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Bureaucracy subverting selection process of Director SKIMS
Post advertised 3 years after High Court order; No Selection Committee constituted; CS calls CVs of applicants to Civil Secretariat
12/22/2010 11:51:23 PM
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Dec 22: With blatant disregard to directions of Jammu & Kashmir High Court as well as decision of the hospital Governing Body, headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, bureaucracy has begun to interfere with the process of selection of the regular Director for Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). Even as the top post has been finally advertised with delay of over three years and 13 candidates have submitted their applications, all of their documents and CVs have been forwarded by the autonomous hospital to the Chief Secretary's office in Civil Secretariat without properly constituting a Selection Committee.
Previous PDP-Congress coalition government, headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had lost little time in removing Prof Meraj-ud-din as Director of SKIMS on account of his "deep connections" to Dr Farooq Abdullah, his family and the National Conference. Beneficiary of the change of guard was obviously a senior Congress leader's son-in-law and HoD Cardiology, Dr Sheikh Jalal-ud-din. Mufti-led government started the process in 2004 with constitution of a Selection Committee. Headed by then CS, S S Bloeria, the Selection Committee had bureaucrats Vijay Baqaya and Sonali Kumar, besides then Secretary General Administration Department, as its official members.
Directors of AIIMS, New Delhi, and PGI, Chandigarh, were also associated as its members but, fearing the process as just a fixed match, neither of them participated in any meetings. Government later arranged involvement of eminent physician and former Principal of Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar, Dr Syed Naseer Ahmed Shah. As widely expected, Dr Jalal was 'selected' and appointed as Director SKIMS.
One of the unsuccessful candidates, Dr Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, challenged Dr Jalal's selection in J&K High Court. In 2007, Mr Justice Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain quashed Dr Jalal's appointment with the observation that Chief Minister Mufti had acted as head of the government, not as head of the legitimate appointing authority (Governing Body) and picked up his favourite from the middle of the panel without seeking necessary confirmation from the Governing Body. Court ordered immediate removal of Dr Jalal and issued orders that a suitable incumbent be appointed as interim Director parallel to a fresh process of selection.
An appeal against Single Bench's judgment was dismissed by a Division Bench which upheld Justice Imtiyaz Hussain's orders. Ghjulam Nabi Azad-led coalition government appointed HOD Endocrinology, Dr Abdul Hameed Zargar, as the interim Director. However, neither Azad nor his successor, Governor NN Vohra, advertised the post till Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, as head of Governing Body, directed the authorities to start a fresh selection process in accordance with SKIMS appointment rules and orders of the High Court in April 2010.
After a great deal of procrastination, SKIMS issued Notification No: 2 of 2010 on 4-8-2010, seeking applications from the eligible candidates.
Thirteen candidates submitted their applications and CVs till the last date on 31-10-2010. They included incumbent interim Director, Dr Abdul Hameed Zargar, who is otherwise due to reach superannuation in April 2011, Dean of SKIMS Dr Mohammad Ashraf Darzi, Medical Superintendent and HoD Hospital Administration Dr Syed Amin Tabish, HOD Anesthesiology, Dr Shagufta Qazi, HOD Cardiology Dr Khursheed Iqbal, HOD Gastroenterology Dr Shaukat Ali Zargar, HOD CVTS Dr Abdul Gani Ahangar, Professor of Pediatrics Dr Altaf Shera, HOD Social and Preventive Medicine at GMC Srinagar Dr Muneer Masoodi, former Principal of GMC Srinagar Dr Mushtaq Shah, former HOD Surgery at GMC Srinagar Dr Muneer Khan, Principal GMC Srinagar Dr Shahida Mir and Principal SKIMS Medical College Bemina Dr Mushtaq Ahmed.
Implementing the Court orders in breach, authorities avoided to constitute the Selection Committee. Informed sources said that when head of the Governing Body and Chief Minister desired to know about the progress, he was informed on 21-10-2010 that only two candidates had come forward with their applications. Nobody in the meeting pointed out that the last date was still ten days away. Consequently, instructions were issued to instead appoint a "Search Committee".
Well placed authoritative sources at SKIMS revealed to Early Times that the selection process was underway without constitution of any Selection Committee. They revealed that a group of influential bureaucrats, who have been overtly and covertly supporting a particular candidate, prevailed upon Chief Secretary S S Kapur whose office, in the first week of December 2010, forced Joint Director, Rafeeq Ahmed Mir, to forward applications and CVs of all the 13 candidates to the Civil Secretariat in Jammu.
"Chief Secretary and other bureaucrats/ Ministers have absolutely no authority or intervention in the selection process. The only competent authority is the SKIMS Governing Body that is headed by Chief Minister of the state", explained an official source. He insisted that certain bureaucrats and officials were trying to mislead Chief Minister so as to help their favourite. He said that under the rules mentioned in the notification, the Selection Committee was supposed to shortlist the most meritorious candidates as per their academic qualification besides their technical, research and practical administrative experience.
"When, there is no Selection Committee, who will conduct interaction with the shortlisted candidates?" asked a couple of officials at SKIMS. They said it was first time that the custodian of the candidates' applications and CVs had given the same in the unjustified custody of the bureaucrats in Civil Secretariat who have no authority or intervention under rules of appointment.
While JD Administration at SKIMS, Rafeeq Ahmed Mir, was not reachable, sources in his office confirmed that the applications and CVs had been given into custody of Chief Secretary's office. According to them, Chief Minister and Head of Governing Body, Omar Abdullah, was being misled "only to arrange undue favour to one of the candidates".
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