Several relatives of one family, journalists, students, political workers, housewives among beneficiaries
SRINAGAR: In the chief minister’s hometown of Bijbehara, “Flood Relief Money” distributed to a list of persons has many irregularities, such as “shopkeepers” in the list turning out to be not shopkeepers at all.
The money, given as compensation for losses suffered due to the 2014 floods, has been recently disbursed. Following a tipoff by sources in the revenue department, Kashmir Reader carried out some ground work, which revealed that most of the “shopkeepers” do not have shops anywhere. Instead, the list has names of government employees, students, contractors, journalists, and even many housewives.
A person named Shujaat Hussain, son of Ghulam Nabi, has been paid the relief money for losses to his general “kiryana” store. However, a revenue official said, “The person in question here is Shujaat Hussain Mufti, son of Ghulam Nabi Mufti, who was recently inducted into the Jammu and Kashmir Bank at the age of 45. He does not own a shop anywhere.”
Shujaat’s phone was off when contacted by this newspaper.
Preceding Shujaat’s entry in the list is that of Shujaat’s nephew, Mufti Mohsin, son of Shabir Ahmad, who is also listed as a kiryana store owner. The person, as per sources, works as a contractor with the JK Bank and has recently been part of the Jammu and Kashmir Ranji Trophy team.
“He, too, does not have a kiryana store. In fact, no one in their whole family has one,” sources said.
Mohsin, when contacted by Kashmir Reader, said that putting him in the Kiryana category was a mistake of the revenue department, not of him. “I am being paid the compensation for losses to sand and plywood used for the renovation of a branch of JK Bank. You should file an FIR for this against the revenue department. I have suffered losses to the tune of Rs 20 lakh,” he said.
Another entry on the same page is that of another relative of the Muftis, Zakir Hussain Shah, whose wife, Majabeena, is listed as a kiryana store owner. People in Bijbehara said that the lady is a housewife and owns no kiryana shop anywhere.
“They had a shop years ago, where her husband sold shoes. He is a political worker now and the shop was closed years back,” local sources said.
Zakir said in his defence: “I own a shop of rat-kill poison at Pahalgam, and of chong (candles), for which I was paid relief.”
The list, spread over more than 28 pages, has dozens of other discrepancies. Luqman Zeerak, who studies journalism in Delhi, has been listed as a shopkeeper; so is a girl studying in college, also a relative of the above mentioned Shujaat Hussain. Some full-time political workers and a few local journalists have been listed as shopkeepers.
Luqman’s phone was constantly busy and he could not be reached for his comments.
One of the more evident irregularities in the list of shopkeepers is the inclusion of dozens of housewives. Sources in the revenue department said they only found one woman in the whole of Bijbehara running a shop. “Of the more than a hundred women listed as shopkeepers, we expected at least 25 to be actually running shops, if not 50 or all of them,” said a revenue official.
The officials said that they made several efforts to raise queries regarding the list, but political intervention prevented any action being taken.
The officials alleged that field agents asked for kickbacks for a name to be included in the list.
Some locals alleged that the field agents were workers of a certain political party and worked at the behest of a leader of the party.
Genuine shopkeepers who did suffer losses in the floods and have been left out are aghast. “The first question that should be raised is why the funds are being disbursed at this point in time, more than 4 years after the floods,” a shopkeeper, requesting anonymity, said.
A second one said, “I have no political patronage. I several times asked the revenue officials about the list but they had no satisfactory answers.”
Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, Muhammad Younis, asked Kashmir Reader to send him a list of the people under question, into which he will inquire. “Please send it to me. I will inquire about it,” he said.