The endemic corruption in Kashmir

Published at May 14, 2018 07:08 AM 0Comment(s)4173views

Malaise that showcases the spectre of a withered social and moral fibre


The endemic corruption in Kashmir

Ruhail Khan

ruhailkhanauthor@gmail.com

Not so long back, we witnessed one of those odious examples of hyper-ventilating, rabble-rousing, pseudo-nationalistic TV anchors; well, you guessed it, Arnab Goswami, and his ever pliant minion and side kick, ex-army major, Gaurav Arya, crying hoarse over why, to their chagrin, Kashmiris have pink cheeks, perpetually so, and as to how Kashmiris occupy a certain lifestyle niche in a state perpetually besotted with violence and a severely debilitated economic ethos. Cutting to the chase, they were quizzing the source of the “pinkbacks” in circulation…

Even though initially, I personally did not tag it as anything beyond a regular prime-time charade of distortions, falsehoods, half-truths and one more ingenious episode of alternate news, doled out in a consistent cavalcade of ear-splitting concatenations of idiocy and jingoism to spike TRP’s…But then expostulations and remonstrations aside, which were pretty humongous and ranged from the comical & critical to the sentimental & scientific, the latter proposition did affect a neural synapse, rekindling a debate, usually found alternating between hibernation and manic activity in almost every Kashmiri’s mind…

Arnab Goswami and his moronic ilk may have to be tutored pronto or possibly packed off to school again to understand the impact of genetics, climate, diet and faith on an ethnicity’s physical appearance but how do we explain the lifestyle?

  • Is it as some may like to profess, propound or propagate, divine munificence or is it an exposition in collective frugality?
  • Is it effective money management or money laundering?
  • Is it a conscientious way of life or a corruption of the soul?

One makes a conscious effort to inhibit these queries largely either due to a guilt or a victimization complex…But then conscience has its ways and means of getting back to you…

And in my case it did so when recently India earned itself a dubious distinction by sliding to the 81st slot out of a total of 180 countries as per The Corruption Perception Index 2017, released by Transparency International [TI] and also got singled out as one of the worst offenders in the APAC region…Ouch!

And by default, political idiosyncrasies notwithstanding; Kashmir, for many years in a row, again, featured as one of the most, probably the most corrupt state [alarmingly corrupt!]…

Now this is some serious ranking coming as it does from Transparency International e.V. [TI] which is an international non-governmental organization based in Berlin, Germany, and was founded in 1993. Its charter of action is to take action to combat global corruption and prevent criminal activities arising from corruption. It publishes the Global Corruption Barometer [GCB] and the Corruption Perceptions Index [CPI]. Transparency International has the legal status of a German registered voluntary association [Eingetragener Verein]… 

According to the 2016 Global “Go to Think Tank” Index Report, Transparency International was number 9 of 100 in the Top Think Tanks Worldwide. Transparency International [TI] has published the Corruption Perceptions Index [CPI] since 1995, annually ranking countries "by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." The CPI generally defines corruption as "the misuse of public power for private benefit"...

Sounds all too familiar, eh?

Transparency International commissioned the University of Passau's Johann Graf Lambsdorff to produce the CPI.

The CPI takes into account 13 different surveys and assessments from 12 different institutions. The 13 surveys/assessments are either business people opinion surveys or performance assessments from a group of analysts. The institutions are:

  • The African Development Bank
  • The Bertelsmann Foundation
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Freedom House
  • Global Insight
  • International Institute for Management Development
  • Political and Economic Risk Consultancy
  • The PRS Group, Inc
  • The World Economic Forum
  • The World Bank
  • The World Justice Project

Countries need to be evaluated by at least three sources to appear in the CPI.

The only reason for dishing out these details about TI and CPI is to help you gauge and understand the importance, integrity and impact of these reports…

This was topped by one more damning indictment. A report by Centre for Media Studies [CMS] on corruption perception ranked the state right there at the top…

The State Accountability Commission receives an average of 100 complaints on a monthly basis…

It concurs that the precipitators are usually excessive regulations, complicated tax and licensing systems, numerous government departments with opaque bureaucracy and discretionary powers, monopoly of government controlled institutions on certain goods and services delivery, and the lack of transparent laws and processes and an almost negligible percentage of administrative action or judicial indictment even in cases overflowing with proof of corruption or manipulation of rules and regulations for personal benefit …

But then again, is anybody surprised?

