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J&K Bank, Corruption & Politics

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It all got started with the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik, approving the proposal for treating Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU). The Kashmiri-Muslim politicians and traders resisted the Governor’s move claiming it to be an attack on the autonomous character of a flourishing institute. This claim resonated among common Kashmiris, who are generally skeptical about everything when BJP is in power at the centre and the state is under Governor’s rule. An earlier attempt of bringing the bank under Right to Information Act (RTI) met with the same disliking among politicians, traders and common people in Kashmir. It is also widely believed that the then Chairman of the bank, Parvez Ahmed Nengroo neither favoured bringing of J&K Bank under RTI Act nor its conversion into a PSU.

And after a lull in the events concerning J&K Bank, the government suddenly sends shock waves through the bank and the whole state by removing Parvez Ahmed, the bank’s Chairman from his position and announcing an interim Chairman (a Hindu). Shortly after his removal, the Anti Corruption bureau also searched the headquarters of the J&K Bank.

The word on social media and especially online news portals is that the Chairman has been removed against charges of corruption, nepotism and much more. In no time, people have started talking and doubting the fairness of recent recruitments in the bank and norms followed in giving loans to influential people. Journalists are going back in time and figuring out how every time a new government since 1996 (mainly formed by Kashmir dominated political parties) has got a new chairman of its liking with it. Another interesting thing brought to the notice is that since 1996 only a Kashmiri Muslim could become the chairman of the bank.

Many would see the current happenings as an attempt by BJP to please its vote bank in Jammu just before the Assembly elections in the state. May be there is some weight to that argument but it is also a fact that when it comes to corruption, nepotism, bad governance and inadequate representation of the true voices of people at proper platforms, Jammu and Kashmir is among the worst. Partly due to the unease and violence in the valley from last three decades and partly because of some people wanting to exercise unchecked power forever.

Now, while there is still President’s rule in the state and that BJP has retained power at the centre, the people of Jammu and Kashmir especially people of Kashmir seem to be faced with a dilemma. They have to make a choice between skepticism and moving forward with optimism. It is going to be an absolutely critical moment in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. People in the state have long suffered from corruption but issues of regionalism, Hindu-Muslim disunity in the state have always fogged it up.

People need to be wary about the fact that when it comes to power, there isn’t much difference between say NC and PDP or BJP and Congress. They all want power and they want it the same way. The only thing that can make a difference is our institutions, our financial institutions, educational institutions, institutions of justice delivery, our social and cultural institutions. We have to ensure we keep our institutions intact and corruption free for a free, fair and equal life.

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