Syed Junaid Hashmi
State government has virtually put the education department in Jammu region on ventilator by making transfer a norm and change an exception.
9 directors were changed within a period of 3 years and if the sources are to be believed, a select group of MLAs and MLCs have already started campaign to get Smita Sethi, the present Director replaced within next couple of months. These leaders both from PDP and BJP are peeved over the manner in which Sethi has been functioning. She is neither heeding to their dictates nor allowing the rules to be bent purely for political reasons, said the sources.
They added that these leaders care little about the fact that the department is already on ventilator in Jammu region and if the new Director is not allowed to function independently, there are strong indicators that the department may collapse. It needs to reiterated that the previous National Conference (NC)-Congress coalition government is credited with virtually destroying school education department and leaving the administrative as well as academic set-up in complete shambles.
NC-Cong coalition government saw three school education ministers. The department was handed over to Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed of Congress when Omar Abdullah took over as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in January 2009. Sayeed took over School Education ministry in January 2009 with Zahida Khan, daughter of an ex-Congress Member Parliament (MP) and politically well-connected, as Director School Education. She had been posted as Director School Education (DSE) Jammu by Ghulam Nabi Azad in July 2008, when he was heading the Congress-led coalition government with PDP.
Peerzada preferred not to disturb the equation and allowed Khan to complete her mandatory two year tenure. Zahida was transferred out on November 22, 2010 i.e. exactly after two years and 4 months. Zahida was replaced by another KAS officer Gulzar Qureshi, who had earlier also worked with Peerzada during the PDP-Congress coalition government. Qureshi joined on November 23, 2010.
While Qureshi was Director School Education (DSE) Jammu; Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed was forced to resign due to a scam on February 11, 2012 i.e. exactly after 3 years of having taken over as School Education Minister. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah kept the portfolio with him. He did not disturb Qureshi and ensured that he completes his tenure. Qureshi was shifted out of School Education Department on December 17, 2012; i.e. a month prior to NC-Congress did a massive cabinet reshuffle on January 16, 2013.
Ex-Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in his capacity as School Education minister replaced Gulzar Qureshi with a bright, upright and honest officer Dev Lata Sharma. She joined on December 17, 2012. On January 16, 2013; the then Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand was given the portfolio of School Education. Aided and abetted by his special PRO Kewal Krishan Sharma, ex-Deputy CM Tara Chand began feeling discomfortable with Dev Lata Sharma and made no bones in making it known to one and all.
The then PRO of Deputy Chief Minister wanted Dev Lata to work, according to his whims and fancies. In one incident, Kewal wanted the then Director School Education (DSE) to transfer a Junior Assistant, as per his wishes. Dev Lata resisted and this led to Tara Chand seeking his transfer. Cabinet accepted his wish and replaced Dev Lata with senior IAS officer Hilal Ahmed Parray on February 26, 2013 i.e. within 2 months and 9 days of her taking over as Director School Education (DSE) Jammu.
Parray was not allowed to even complete cooling period and shifted out of the department on March 15, 2013 i.e. within just 17 days of being posted in this critically important department. Hilal was replaced with another IAS officer Pandurang Pole. Such was the urgency of shifting Hilal that Pole was told to join within hours of having been posted as DSE, Jammu.
Pole too felt within short period of time that transfers of teachers and lecturers especially those which were being recommended by Kewal would become a major scam and further damage his career prospects. He proceeded on leave within months of taking over and consequent upon this, Gulzar Ahmed Qureshi now retired and who was then Director Industries and Commerce (I&C) Jammu was given additional charge of DSE. Qureshi served the department for about two months and was replaced by PK Pole on his return from training.
But within few weeks of his joining, Pole was shifted out and S.K.Gandotra was given the charge of Director School Education. Even this combination did not impress the then School Education Minister Tara Chand who replaced him with Saurabh Bhagat on September 4, 2013. Bhagat was shunted out within 21 days on October 1, 2013. He was replaced with a secretary level officer Tushar Kanti Sharma, who accepted being posted as Director School Education.
Sharma took over on October 1, 2013 and was show the door on July 24, 2014 only to be replaced with H.R.Pakhroo who was also shown the door within 3 months on October 22, 2014. Tara Chand’s ace man Choudhary Rashid Azam Inqalabi was posted as Director School Education (DSE) Jammu on October 23, 2014. But as soon as NC-Congress coalition was voted out, Governor N.N.Vohra too contributed to the mess by transferring Inqalabi and replacing him IAS officer Simrandeep Singh on January 27, 2015 i.e. within 3 months of department being handed over to the senior KAS officer.
Bright, young Simrandeep was supposed to reform the system but he too was shifted within 3 months and placed as Deputy Commissioner (DC) Jammu in May 23, 2015 by the PDP-BJP government which had taken over the reins of power in the state.
Himself a retired bureaucrat and known for being an idealist, Naeem Akhtar was Education Minister and it was he who did not resist when the Cabinet proposed that Simrandeep be replaced with Yasha Mudgal, another young and bright officer. Yasha joined on May 23, 2015 and Naeem Akhtar decided to replace her with Smita Sethi within just three months. On August 24, 2015; Yasha was transferred and posted as Deputy Commissioner (DC) Baramulla. She was replaced with Smita Sethi who is now facing difficulty in running the office of Director School Education (DSE) Jammu.