A very nascent attempt at visualizing Kashmir nowadays, other than the bountiful beauty bestowed upon this bewitching land by the Creator, makes one contend with a nation ripped apart with violence, dogged with uncertainty, mauled with institutional barbarity, ravaged by the malicious brutality, leached into inconsequence by macabre exploitation, subjected to consistent paroxysms of death, loss, pain and suffering, badgered into despondency and despair and subjected to trials and tribulations almost on a daily basis…

But other than the common populace, relegated to the backburners of impotence and inconsequence, like a menagerie; a ménage a trois of wily politicians, spineless bureaucrats and unscrupulous businessmen rules the roost…Exceptions aside, for this coven of vampires, as Count Dracula, quoted Deuteronomy 12:23: “The blood is the life.” And here, blood connotes the dreams, aspirations, rights and assets of the man on street…

With the state virtually paralyzed in the productive spring, summer & autumn, what with the incessant killings, encounters, protests, shutdowns and curfews for the better part of the year, and struggling for survival through the other , a veritable incarceration through the intimidating and harsh winters, the economy is in ruins…But one is stupefied by the sheer scale and size of extravagance, expenditure and exhibitionism in the form of asset build up, lifestyle appurtenances and marriages etc…The real estate prices, in the absence of any regulatory authority have skyrocketed uncontrollably but that hasn’t stopped the nouveau rich ,the corrupt and the social climbers from buying plots and building palatial casas and villas loaded with the latest entrapments of luxury and technological utilities…A closer observation reveals the ownership heavily loaded with politicians, bureaucrats and other government officials, white and pink collared professionals out there to make a killing and in the process setting into motion a vicious cycle of corruption, exploitation, inefficiency and unaccountability…

As per the 7th Pay Commission, the following are the monthly salaries of Indian Government officials in INR: President [5,00,000] VP [4,00,000] PM [1,65,000]  State Governors [3,50,000] CJI [2,80,000] SC Judges [2,50,000] CEC/CAG/Cab.Secy/CM-UPSC [2,50,000]Lt.Govs [1,10,000] CJ-HC [2,50,000] State CS/HC-Judges [2,25,000] MP’s [50,000] and other Secy’s from [1,44,000 – 2,25,000] pre-tax alongwith attendant perks…State Chief Ministers, Ministers and legislators fall in the 1-2,00,000 range with perks…Now these attendant perks include free housing, utilities, travel and a huge corpus of subsidized accoutrements!

Impressive!

Now if we add the bureaucratic [inclusive of other judiciary, executive, legislative quorums] juggernaut to this corpus we have pretty similar numbers to deal with…Add to it the other utilitarian government services sectors involving administrators, doctors, engineers, specialists and generalists across the departments/sectors , we DO NOT see anybody crossing the INR 2,00,000 limit per month! Not a single case with the sole exceptions of corporate honchos in MNC’s…

So how come Kashmiri politicians ,bureaucrats and businessmen afford multiple manors and villas, apartments/bungalows/row houses in metros, swanky cars, kids studying in high end schools and gaining professional education from the crème-de la crème of specialist professional institutions across the globe where studying expenditures cost tens and hundreds of lakhs even a few crores! And not to talk about regular, globe-trotting vacations trips en famille. Whenever an opportunity crops for a marriage, engagement, passing out, birthday celebrations, the bacchanalia witnessed would make even Bacchus green with envy and Croesus hide his face in embarrassment…

  • Where does this money come from?
  • How is this extravagance financed?
  • What fuels this malaise?

You do not need to be a genius to figure it out. Even a frozen clump of withered neurons desperately masquerading as a brain can work out this puzzle! This is not hard-earned money; none of this ill-gotten wealth comes from a treasure of the past dug out recently or some miraculous shower of pinkbacks, like Manna from the heavens torn asunder...

