Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: Minister incharge Social Welfare, Sajjad Gani Lone, who returned to the winter capital on Tuesday from his two-week-long holidaying in southern India, is understood to be “angry” with appointment of a Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) officer as Mission Director of the Centrally sponsored Intensive Child Protection Development Scheme (ICPS), removing an incumbent he had ambitiously drawn from UNICEF for this position just 17 days back.
Well-placed sources disclosed to STATE TIMES that Lone had taken exception to replacement of Hilal Ahmad Bhat with the KAS officer Rubeena Kausar who assumed charge of MD ICPS within hours of issuance of the GAD order on Monday.
According to these sources, Minister would press hard for revocation of the order and continuation of Bhat as MD ICPS. Though a minor medical problem is said to be the reason of his bed rest, he is unlikely to attend office this week to convey his displeasure to the Government.
According to sources in bureaucracy, Kausar’s appointment order does not mention anything about the incumbent MD ICPS Hilal Ahmad Bhat. However, GAD is understood to have sent a separate letter to Commissioner- Secretary Social Welfare Sajjad Ahmad Khan with the Government’s approval to Bhat’s engagement as “Coordinator” in ICPS.
Bhat told STATE TIMES that his humiliating demotion from MD to Coordinator was “disgraceful” and he had decided not to accept it. “I have decided to quit. This is not acceptable to me”, Bhat asserted. “I am not someone who needs a job with J&K Government or an accommodation. I have much more to do in my career. I had left a prestigious and highly rewarding position in UNICEF and joined here to promote ICPS in the interest of the people and children of my State.
If the State Government doesn’t require my service, it’s ok. Government is competent to take its decisions”, Bhat added.
Even as sources close to Minister Social Welfare insisted that Bhat’s monthly salary in UNICEF was “around Rs 4 lakh” and that he had accepted the remuneration of Rs 1.33 lakh a month, Bhat refused to mention figures. “Salary description is a private thing but I can tell you I had accepted this job here on half of what I used to take in UNICEF”, he said.
Sources close to Minister Social Welfare insisted that Bhat’s replacement was result of the pressure put on Chief Minister by a close relative holding a position in the ruling PDP. “He wanted to get one of his relative appointed on this position. But he was no match to Hilal Ahmad Bhat who has Masters in Social Work and about 15 years’ working experience with Save the Children India, Save the Children UK and UNICEF”, said an official in Ministry of Social Welfare.
The official said that the Government had come under pressure due to criticism of some lateral appointments in different schemes and missions and Bhat being the soft target was “axed as a sacrificial goat”. “What about similar engagements in the last two months? How does GAD justify them?”, asked an official.
Commissioner-Secretary Social Welfare Sajjad Ahmad Khan said that he had “no idea” of how much had been fixed as Bhat’s salary. Asked how much was mentioned as his UNICEF salary in his CV, Khan said that there was no such mention in Bhat’s CV. He said that GAD’s order did not mention anything about Bhat but being “superior to all government departments”, GAD’s order was “binding on us”.
“However, let it be clear that Mission Director ICDS is not a KAS cadre post. If GAD has posted a KAS officer, they have also transferred a KAS post to Social Welfare Department for purpose of Rubeena Kausar’s drawl of salary”, Khan said. Commissioner-Secretary GAD Khursheed Ahmad Shah declined to make comment. However, two other officials in GAD said on condition of anonymity that the bureaucracy was “upset” over Sajjad Lone constituting different commissions and committees and engaging “men of his personal choice without passing it through the normal bureaucratic process”.
The GAD officials referred to appointment of Mohammad Iqbal Lone as Chairperson of Child Resource Centre (CRC) and Commissioner Persons with Disabilities, appointment of retired IAS officer Jeet Lal Gupta as Chairman of Backward Classes Commission and retired SP Badhana and retired Director Social Welfare Ghulam Nabi Bodha as members of the same Commission as also appointment of retired High Court judge Hasnain Masoodi as Chairman of another committee. They claimed that all these engagements and appointments had been made without taking GAD on board.
In March 2017, Government had constituted the Selection-cum-Oversight Committee, which is primarily an apex body for monitoring and evaluation of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). This Committee also has the mandate for the formation of Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in the State.
In a notification issued by the Government under the SRO 75, Hasnain Masoodi had been appointed as Chairman of the Committee while as the then Mission Director ICPS Talat Parvaiz as the Member Secretary. Prof Anisa Shafi, Arti Bakshi, Iqbal Lone and Rajiv Khajuria had been appointed as members of the Committee.
Pertinent to mention that J&K was the only State in the country which had not implemented the ICPS, a centrally sponsored flagship scheme supposed to be implemented eight years ago. But because of inadequate J J system, immediately after formation of the 2013 JJ Act, the Scheme was not rolled out due to several roadblocks.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper