On July 10, eleven Jammu and Kashmir government employees were terminated from service, including two sons of Hizbul Mujahideen founder Syed Salahuddin and two policemen, for allegedly working as Over Ground Workers (OGWs). The employees were dismissed for alleged terror links under Article 311(2)(c), which enables “dismissal, removal and reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or a State”.
The order was criticised by political parties, who termed it “criminal”. “The Government of India continues disempowering people of Jammu and Kashmir in the garb of pseudo nationalism by trampling upon the Constitution that ought to be upheld. Abrupt dismissal of 11 government employees on flimsy grounds is criminal. All policy decisions vis-a-vis J&K are taken with the sole objective of punishing Kashmiris,” PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti had tweeted.
While the termination of employees has come as a shock to many, a look at the government's moves indicated that such action was always on the cards.
In April 2021, the J&K administration under LG Manoj Sinha had set up a Special Task Force (STF) to scrutinise government employees involved in “anti-national” activity. The STF along with Terror Monitoring Group (TMG) was asked to carry out the task of investigating employees. Political parties including J&K Apni Party (JKAP) and People’s Conference (PC) had criticised the order terming it as “arbitrary and unjustifiable” while requesting the administration to revoke it.
Last year in October, the J&K government had amended Article 226(2) of the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Service Regulations, paving the way for premature retirement of government employees anytime after 22 years of service or attaining the age of 48 years. While the administration had maintained that the provision allowed the administration to remove “inefficient, ineffective officials and employers, including those with doubtful integrity,” many had raised apprehensions over the amendment.
Months later, in December,the Jammu and Kashmir Employees Joint Action Committee protested against Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu’s plan of alleged “force retirement” of employees in the Municipal Corporation. Mattu sought enactment of provisions of Article 226(2) to weed out what he termed “deadwood,” while employees claimed that the Srinagar Mayor was misusing his power.
“Seeking enactment of provisions of Article 226(2) of Jammu and Kashmir Civil Service Regulations to weed out deadwood, am writing to the Government to conduct a performance review of all SMC officers and employees who have attained 48 years of age/22 years of service,” Mattu had tweeted on December 4.
This was not the first time. In April, when the COVID-19 pandemic had just hit the country, a notice was issued by the government which said “strict action would be initiated against such elements who resort to such uncalled for reporting to the media.” The notice was issued in the backdrop of doctors from Kashmir complaining about the lack of personal safety equipment, including safety gear and masks.
“...some of the government servants are publicly criticizing the efforts of the administration to combat the Pandemic of COVID-19, which is against the service conduct rules… any person disobeying any regulation or order made under the Epidemic Diseases Act,1897, punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (sic),” the notice had read.
In another instance, an order was issued asking the heads of departments to ensure that no new employee should be inducted without the verification by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
“In terms of government order of 1918-GAD of 1997 dated 09.12.1997, read with government order No. 1328-GAD of 2016 dated 07.12.2016, security clearance from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has been made mandatory for drawing salary and allowances of new entrants into government service,” the order said.
There are nearly 4.5 lakh government employees in the Union territories. Political experts see these orders as a part of the larger ploy to curb dissent.
A government official, who requested anonymity, told Newsclick: “The J&K administration has come up with stricter rules for government employees not only to curb dissent, but also to set an example. These curbs will never let a government employee speak about the loopholes in the government machinery.”