This is an exposition of corruption and corrupt practices embedded in the very soul and psyche of these unethical beings pretending to be public servants…

It’s an exhibition of a highly evolved art of deception, subterfuge and exploitation wherein these modern day Draculas’ suck out the life blood of the desperate and disempowered masses. They relish the common man’s misery, they rejoice at the suffering of the down-trodden, they get regaled by episodes of suffering, they get rejuvenated by the pain of the innocent folks, they get refreshed by the stench of irreproachable death and they feel redeemed by extracting their pound of flesh from the hapless citizens…Now let’s juxtapose the other complement of this unethical troika, the unconscientious businessman. Every other day there is an eatery opening up, a showroom being launched, office spaces being set up or a hotel being inaugurated!

Now even after helming a Fortune 1000 business research and advanced analytics conglomerate, what I fail to understand is:

  • Where does this risky capital infusion precipitate from?
  • What are the projections w.r.t future revenue streams, and reliable, consistent and predictable ones at that, that are factored in the business plans for these ventures given the prevalent socio-politico-economic ethos?
  • How and when do these businesses break even?
  • What kind of revenue and profitability generation is envisaged and achieved by operating these businesses?
  • What are their sustainability paradigms coupled with DR and BCP protocols, a de rigueur in such a taxing environment?
  • How do they align to the classical S4 cycle of business lifecycle management?

 Or maybe nobody cares about these “critical to business success” queries? But then why would that be so?

  • Is that the owners have an unlimited capital supply to squander away?
  • Is it because they are nothing but money laundering fronts?
  • Or worse still asset conversion platforms?
  • Or are they showcases of the perfidious practices of these material leprechauns?

Now without subscribing to any pontification of my personal pedantics or prejudices, I find any other proposition as unpalatable…Hundreds and thousands of young and old, men and women, boys and girls and in many cases, nowadays, even kids, sweat it out from dawn till dusk in fields and orchards, in the streets and bazaars, in offices and shops, in homes and “karkhanas” to earn their sustenance. How come they are never flush with surplus money? Now “surplus” would be an exaggeration, more appropriately an aberration…It’s a constant struggle for survival for them, living their lives as precariously perched between the proverbial devil and the deep sea. Every dawn brings in a fresh challenge and every night hides a frightening nightmare…

Now why and how is all this accepted, normalized and even justified?

Has this politico-bureaucratic-business complex:

  • Created a Utopia out there in Kashmir? A Utopia where dignity of life is considered sacrosanct. Where liberty, equality and fraternity are not just hollow pronouncements. Where rights to life, dignity, health, education, equality, choice, employment, opportunity, property, freedom of religion et.al, are considered sacred and enforced without bias or prejudice?
  • Have they enshrined non-discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, creed, culture, couture, cuisine, ethnicity, linguistics, sex, age, et.al across the board?
  • Have they helped the state and its populace move up the ladder across socio-economic-political matrices over the decades? And I could go on and on and on…perpetually…

Unfortunately, the answer is a big NO…

Kashmir has been reduced to a degraded, decimated and denigrated dystopia!

This despicable coterie has NOTHING to be proud about…

Let’s try to comprehend the scale and state of their achievements, viz-a-viz, a few parameters.

  • Kashmir is the fifth largest state in the current Indian political dispensation, comparable in size to The United Kingdom...
  • Kashmir’s economy, at INR 1,06,530crore, is just about 06 per cent of Maharashtra’s !
  • It has the lowest per capita income in India [The per capita income for Jammu and Kashmir was estimated at 60,171 compared with 2,26,583 for Delhi] but the highest per capita assets, a veritable economic oxymoron!
  • Again with the lowest per capita income, it carries the distinction of the highest per capita food consumption, especially in meat, milk and poultry items!
  • Furthermore, with a per capita income almost one-fourth of an average Delhi resident, it has more multi-crore residential property ownerships than Delhiites!
  • It ranks 7th overall in big states on the Human Development Index with a score of 0.64…
  • The report on “Logistics Ease Across Different States” or LEADS, prepared by consultancy firm, Deloitte, places the state at the bottom!
  • The state of the States report by India Today places Kashmir 20th [bottom] in Agriculture, 7th in Healthcare, 7th in education, 15th in Tourism, 6th in L&O, 20th[second last] in Digitization, last in Ease of doing business, 19th[second last] in Infrastructure, 21st[last] in Entrepreneurship, 2nd in Environment…
  • The unemployment rate for persons between 18-29 years of age in the state is 24.6%, which is higher than the Indian national unemployment rate of 13.2% in the same age group…
  • Besides, Kashmir has an unenviable Human Rights track record…

