By Khursheed Wani
The people of Kashmir are fighting a long drawn battle for their existence. The bullets and pellets fired to silence the population into submission is only an overt manifestation of a policy that perpetually seeks disempowerment of a particular section. Over the years, the institutional mechanism has been calibrated and is settling down in a manner that this dis-empowerment has become seamless and acceptable and more often legally and politically correct.
The Kashmiris are caught in the vortex of several binaries. The Delhi-Srinagar binary has shown its tentacles since the day the state was annexed with the Indian union. However, even as the political leadership was always shown its real place, the common people’s urge to attune with the times continued. This resulted into economic uplift and representation of the local population in the institutions that constitute the state.
The emergence of militancy in Kashmir brought another binary into prominence.
The Kashmir-Jammu binary did exist but was not seemingly institutionalised. The perpetual unrest in the Valley, contributed to a process that pitched the two regions against each other.
It is a natural phenomenon that a peaceful region would prosper more than the region with violence and uncertainty. Therefore, it is understandable if mere 29 kilometers of roads were macadamised in Valley in 2016 against a few thousand kilometres in Jammu region. However, it is not the length of roads or the construction of buildings and bridges, the disparity is highlighting in realms where violence and unrest has apparently no role.
Take for example, the process of recruitment in the government sector, single largest employer in the state. There was a time when the civil secretariat contained a sizeable number of employees belonging to Kashmir. Over the past three decades, the number is on a perpetual decline. The recruitment in the state cadre gazetted sectors is more appalling. The statistics are quite revealing. Ideally, the representation in the government sector must be proportionate to the population count. The 2011 census records Jammu region’s population at 42 percent of the 1.25 crore. The Valley constitutes 55 percent of it while the forlorn and sparsely populated Ladakh is the home to 3 percent population of the state.
The representation in the services sector must be proportionate to existing population. But in practice this does not exist. A recent newspaper report revealed that the Jammu region is perpetually dominating the recruitment by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in the gazetted cadre.
Between 1995 and 2014, as many as 1080 candidates have been selected for the elite Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) from Jammu. During the same period only 538 officers have been recruited from the Kashmir region. Ladakh’s tally is 24. Interestingly, during the nine recruitment drives in the KAS cadre, only once a candidate from Kashmir had topped the list.
The report revealed that since 1995 (the year is important in understanding the trend), 1956 candidates have been selected for the posts of combined competitive services (KAS/KPS), Munsiffs, Assistant Directors in Economics and Statistics (Planning), Range Officers Grade-I and Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACF). The Jammu region has got 1291 posts while the Valley got a meagre 632 posts. Ladkah has bagged 33 posts.
Do you wonder why a large number of judges in the subordinate courts in Valley is from Jammu? The answer lies in the recruitment that happened way back in 1998 when 33 munsiffs were selected. Of them, 28 were from Jammu and rest from Kashmir. The trend was exactly the same in the years 2001, 2008 and 2012 when 30, 17 and 27 munsiffs were recruited from Jammu region while Kashmir got 14, 16 and 9 munsiffs respectively.
The recruitment of assistant directors of planning in 2009 was quite interesting. The Jammu region got 68 Ads while Kashmir was happy with 23 selections and Ladakh with 4.
On the face of it, the selection process is transparent and without criteria for regions or religions. The state cadre posts are recruited through an institutionalized process. However, the statistics given above must be alarming for the population of Kashmir and there is scope for exploring the reasons. The militancy in Kashmir has not hampered the production of qualified youngsters. The question does arise that if candidates from Kashmir have excelled in all India level tests and recruitment processes, why they have lagged behind in the state level recruitments. The trend in the gazetted recruitment has far-reaching consequences.
But, many do not buy the argument that the trend in the recruitment is managed by invisible hands or has a communal or regional tinge. They say that Kashmiri aspirants might have lost interest in the system and opted for avenues like going abroad or embarking on independent entrepreneurship. One of the reasons they give is that number of applicants for the KAS jobs, on occasions, has been much lesser from Valley as compared to Jammu. This can be said about the Kashmiri Pandits as well who figure very less in numbers in the state recruitment for the reason that they do not opt for these jobs at first place.
Whatever the reason, those who have seen the make-up of the civil secretariat and the administrative services for a longer period, clearly foresee the impact. Can the trend be de-linked from the political uncertainty the Kashmir is grappling with?