The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) is witnessing a tussle between its elected members and government-appointed bureaucrats, with SMC corporators rallying against Joint Commissioner (Planning) Ghulam Hassan Mir, accusing him of corruption and seeking his immediate removal.
To press for their demands, the Mayor and 60 corporators, cutting across the political divide, on Saturday began an indefinite hunger strike.
“He (Joint Commissioner Planning) will have to go,” said Srinagar Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu, who along with the corporators, is on hunger strike. “Unless he goes, we will not go from here.”
Asked about the allegations, Mir told The Indian Express: “The government has asked me not to comment. The government will take a decision whatever they have to take. I can’t comment.”
While the immediate trigger for the unrest is Mir, elected members of SMC feel they have been kept subservient to the bureaucrats, even if they stand above them in warrant of precedence.
“He (Joint Commissioner Planning) has given a statement that all corporators are thieves, and that they have vested interest. We have been disgraced. When will the administration wake up,” Mattu said. “When foreign dignitaries come here, or the ambassadors come, you don’t let them meet IAS and KAS officers; we have to meet them. But once they reach the airport, we have to play second fiddle to these officers.”
The protesting corporators also raised slogans against SMC Commissioner Amir Athar Khan. “We don’t need this Commissioner,” one corporator said, addressing the protesters. “You (Commissioner) will have to go back to Gujarat”.
Khan is a Gujarat cadre officer and was recently deputed to Jammu and Kashmir.
Commissioner Khan said,
“It is an administrative matter. It is not prudent for me to comment on it.”
Accusing Mir of corruption, Mattu said SMC’s revenue has fallen “significantly”. He said: “He (JCP) has been forced on this city. (Earlier) we would accept or reject a building permission in a month but today files have been pending at his home for eight months. People are fed up of his behaviour….”
The elected members of SMC have recently withdrawn approval for the appointment of the Joint Commissioner Planning. “Today’s indefinite hunger strike by 61 representatives of Srinagar should serve as an eye opener,” Mayor Mattu said. “An inefficient and corrupt Joint Commissioner Planning, who has already been relieved by the elected Corporation, is patronizing illegal constructions and is openly defaming the SMC.”