New administrative units a utility or vote-bank politics?

SRINAGAR: The National Conference-led coalition government has put speculations about its differences with its ally, Congress, to rest by approving the creation of 659 new administrative units in the state. The “milestone” achieved by the government is described by NC as “historic” and as big as its founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s ‘land to tiller’ move. But amid jubilations in the areas that have been striving to get tehsil status, questions are being raised about the motive and logic behind the creation of new administrative units.
For instance, can the state bear the financial burden incurred by the creation of new administrative units? Were the units really necessary for enhancing efficiency of the administration? And most importantly, did vote-bank politics play any role in sanctioning of the units?
Jammu and Kashmir has been going through the worst kind of financial crisis, which includes difficulties in managing salaries for its around 400,000 employees. Considering the cost of setting up the infrastructure and subsequently arranging the manpower, the new administrative units are expected to cost the state between Rs 1500-1600 crore.
“The question is can we afford such a heavy financial burden at this stage? And the answer is no,” noted economist and former economic advisor to the government, Prof Nisar Ali, told Kashmir Reader on Sunday.
“To make these new administrative units operational, the government needs to acquire land, set up infrastructure, and then arrange manpower. It will incur at least Rs 1500 to Rs 1600 crore. How is government going to arrange this money when it is struggling to pay its existing employees?” Prof Ali asked.
The new administrative units approved by the government include as many as 46 sub-divisions, and 135 tehsils, 177 CD blocks, and 301 niabats. And the reason behind the decision, as stated by the government, is to make administration effective by taking it to grassroots level.
To government’s explanation, however, the efficacy of the administration-in-place appears to be the major argument.
“Our administration delivery system dates back to the times of feudalism. A simple file in our state has to cross some two dozen stages before it is returned to the client with approval; our government has failed to give administrative powers to Panchayats.
“Instead of correcting the existing system, the government is creating new administrative units with an explanation that it is to improve governance. It doesn’t make any sense,” Prof Ali said.
The new units are believed to have added to disparity in regions of the state vis-à-vis the administrative units. Jammu with 43 per cent share of the state’s population has got more new units while the Valley with 54 per cent share of the population has been granted lesser units. Also, the approved figure of the administrative units surpasses the number recommended in the Mushtaq Ganai Commission report, which is said to have been created on the basis of requirement.
“The government hasn’t explained why Jammu got more new units than Kashmir valley. If taking government to grassroots level is the motive, then Kashmir shall have got more units due to the size of its population. So it is clear that the government has politicized the creation of new administrative units for vote bank politics,” former chairman of the Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) Shakeel Qalander told Kashmir Reader while pointing out the economic loss that the decision is to incur.
“My estimation says that these news units will costs the state between Rs 2500 to Rs 3000 crore,” he said.
The decision has annoyed the government’s employees too who have been on streets to demand their due arrears and other financial benefits.
“Our state is bankrupt. The government doesn’t have money to pay General Provident Fund to employees; pensioners have to wait for pensions for two to three years; the causal labourers and contractual employees are not being paid on time. And ignoring that all, the government has created new units? Do they even consider the financial implication of their decision,” asked Abdul Qayoom Wani, chairman of his faction of the Employees Joint Action Committee.