Now let’s try and understand how the State’s economy gets its act together. As per the State Budget for 2017-18:

  • The Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir for 2017-18 at constant prices was estimated to be INR 1,06,530crore, one of the lowest in India!
  • Total expenditure for 2017-18 was estimated to be INR 79,472 crore, a 29.3% increase over the revised estimate of 2016-17…
  • Total receipts [excluding borrowings] for 2017-18 were estimated to be INR 65,798 crore, an increase of 26.8% over the revised estimates of 2016-17. In 2016-17, total receipts fell short of the budgeted target by INR 1,300 crore!
  • Revenue surplus for the next financial year was targeted at INR 9,349 crore, or 6.2% of the state Gross Domestic Product [GDP]. Fiscal deficit was targeted at INR 9,354 crore [6.2% of state GDP].
  • The total expenditure in 2017-18 was targeted at INR 79,472 crore…
  • The expenditure in 2017-18 was proposed to be met through receipts [other than borrowings of INR 65,798 crore and borrowings of INR 10,537 crore]. Total receipts for 2017-18 [other than borrowings] were expected to be 26.8% higher than the revised estimate of 2016-17…
  • The budget estimated to spend INR 10,000 crore on various centrally sponsored schemes in 2017-18. 70% of this amount was budgeted to be spent on creating capital assets such as roads under various schemes. The remaining was to be spent on revenue expenses…
  • The total revenue receipts for 2017-18 were estimated to be INR 58,168 crore, an increase of 15.9% over the revised estimates of 2016-17. The tax to GSDP ratio is targeted at 10% in 2017-18…
  • State’s own tax revenue was expected to increase by 17.6% [INR 1,489 crore] in 2017-18 over the revised estimates of 2016-17. Tax revenue in 2016-17 [RE] was estimated to be INR 8,442 crore, which was lower than the budgeted estimates by INR 778 crore [8.4%]...
  • Non-tax revenue was estimated to increase by 1.6% [INR 84 crore]. This was to driven by receipts from the sale of power, and was estimated to be INR 5,308 crore in 2017-18…
  • Grants from the centre were set to increase by 22.6%, from INR 27,008 crore in 2016-17 [RE], to INR 33,118 crore in 2017-18. The other component of transfers from the centre is the state’s share in central taxes, which was estimated to increase by 2.2%, to INR 9,711 crore in 2017-18…
  • Revenue deficit: It is the excess of revenue expenditure over revenue receipts. A revenue deficit implies that the government needs to borrow in order to finance its expenses which do not create capital assets. As of today Kashmir has one of the highest revenue as well as fiscal deficits in the country…
  • Fiscal deficit: It is the excess of total expenditure over total receipts. This gap is filled by borrowings by the government, and leads to an increase in total liabilities of the government. In 2017-18, fiscal deficit was estimated to INR 9,354 crore, which is 6.2% of the state GDP. The estimate exceeds the 3% limit prescribed by the 14th Finance Commission!
  • Outstanding Liabilities: It is the accumulation of borrowings over the years. In 2017-18, the outstanding liabilities are expected at 47.3% of state GDP!

Can you even imagine the scale of mismanagement!

Can you even visualize a worse siphoning off of public funds!

Can you comprehend the mess that has been spawned by the corrupt clique!

