SRINAGAR: When Jammu and Kashmir Education Minister Peerzada Mohammad Syed quit on Saturday over fixing his foster son’s marksheet, his resignation exposed the corruption in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s government. Syed is not the only Congress minister in Omar’s cabinet accused of corruption; Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Taj Mohi-ud-Din is blamed of “rampant corruption and open loot” of the state exchequer in the Public Health Engineering Department. Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma has been dragged into an alleged land deal case, while former Roads and Buildings Minister G M Saroori was sacked by Omar after his daughter was caught in an impersonation case in a medical entrance examination.
Syed is already battling graft charges of misappropriation of government funds. Documents reveal Rs 560 crore were allotted to various districts in the Kashmir division for construction of school buildings, but around 80 per cent of work is either “under construction” or doesn’t exist on the ground. The School Education Department shows an expenditure of Rs 460 crore in the past two years. Meanwhile, Special Judge Anti-corruption Jammu has asked SSP State Vigilance Organisation, Jammu, for verification of the allegations and further necessary action. Examining a complaint filed against Mohi-ud-Din on alleged scams during his tenure as minister, “anguished” Public Accounts Committee members have made a clear demand for a CBI probe on the purchase of sub-standard pipes by the PHE Department. Sources say that the entire process of purchase involves crores of rupees and substandard pipes have been purchased causing heavy loss to the state exchequer and entire records pertaining to the said purchase during the tenure of Mohi-ud-Din is required to be scrutinised for unearthing one of the biggest purchase scams in the state. The minister is accused of nepotism as well; according to the complaint, Mehboob Iqbal, retired commissioner/secretary, PHE and Irrigation and a kin of Mohi-ud-Din, just before retirement, diverted Rs 18 crore of Centrally-sponsored Drinking Water Scheme to his home district, Doda, and the Bhaderwah Assembly segment which was health minister and former Congress chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s constituency.
There are also two cases pending against Congress Legislature Party leader Choudhary Mohammad Aslam, for alleged encroachment of 1,000 kanals of government land in his home constituency of Surankote in Jammu.
“Instead of giving nod to a normal administrative procedure, Omar Abdullah has yet again decided to look to Delhi before taking any action. The common man has just stopped trusting in this government,” says Independent legislator Langate Abdul Rasheed.
Omar has long been termed as “incompetent” by the largest opposition party of the state, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). “From the beginning we maintain that chief minister has lost all the moral authority to take action against the ministers in the coalition government allegedly involved in cheating and corruption,” party president Mufti Mehbooba Syed told The Sunday Standard.
The Congress, reeling under corruption charges against its ministers, is also embroiled in an internecine war within the state leadership. This was exposed when Abdul Gani Vakil, a former minister and senior Congress leader of the state, shot a letter to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi demanding Taj Mohi-ud-Din should be sacked for corruption. Mohi-ud-Din called Vakil a “habitual blackmailer” who “behaves as if he is their boss and they have to follow his diktats”. “He has made it a habit to write to different Congress ministers to seek favours,” Mohi-ud-Din retorted.
Ironically, Peerzada Mohammad Syed resignation comes at a time when the party has already launched an anti-graft campaign in the various important towns of the state.