Jammu and Kashmir recently bagged national level awards for Covid-19 management and Panchayat Development Index at the 24th National Conference on e-Governance held at Hyderabad.
District Srinagar secured first position in the category of Covid-19 management with effective use of technology and Bandipora district was conferred the award for innovative digital product ‘Panchayat Development Index’.
Two J&K districts being on top vis-a-vis managing administrative affairs in the country have once again proven that the Centre’s August 5, 2019, decision — to scrap the so-called special status of erstwhile J&K state and its transition into a Union Territory — was a step in the right direction. The move set new benchmarks of governance in the strife torn Himalayan region, which was declared as “Red Zone” for the past three decades by the traditional politicians in Kashmir.
When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in Kashmir, Srinagar was the worst hit as maximum cases were reported in the district. The Srinagar administration led by then Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Dr Shahid Iqbal Chaudary, took several innovative and effective steps to contain the virus. The efforts of the officers helped in saving many lives and curing the patients.
Officials in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district in 2019 launched a dashboard “www.realchangers.com” for data entry in all its 151 Panchayats. The aim was to develop the Panchayat Development Index — a vital statistical tool to capture movement in development at grassroots level and to witness impact of the centrally sponsored schemes at the Panchayat level.
The index is applicable to all Panchayats across the country. The index evaluates a base score of each Panchayat and keeps stakeholders viz. district officers, PRI functionaries, frontline workers, etc., motivated towards improving PDI through a real time monitoring feature.
A booklet titled “Panchayat Development Index” was formally released by the District Development Commissioner Bandipora on December 21, 2019. The sincere efforts of the J&K officials were recognised at the 24th National Conference on e-Governance with Bandipora district winning the national award for “innovative digital product”.
Officials given freehand
After J&K’s transition into a Union Territory the administration has become more efficient and responsive. The officials have been given a freehand to come up with new ideas and innovations to make the system more vibrant and people friendly. The steps that have been taken during the past two years have turned J&K into an entirely different place. A common man no longer has to wait in queues to get his grievances addressed. The online platforms and helpline numbers have made the administration accessible to everyone.
The former political regimes in J&K used to appoint the administrators on the basis of recommendations and their political leanings, but after J&K’s reorganisation, the officers are being appointed on merit and their potential.
Efficient and dedicated officers managing the affairs of the Union Territory have brought a sea change.
Time proves politicians’ wrong
Different surveys conducted by various agencies in 2021 described J&K as the top performing Union Territory in the country.
A survey conducted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India put J&K on top in the country.
The Public Affairs Centre (PAC), a not-for-profit research think-tank, had adjudged J&K as the second best governed Union Territory.
The LEADS 2021 index, released by the Union Commerce Ministry, had also put J&K on top. In NITI Aayog’s Health Index, Jammu & Kashmir emerged as the leading performer in terms of incremental performance. Among the Union Territories, Delhi followed by Jammu & Kashmir had shown the best incremental performance.
When Article 370 — a temporary provision in the Indian Constitution — was scrapped the traditional politicians in Kashmir had predicted that the Valley would burn and the entire system would go haywire. But time has proven them wrong.
No change in workforce
The politicians, who ruled J&K for the past 70-years, need to understand that the present dispensation led by J&K Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, has not made any drastic changes. It’s also handling the same workforce which was available to former rulers. The government employees are the same. But their efficiency has increased. They are performing their duties with sincerity and dedication.
Associations of the government employees don’t call for strikes anymore, nor are they seen hitting the streets. Their genuine concerns and demands are being addressed without even them (employees) asking for it. The employee-friendly approach of the present regime in J&K is making them feel secure and more comfortable. Everyone is trying to contribute in a positive way and the results are evident.
The present J&K Government launching a crusade against corruption and making the service rules stringent too have played a major role in making everyone accountable. The government employees have understood that they don’t have to work to appease any of their political bosses. They are public servants and have to work for the welfare of the people.
Prior to August 5, 2019, all the top officials used to mark their attendance in the durbars of ministers and other politicians of the ruling party. In the last two years this precedence has changed. They are focusing on their jobs without any interference or political pressure.
They have been an integral part of J&K’s development in every sphere of life. The good work of the employees is being acknowledged and the ones who are not fitting into the system are being shown the exit door.
J&K govt roping young blood
Besides focusing on the existing workforce, the J&K Government is roping in young blood to make the system more vibrant and efficient. The abrogation of J&K’s special status and its transformation into a Union Territory has proven to be a blessing for a common man. The efficient and transparent administration has made lives easy for the denizens of the Union Territory.
The way J&K has been handled during the past two years should serve as an eye opener for all those politicians for whom good governance was never a priority. Their slogans and narratives were just aimed at sticking to the chair. But now the times have changed and the government employees along with a common man of J&K are busy building “Naya Jammu and Kashmir” and their efforts are proving fruitful.