Read on…

Besides, from 2000 to 2016, Kashmir, which accounts for only 1% of India’s population, received INR I,14,000crore in grants from the Centre. That's 10% of all grants disbursed to states during this period! Surprised? Don’t be…

In contrast, India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh which is home to 13 % of the population got 8.2 % of those funds. To put the Kashmir-UP contrast in perspective, the allocation of funds per capita was INR 91,300 in Kashmir, and INR 4,300 in Uttar Pradesh.

Furthermore, from 2013-14 to 2015-16, Kashmir got grants worth INR 75,500.2 crore!

WOW!

Does the common Kashmiri even grasp this overboding reality?

Does the common Kashmiri even understand the big fleece?

Does the common Kashmiri even think that he/she is actually complicit?

So,

What are you getting exploited for?

What are you getting harassed for?

What makes you run from pillar to post to get your work done?

It’s a very sad and troublesome narrative that the Kashmiris have to factor in their day to day rigmarole. The social and moral fiber of the nation has been withered and the higher precepts inculcated by faith simply blown to smithereens. When a society stops objecting to trespasses of morality, intrusions of indiscretions, encroachments on precepts and erosion of values, it is according a tacit approval to the shenanigans of unscrupulous and dubious elements. This in turns emboldens, embeds and empowers the societal malpractices. What we need to understand is that corruption is NOT a malapropism for competence…

Corruption is not just a generic malaise, it’s a collective calamity for a society that constricts it growth, chokes its efflorescence and curtails its progress.

Corruption has extracted an irretrievable cost and inflicted irreparable damage on Kashmir and the Kashmiri society. A haunting past, an intimidating present and an obscured future, an ineffective polity, an inefficient bureaucracy, an insensitive judiciary, dilapidated infrastructure, crumbling societal edifices, an economy in shambles, a non-existent law and order apparatus, an ever-spiraling unemployment scenario, a non-existent PDS, below average educational and healthcare pedigree, almost non-existent industrialization, erosion of localized artisan base and a crippled indigenous handicrafts industry, an excessive reliance on unproductive agricultural complement, a hollowed out services sector, a crippled tourism and allied sectors, an endless stream of unmitigated human rights violations et.al…

Absence of regulatory authorities across the board and more so the professional services sectors has spawned a culture of materialism bereft of any human sensibilities…Counterfeit drugs, fake FMCG products, second rung electronics, excessive overcharging by the private hospitals and below average services by the Government run ones, the doctor-pharmaceutical and diagnostics nexus, the engineer-contractor cabals, the exorbitantly tagged utilities, the over-hoarded and over-priced  food articles, the self-serving civic services infrastructure, the “kharcha-paani” culture in every government run department and functionality, the environmental depredations, the real-estate mafia, the unregulated public school sector are all symptomatic of a corrupt social paradigm and a debilitation lack of accountability and redressal mechanism…

It’s time for tide to turn…

A society, especially, one that is as severely challenged as the Kashmiri society, should make a pledge to develop and exhibit “zero-tolerance” for corruption, in any of its myriad forms. What needs to be done is an alignment to a higher niche of moral rectitude, a renunciation of self-centredness, the development of a collective conscience and consciousness, an inculcation of altruism, a concerted nurturing of meritocracy and an unflinching faith in the power of truth…Trust me half the battle is won once you understand, believe and stand by these precepts…

So the next time you walk into a politician’s lair, a bureaucrats den or a businessman’s haven, be ready with your facts and figures, know your rights, quiz and query, be thorough and truthful, don’t take anything at its face-value , don’t get awed, intimidated or bogged down, don’t seek short cuts, maintain your integrity and exhibit your scruples, stand your ground, use your intellect to decipher and deduce the fine print of rules and regulations and most important of all, believe in yourself and you’ll see these charlatans quacking in submission in your service because that’s exactly why the common man has voted, appointed or graced them for…

On an individual front, reclaim your moral standing, rejuvenate frugality, underscore restraint in expenditures, refrain from unnecessary splurges, restrain duplicity, rein in the urge to impress societal competition, and take recourse to a simpler but enriching life style as a productive and exemplary member of the society…

Certainly Kashmir can lay claim to better accomplishments than the current calamity of corruption and the attendant collapse of its hallowed culture…

 

 

 

 

 

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