Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Transparency International to campaign for whistleblowers act in J&K

Kashmir Reader‎‎: Srinagar: Wednesday, March 01, 2017.
Transparency International India (TII) has forayed into Kashmir by holding its maiden seminar ‘Combating Corruption through Tools of Good-Governance’ on Tuesday in Srinagar.
Executive director TII Rama Nath Jha told Kashmir Reader that they would work in collaboration with JK RTI Movement in the Valley.
“We will work on persuading the government to implement whistleblowers act, transparency and public procurement act in the state,” he said.
He pointed out that 54 public sector enterprises had come forward to join the Integrity Pact in order to ensure corruption free procurement of goods and services.
The TII in collaboration with J&K RTI Movement and School for Rural Development & Environment-SRDE said they would work for early enactment of whistle blower protection legislation in J&K and giving more teeth to state level ombudsman like institutions.
Chairperson J&K RTI Movement Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool pointed out that members of the J&K RTI Movement had been effectively using the J&K RTI Act to expose corruption in many sectors across the State. He urged the strengthening of the anti-corruption institutions in the state.
Kashmir’s noted poet Zareef Ahmed Zareef explained everyone is a whistleblower and invited everybody to use all available tools and opportunities to combat corruption.
Program coordinator, Access to Information Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative New Delhi Venkatesh Nayak said less than 1,000 cases of corruption were registered in J&K since 2001 until 2015. “Out of this only about 17% cases ended in conviction. Almost 90% of the accused persons were acquitted after trial during the last 15 years,” he said adding, “the poor conviction rate is indicative of the lack of certainty about being punished for corruption. Therefore being a low risk phenomenon, corruption is very rampant across the State.”
Member Accountability Commission and Justice (retd) Bashir Ahmed Kirmani who was chief guest on the occasion called for a change in value systems as an essential prerequisite in society to combat corruption. He lamented the fact that recent studies showed that a large number of legislators had serious pending criminal cases against them. He also pointed out that there is a strong public perception that corruption is rampant in the lower judiciary while asking people to unite and fight corruption by using democratic and peaceful methods.
Secretary J&K RTI Movement Dr Fayaz Lone pointed out that corruption primarily occurred through government institutions. He said that the RTI was an effective tool in the hands of the people of J&K to expose corruption.
Later, the awards were given in many categories including activist and journalists.
RTI activists Nazir Lone of Shunglipora, Peer Mohiudeen of Mujpathri, Haneefa Bano of Mujpathri, advocate Irfan Hafeez Lone who launched a people’s movement for a strong RTI law in 2004 in the J&K and the first RTI applicant and activist in the State.
Among the media, Moazum Mohammad of Kashmir Reader and Samaan Lateef of The Tribune were awarded for seminal contribution in terms of fearless reporting on corruption, accountability, RTI and health-sector in the state
Syed Shujaat Bukhari, Editor-in-chief Rising Kashmir in his critical assessment stated, “The state accountability institutions have been retrograded to rehabilitation centres for retired bureaucrats. Instead the government should include civil society members too.