Institutional Paralysis in Kashmir

By Hamid Rather

In the literary festivals and debates and discussions in Delhi I was often asked about the ‘official arrogance’ in the state I belong to. Some friends sneered at me that all people from the state have some sort of arrogance in their genes which I often contested and never digested. When I was new to these debates I often defended every predilection regarding the state sometimes even by twisting the facts. Now I realize I was wrong in defending the wrongs about myself and Kashmir. I wish I would have accepted this trait of our state bureaucracy at that stage. It would have saved my time, energy and money. I falsely added my arguments in defending it and was not objective in the research. I was arrogant myself.
Recently, the BJP demanded the creation of separate Public Service Commissions (PSCs) for Jammu and Kashmir divisions of the state to end the alleged discrimination against people from Jammu division. BJP has criticized its coalition partner for not providing an equal division of state-level vacancies between the two provinces as a remedy. This is not viable as it will encourage regionalism. Moreover, it requires constitutional Amendment for which the political will is lacking. But, the actual issue is that of institutional paralysis in the state. Nepotism and corruption in the recruitment process can’t be brushed out and time will not be far away when dichotomy of the institutions will be demanded. It thrives more in JKPSC and JKSSB, the two important recruitment agencies in the state. Besides, the other criticisms leveled against JKPSC and other recruiting bodies in Kashmir are grave. Perhaps, BJP thinks to divert all the state-level vacancies to Jammu the idea of a ‘separate PSC’ is going to change the political as well development map of the state.
Under the prevailing political instability, institutions have become almost non-performers if not non-functional in summer and BJP wants to reap its benefits by having a ‘separate PSC’ for Jammu that remains aloof from the politics of Kashmir will be logically more functional and performer than its counterpart in Kashmir. However, Omar Abdullah, National Conference’s working president views it differently that the destroying public institutions in the state by sidelining legal and established recruitment processes is a planned strategy of PDP-BJP rule. The trend, he said, is marring the merit and leaving future of the youth in hands of “corrupt politicians”.
The institutions like JKPSC and JKSSB have become non-performers due to causes other than conflict and some recent controversies against them have brought to the fore the collective ‘institutional paralysis’ in the state. These institutions have no standards to strive for as they are not being rated unlike other institutions like universities or financial institutions. Moreover they don’t care for timely conduct of exams and declaring results as they thrive under the cloak of hartals and political instability. In this article, let me highlight one more aspect of this institutional paralysis in the state.
We have seen bureaucrats performing same work applying same rules and as a result they develop some preferences and antipathies. Dewey, an Americian psychologist described this phenomenon as ‘Occupational psychosis’ and Daniel Warnotte, a Belgian sociologist called it ‘professional deformation’. Let me deconstruct it. Recently Jammu & Kashmir Public Service Commission (JKPSC) conducted Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) 2016 prelims examination in March and later declared the result in April. Hundreds of aspirants approached the commission and requested that they secured marks well above the cut off declared for qualifying the Preliminary Test (PT). The commission and administrative staff did not hear them out and went ahead by issuing notification and receiving forms for mains examination. These aspirants went pillar to post for their voices to be heard and addressed. They were asked to get their grievances redressed through so called proper mechanism of ‘RTI’. When they did they get to know that ‘Oncology is study of mountains for JKPSC’. This is not a mistake but a blunder that puts in danger the career of thousands of aspirants.
The JKPSC was taking shelter under the cloak of ‘holy rules’ which do not provide for making public the answer keys for the question papers for different exams. What about the ‘due process of law’ infused by Supreme Court by looking into the fairness and reasonability of the laws. How come the ‘delegated legislation’ forgets the substantial as well as procedural due process of law? The Supreme Court is yet to deliver a judgment on a petition by a law student contesting transparency in recruitments by UPSC amidst other issues. Philip Selznik, a sociologist has warned us earlier that the rigid application of bureaucratic rules leads to displacement of goals. The rules framed by JKPSC rules kept the HC in the state away from its jurisdiction in a way and hence cannot entertain petitions. Eventually, the State Times carried a story and exposed the wrong answer keys of JKPSC.
JKPSC being a constitutional body has become a non-performer, a problem that is hurting the state. The administrative posts for KAS, KPS and account service advertised in 2014 are yet to complete the recruitment process. The Preliminary Test (PT) was conducted in September 2015 and main examination was held after a gap of 16 months in February 2017. More than five months have passed and JKPSC don’t mind to declare the results. It was a precedent set by the earlier commissions to declare PT result within 15 days and main examination within one and a half month maximum. When the aspirants approached the commission inquiring about the delay in the result, they were not given correct information. Do not the aspirants being the citizens of the state have a right to ask the commission the questions which agitate them and know the reasons of non-performance? Non- performers should go and vacate seats for those who carry the will to bring the institutions par excellence back on track. On the other hand, UPSC at the centre conducts the examinations on dates fixed a year early and declares results within a stipulated timeframe.
JKPSC is charging the jobless and poor aspirants hefty fee. The KAS 2016 Preliminary examination fee was Rs 1000. How come one thousand Rupees will be required for the administrative expenses of the PT aspirant that is provided a single OMR sheet and two question booklets with 20 pages each? The fee for the Civil service exams conducted by UPSC at national level is Rs 100. How come there can be 900 percent inflation in the commodities required for KAS aspirants? This may be called as ‘official exploitation’ of the jobless and poor aspirants.
The JKSSB story is even worse. On an average, it takes three to four years to complete the recruitment process for advertised posts.
If JKPSC is not having the requisite capacity and capability, which they don’t have as is exemplified by the delays in conducting exams and declaring results, the governor should request UPSC to complete the recruitment process of the civil service posts advertised since 2014 which JKPSC has put in abeyance showing arrogance and failure. This is the only option to save the present as well as future aspirants from depression due to unnecessary long delays in conducting exams and declaring results.

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