Author: Saadut
•8:20 PM

Srinagar’s two universities are situated at the either ends of the famed Dal Lake, the SKUAST (Agriculture University Kashmir) is situated near Shalimar Gardens and the University of Kashmir on the western banks of the lake, near the Hazratbal Shrine. Apart for their proximity to the now dying Dal lake, what is seen as a stronger common factor between the two universities are the accusations of corruption and nepotism. Recent RTI revelations in both the Universities exposed one more thing in both places, institutionalization of corruption and almost a uniform procedural trend adopted. Some of the facts bought to fore by the RTI in both places were shocking.

An RTI application filed in SKUAST (Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science and Technology - Kashmir) exposed some startling revelations. Notices for all 490 posts available in the Agriculture University were circulated internally within the departments only and no external advertisement was issued calling for fulfilling of these posts (Notice ref no AU/Adm/R&C/5230). During the recruitment processes of 2004-2005 the administration of SKUAST-K is reported to have created 490 posts of scientific, teaching and non-teaching staff which were only circulated within the campus. No effort was made to advertise these posts in print or electronic media, thereby clearly violating the basic rules for appointments. In June 2006, another notice (AU/Adm/R&C/2006/3974) was issued by the University for filling of 52 technical and non – technical posts, but this was also circulated within the campus only. No effort was made to circulate the notices in media so that eligible candidates could apply for the posts.

The RTI was filed by Mr. Nasrullah Shah, and surprisingly after the facts of the controversial recruitment process was unearthed, the University authorities could not reveal the details of the interview process (if any) undertaken to fulfill these posts.

In another RTI application filed in the University of Kashmir, it has been revealed that none of the 161 posts of Class IV that had fell vacant in the University during last eight years were ever advertised ;  neither in print or electronic media, nor within the campus. As per the information given against the RTI by Kashmir University PIO (Public Information Officer, the posts were filled with contractual and daily wagers within the university. In another case of filling of 161 posts of Junior Assistants that were created due to retirement or career advancement of officials, the university authorities have reportedly again flouted recruitment rules. Kashmir University has often been accused to be run like a family affair, where relatives and kin of officials are accommodated as a matter of right, superseding all norms and procedures of recruitment or admittance. Those who are well versed with the affairs of Kashmir University often call it ‘The Institution that offers a Family Job Security’ for the powerful.

Yet another RTI inquiry revealed that the University of Kashmir had spent over Rs 2.16 crore (twenty one million rupees) for purchasing 36 vehicles, mostly luxurious SUV’s (16) for use of University officials, including a bullet-proof car for Rs 9.25 lac. However the financial assistance provided as scholarships and fellowships to students over last five years was only Rs 59.09 lac.

In another instance it was revealed that the Kashmir University had spent a whopping Rs 36.50 lakh just to renovate the Vice Chancellor’s official residence and office. Of this amount the University in 2008-2009 had spent Rs 35.10 lakh on the renovation of official residence of the University Vice Chancellor. On renovation of the office of Vice Chancellor, Rs 1.40 lac was spent during 2008-09, 2009-10.

Denial of RTI

Incidentally both the universities have been accused of denying information under RTI earlier.
In August 2011, the SIC (State Information Commission) had initiated an inquiry (under section 15(2) of RTI Act, 2009) after a scholar of the University had filed a complaint with the SIC under Section 15 of J&K RTI Act, wherein he had alleged ‘denial of information under RTI, harassment and beating by two senior officials of the university to pressurize him in withdrawing the RTI application’. The RTI had been filed against the “illegal appointment” of a female scholar of Kashmir University in SKIMS (Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences).

Not to be left behind, SKUAST had its own share of RTI denial. In August 2011, a penalty of Rs 25,000 was imposed by the CIC (Chief Information Commissioner) the PIO of SKUAST (K), Mr. Abdul Kabir Najar (who also is the Assistant Registrar in the University) for denying information against RTI from October 2010 till the filing of the complaint for RTI information denial.

Government Unconcerned

Even after the facts of brazen flouting of norms and rules were exposed in both the universities nothing was heard from the government in terms of efforts to correct course in these institutions. No action followed, no follow was asked for and no concern was shown. Instead of bringing the culprits to book and enabling procedures were followed, the silence from the government only made the practitioners of corruption more unconcerned, bold more than before. The silence only pointed to the patronization of such practices and provided encouragement for its continuity.

More than centers of excellence in education and research, these institutions are seen in Kashmir are centers of anarchy and nepotism. The acts and practices followed in these institutions should have been exemplary in their nature of justice and professionalism. Are these the institutions that have been build and nourished to create excellent human capital from seeking students? Institutions of higher education should lead by example, being the places where minds are molded. Unfortunately in Kashmir they have become ‘Family Institutions’ where personal interests supersede the interests of the society.

Sadly in these places we may have to learn to pronounce ‘Education’ as ‘Corruption’.

As Martin H. Fischer said ‘The tragedy of education is played in two scenes - incompetent pupils facing competent teachers and incompetent teachers facing competent pupils’

1st January 2012