber, at least in the interest of the children for whose benefit the Act has been passed by the state legislature.”
The ICPS department was looking for an MD for months when it finally contacted the UNICEF Delhi office to ask for support. Hilal Bhat, who had worked with the United Nations and Save The Children organisation for more than a decade, was appointed as technical advisor to the J&K government for social welfare department.
Sources close to the department said that immediately after joining the department, Hilal questioned the recruitment process against the post of a counsellor where a candidate with MSW degree (Masters in Social Work) and possessing good experience was dropped. Based on the candidate’s complaint, a copy of which is with Kashmir Reader, Hilal sought an explanation from a senior KAS officer for why a competent and qualified candidate had been dropped.
As per a government order issued before the appointment of Hilal as MD ICPS, it was mentioned that the appointment for the position of MD shall be made from the “open market”.
The latest transfer order, issued in contradiction by the GAD (General Administration Department), posted a KAS officer as MD ICPS, who took over the charge in a hush hush way within half an hour.