Shaking the confidence of Jammu and Kashmir’s young generation into the Government’s systems and institutions, authorities of Social Welfare Department and the Government of India-sponsored Intensive Child Development Scheme (ICDS) have brazenly selected a number of the relatives, friends and political workers of the Minister of Social Welfare Sajjad Gani Lone and another MLA of his Peoples Conference (PC), mostly from the Minister’s Handwara and Kupwara areas, as Programme Managers and Consultants.
The selection list of the four Programme Managers issued in Jammu on Tuesday has the name of Shafath Hussain of Vilgam at its top. Selected for one-odd vacancy of Programme Manager (Advocacy, Information, Education and Communication), Shafath happens to be the son of one Ashiq Hussain Sheikh of Vilgam who has functioned and continues to be the Constituency Head for Sajjad Lone’s Handwara.
PC’s second MLA Bashir Ahmad Dar has been obliged by the selection of his cousin, Ghulam Mohiuddin Dar’s son Rahil Mohiuddin Dar of Jaggerpora (Kupwara), as Programme (Manager Health & Nutrition). If the failed candidates of Kupwara are to be believed, Rafeeqa Bano of Rawathpora, Kupwara, who has been selected as Consultant (Infant Young Child Feeding), is the daughter of the MLA Kupwara Bashir Ahmad Dar’s political associate Mohammad Akbar Mir.
Naureen Nissar of Sopore, whose full address in the selection list has been mentioned merely as “Main Sopore”, has also been selected as Consultant (Grievances). She is none other than the Social Welfare Minister’s cousin and daughter of his maternal uncle Nissar Ahmad Ganai of Sopore.
Sanober Ashraf of Handwara, daughter of a Lecturer Mohammad Ashraf, and Aasim Banday, who has his residential houses in Handwara and Srinagar and is the son of a retired Junior Engineer Abdul Gaffar Banday, have also been selected as Consultant Management Information System, and Consultant Training. The failed candidates revealed that fathers of both these selected candidates are also known as sympathisers and political associates of the Minister of Social Welfare.
One of the candidates, namely Tauqeer Raheem, who has been selected as Programme Manager (Monitoring and Evaluation) is reportedly a close relative to a senior Congress leader and former Union Minister. The failed candidates insist that the selection committee members waited for her appearance in the interview for over one hour as she told them over telephone that she was “on way”. On Wednesday, she wasted no time in sending her joining report to Mission Director ICDS, Ghulam Ahmad Sofi, from Srinagar through a passenger. Sajjad Lone’s PC is an electoral ally of BJP and the Minister has proudly called himself as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brother during 2014 Assembly elections.
All the four candidates, selected as Programme Managers for monthly remuneration of Rs 40,000 each, and all the 10 candidates, selected as Consultants, for monthly remuneration of Rs 35,000 each, according to top level sources in Social Welfare Department, asked to submit their joining reports “immediately”. Standing counsels for Social Welfare Department are understood to have been directed to file caveats in both wings of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to prevent attempt of the aggrieved candidates to get the selection stayed.
Under Notification No: 1-SMD of 2016 sated September 23, 2016, State Mission Director of ICDS had called for application from candidates for filling up four vacancies of Programme Manager and 10 vacancies of Consultant for consolidated salary of Rs 40,000 and Rs 35,00 a month respectively. A list of shortlisted candidates was prepared earlier this year and changed drastically after complaints poured in from different quarters.
The exercise was reviewed and a list of shortlisted candidates framed afresh after Sofi took over as Mission Director of ICDS. While Sofi functioned as Chairman, Naheed Soz (Managing Director J&K State Women Development Corporation), Hangloo (Director Social Welfare Jammu), Hakak (Executive Director J&K State Rehabilitation Council) and Rashida (Deputy Director Social Welfare Department, Kashmir) functioned as Members of the selection committee.
Well-placed authoritative sources, who are not authorised to speak to media, revealed to STATE TIMES that malpractices, political interventions, nepotism and favouritism were clear in the entire selection process from its day one. Masters/PG Diploma was fixed as qualification for all posts, though it was mentioned as “preference” would be given to the candidates with Masters/PG in the relevant subject.
Qualification and experience for Programme Managers in Advocacy and IEC, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Health & Nutrition and Monitoring & Evaluation was mentioned in the notification. Its violation for certain candidates was evident in the fact that same candidates were shortlisted for two or three specialties. Sources said that one candidate, Zain Mushtaq, who ultimately was removed for a more influential candidate, was shortlisted as Programme Manager in Training, Advocacy and IEC and ECCE. Same candidate was shortlisted as Consultant in IYCF, Nutrition and Policy and Planning.
“These are different technical streams. Normally a candidate has Masters or PG Diploma in one or maximum two subjects. How can one be simultaneously shortlisted in two or three different streams?” one of the failed candidates pointed out. He, and at least four others, alleged that in order to give “boost” to certain blue-eyed boys, their fake experience certificates were arranged from an NGO operated by one of the Minister’s confidantes.
While as 45 marks (on pro rata basis) were fixed for basic qualification, 15 marks were earmarked for so-called “special qualification”, 15 marks for “Experience” (at the rate of two per year, subject to maximum of 15), 5 marks for “computer knowledge and experience” and 20 marks for interview.
“Even after ensuring possibility of political intervention and irregularities, it was mentioned in the notification that decision of the selection committee would be final”, said another failed candidate. “If these are all State level posts, how has the lion’s share gone to the Social Welfare Minister’s Handwara and Kupwara constituencies?”, he asked with an appeal to Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, J&K High Court, State Accountability Commission and Director Vigilance to take suo motu cognizance and stop the “illegally selected candidates” from joining.
Mission Director ICDS and other members of the selection committee either refused to comment or did not respond to phone calls from this newspaper.