Saturday, November 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Lid off multi-cr SPO scam
165 “disengaged” in Srinagar dist
M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 15
By disengaging 165 Special Police Officers (SPOs) from services, the PDP-led coalition government has taken the lid off a multi-crore scam in Jammu and Kashmir.

During the past over six years, several crores used to be distributed from the police force and the Chief Minister’s secretariat as remuneration to the SPOs who never existed. Top official sources told The Tribune that the names of these SPOs existed only on paper. None of the disengaged SPOs had any task assigned to them as nobody listed for the monthly remuneration attended to their duties.

Who drew this money? According to the sources, commanders of renegade militants, including those who had been rewarded by getting elected to the Legislative Council, received the money meant to be distributed among the SPOs. The commanders would keep the money and distribute part of it among their “fellow travellers”.

Money flowed from the CID office, the Home Department and the secretariat. The sources said some commanders belonging to Anantnag, Baramula and Kupwara districts would draw the money from Srinagar. Such “non-existent” SPOs were on the payroll in other districts also.

In addition to this, former ministers and legislators had placed some of the SPOs on duty at their residences. Instead of helping the security forces in carrying out operations against the militants, these “favoured” SPOs were engaged in “domestic chores”.

Some bigwigs in the previous government enrolled their domestic servants as SPOs and the state administration would pay them Rs 1,500 each per month. On paper, they were shown to be on security duty while in reality they were working as cooks, gardeners and drivers in ministerial bungalows.

With the government order disengaging 165 SPOs in Srinagar district, government officials have allegedly started “restructuring” files after reports reached them that the screening of SPOs would be carried out in other districts also.

Another multi-crore scam has been uncovered in the release of ex-gratia relief to those killed in crossfire between the security forces and the militants. Ex-gratia relief to the tune of several crores has been paid to the kin of people shown to have died in crossfire with the alleged connivance of DSPs, Army officials and commanders of the paramilitary forces.

Ex-gratia relief to the tune of Rs 1 lakh would be sanctioned by the government on the recommendations and report of the district police chiefs and officers of the security agencies.

The sources said even the kin of top militants, who had been killed in operations launched by the security forces, received relief as the police report verified that those killed were civilians and had died in crossfire. Police officials received their share. Kin of those who had crossed over to Pakistan and had been staying there for the past several years had also received relief.

Officials of the security agencies, including the police, duped the government of several crores by “manipulating” the surrender of militants. Civilians in small groups were shown to have surrendered with the arms in order to receive cash reward. At some places, especially in Kupwara district, the same persons were shown to have surrendered.

Intelligence agencies had, in a snap survey, found that police officials often vied with one another in claiming that they had killed militants in encounters when in reality either those killed had been in Pakistan for the past several years or had been killed in inter-group militant clashes.

Another major scam being investigated into was the reported manipulation by officials of the Home Department, senior bureaucrats, politicians and functionaries of the paramilitary forces in the rent assessment of houses and land under the occupation of the paramilitary forces in the valley. The sources said certain persons managed to seek government approval for enhancing the rent of the houses occupied by the security forces.

Against this, more than 200 cases of Kashmiri migrants were pending for the past 12 years. Their houses were occupied by the security forces. Either the rent assessment has been very low or most of them had not received a penny. Whenever these migrants approached the agencies concerned, they were asked for a “share” before giving their approval to disbursement.

Two senior police officers said: “There are scams within scams and no government agency is keen to ensure the restoration of peace in the state.” They said the ongoing turmoil had been converted into a “money-minting source by vested interests that exist in the state administration and in public circles.”

They said if timely corrective measures had been taken security-related expenses, which had touched Rs 600 crore a year, could have dropped to just over Rs 300 crore.

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