CS likely to take serious action over unpaid bill worth Rs 22 lakh of Hut No: 208
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: With a heap of irregularities, misuse of official position and unauthorised usage of Government properties by officers, bureaucrats and politicians of Jammu and Kashmir unfolding for the new Governor’s administration, Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam is likely to initiate serious action over an unpaid bill to the tune of Rs 22 lakh against some officers, including two former Secretaries of Tourism Department.
It has been brought to the notice of Chief Secretary that some officers and bureaucrats have been part and parcel of the unauthorised usage of several deluxe huts of the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department Development Corporation (JKTDC). According to highly placed official sources, Subrahmanyam has learned how certain officers and bureaucrats have obliged politicians of the erstwhile PDP-BJP coalition in permitting unauthorised usage of the JKTDC huts at Cheshma Shahi, resulting in losses worth crores of rupees to the State exchequer.
If the well-placed sources are to be believed, an unpaid bill to the tune of Rs 22 lakh is likely to be debited to miscellaneous advance of serving IAS officer and pension of a retired IAS officer who have both served as Secretary Tourism in Government of Jammu and Kashmir.
Chief Secretary is understood to have learned that in June-July 2017, some guest from New Delhi approached the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti with the offer of writing a book on her father late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. He demanded an official accommodation during his “brief stay” in Srinagar. When he convinced Chief Minister that the book would be highly beneficial for her party, the responsibility of arranging a suitable accommodation was assigned to then Secretary Sports Council, who also happened to be the President of PDP’s youth wing.
In July 2017, Hut No: 208 at Cheshma Shahi was given in possession of the author in the background of then Forest Minister Lal Singh’s official residential hut without proper allotment. Contrary to his promise of “brief stay”, the author stayed at the three-bedroom hut for indefinite period and turned it into his home with addition of two refrigerators, two LCD TVs and sofa sets.
Two Administrative Secretaries and Managing Directors of JKTDC slept over the unlimited stay of the author who did not pay a pie on account of boarding and lodging. On several occasions, he drove down to the Government Circuit House at Sonwar and took his meals there regularly, resulting in unpaid bills worth Rs one lakh.
According to sources, then Secretary Sports Council maintained assuring MDs of JKTDC, Tourism Secretaries and Director of Hospitality & Protocol that the author would pay all the bills. It was only after Chief Secretary Subrahmanyam pulled up officers of Tourism Department and JKTDC that the process of evicting the author started towards August 2018.
When Chief Secretary asked incumbent Tourism Secretary Rigzin Samphel how an unauthorised occupant had been allowed to stay at JKTDC’s Hut No: 208, he reportedly replied on the file that the author had been lodged there on “verbal orders” of former Secretary Sports Council Waheed-ud-Din Parra. Chief Secretary dismissed reply of Secretary Tourism as ” ABSURD” and issued orders of eviction.
Thereupon, incumbent MD JKTDC Asif Hameed Khan directed a General Manager to immediately evict the unauthorised occupant from the high security zone. The General Manager sought some time, pleading that the occupant had gone to his home in Delhi. However, the MD conducted a raid and found the unauthorised occupant present in the same hut. He ordered suspension of the General Manager.
Thereafter, the personal belongings of the author were removed from the hut and he was evicted forcibly. However, the bill of his lodging for Rs 22 lakh has not been paid by anybody. Sources said that similar numerous incidents of misuse of Government huts at Cheshma Shahi and other places, including the Guest House of Directorate of Tourism Kashmir, has been brought to the notice of Chief Secretary.
While the unauthorised occupant of Hut No: 208 has not paid even a penny, officials said that such deluxe huts could easily fetch Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 a night from domestic tourists and double the amount from foreign tourists. “According to our calculations it’s a loss of Rs 80 lakh to the State exchequer if someone is lodged there for 13 months. Responsibility must be fixed and the officials involved in this misuse of Government properties must be made accountable”, said a senior official.
“How can Secretary Tourism take orders from Secretary Sports Council, who is a temporary political appointee, and misuse his position as Secretary or MD JKTDC? This is not any political party’s or family’s fiefdom, when we don’t have salaries and allowances to pay our staff”, said a JKTDC middle-rung officer.
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