Srinagar: Perhaps what could turn out to be a major embarrassment for the ruling class, a retired woman IAS officer has openly talked about various ‘scandals’ and divulged details about how people in the state of Jammu and Kashmir are taken for a ride.
The former bureaucrat and first woman IAS officer in the state, Sonali Kumar has written a book revealing the scandals in bureaucracy and ‘curse’ of being an outsider.
‘Unmasking Kashmir’ by Sonali Kumar, is an extremely racy book which is full of even ‘juicier scandals’.
The book, which is a memoir of Kumar as a bureaucrat in Kashmir- speaks about how a Chief Secretary hosted Hurriyat meetings at his official residence and also indulged in sundry other anti-national activities, that too ‘openly’.
The book, which is likely to generate heat also talks about how a serving Deputy Commissioner embezzled Rs 8 crores (Government of India funds) and when it came to light, how he ‘disappeared’ along with his PSO (Personal security Officer), driver, and official vehicle.
Kumar in her book talks about a clerk in the Legislative Assembly who rises to be the Chief Secretary and succeeds in creating a parallel cadre to the IAS without even a murmur of protest from GOI.
She also narrates that how a serving Chief Minister claims he is divorced or separated from his wife but the state government still keeps on spending crores on the electricity, rent and sundry other bills incurred on the residence that his wife occupied.
She also reveals that how an ‘IAS’ officer, a sexual predator is arrested by the CBI, jailed, then released because all witnesses and victims turned “hostile”, and lo and behold, becomes the Chief Secretary of the state.
The book also mentions about how bribes are sought and taken, and why, therefore, the only industry that flourishes in J&K is the “transfer industry”.
The former bureaucrat also reveals that how VVIPs descend for sight-seeing and shopping in J&K in the chapter “Shopping with the President’s Daughter”?
The book is an ‘outsider’s journey’ through the labyrinthine innards of the state bureaucracy.
“In the crowded bookshelf on Kashmir, books abound on the various aspects of the Kashmir problem– legal, military, international, Islamic. But what is missing in all those books is—what an outsider Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer goes through while serving in J&K,” writes Kumar.
This book is a fresh perspective on the vexed Kashmir problem from the eyes of a career bureaucrat who spent over 37 years in the J&K cadre of the IAS trying to understand its people, solve their problems, and focus on development, than politics, that many of her more successful colleagues openly indulged in.
Pertinently, Kumar was first non-state subject lady IAS officer to be allotted to J&K cadre with a batch of 1979. She had thus a ring-side view of the J&K cadre that she had narrated eloquently in the pages of this epochal work.
The book reminds readers that infamous “Biryani Episode” where she was summarily removed from the post of Principal Resident Commissioner J&K Bhawan New Delhi for allegedly not serving Biryani to a visiting delegation.
Notably, her husband Dr. Arun Kumar, also in the IAS of 1979 batch, who as CEO Shri Amarnath Shrine Board was allegedly at the heart of the “Amarnath Controversy” in 2008 that almost split the state on religious lines.
All such incidents are narrated by Sonali in the backdrop of ‘The Outsider’s Curse’ that she says every All India Service officer suffers from.
“This is the curse that ensures that unlike any other state, in J&K, an “outsider” or a “non-state subject” officer can’t buy property, can’t educate her children in any medical or engineering college, can’t get her spouse or children to find employment with the state government, can neither vote in nor stand for any state-level elections even after retirement, can’t even get her son married to a local girl because that will immediately extinguish that girl’s state-subjectship.
“But if the Government of India has to ride rough-shod over the AIS officers fundamental right to property, employment or franchise that is otherwise guaranteed under the Indian constitution, why doesn’t it look after the officers’ interests by letting them to come to Delhi to construct their homes, to look after their old parents who can’t do “durbar move” in the sunset of their lives in J&K, to let their children study or to find employment for them,” she writes.
Instead, the author asks, why Government of India loves sending back forcibly to J&K even those All-India Service officers who may have with proper permission come to Delhi for any of those normal human needs, she narrates.
“But the worse is yet to come. Does anyone know what happens to their service interest when these officers get back to J&K? Are they allowed to man the cadre posts that are meant to be manned by them under rules made by the same Government of India? Do they get their 7th Pay Commission or even Dearness Allowance benefits announced by the same Government of India when their compatriots elsewhere get it? Are their seniorities protected under rules made by the same Government of India? Do they get their pensionary benefits in routine as their batch mates get it elsewhere without fighting for it every inch of the way? Can they hope to get official accommodation in J&K the same way as they get while they are with the Government of India, she questions.
Sonali hopes that the book proves useful both in understanding what the IAS does in the state of J&K and in helping frame some national policies for dealing with the problems there.
“But that, the way things are, could be only wishful thinking,” she says.