Monday, March 26, 2012

Kashmir's Human Resources in Disarray!

A recent survey has revealed that Jammu and Kashmir has the highest rate of unemployment among the northern states of India. Unemployment in itself is a big monstrous problem but J&K, especially Kashmir is fighting against a bigger monster (violence and turmoil). More than often the state machinery portrays the first monster as the mother of the second monster, making it more important to tackle unemployment more seriously and in a proper way.

For any State which considers unemployment as its greatest nemesis the first step towards taking it head on would be setting up of an efficient and highly active Human Resource department. Well the state of Jammu & Kashmir has setup Human Resources Management units (HRM units)in five Govt. departments (Health and Medical Education, Power Development, Public Works, School Education, PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control) rather than a central department. The main aim with which these units have been formed is to exclusively look after seniority, promotion, vigilance cases etc in these departments. Well I would say it is an ill aimed move in the right direction and thus a waste of a very important resource. A well designed HR tool can take care of the seniority list or promotions list, these should had been add on activities of these units rather than exclusive. A better use of this resource would be made by employing them to fine tune the HR Policies of these departments, all the ruckus that arises in different departments regarding hiring or promotions is due to wrong or unclear HR policies, it would help in nipping bud at the base altogether . Recent report in an English daily (Greater Kashmir, published from Kashmir & Jammu) has revealed that as many as 18817 posts are vacant in 18 Govt department. Well this revelation puts a big question mark on Recruitment Agencies and makes the establishment of a central HR department altogether more important. The central HR department can decide and design HR policies for all the departments, do all the HR related work and at the time of hiring they should decide requisites of any job, based on ob analysis (eg qualification, experience etc required) and then forward it to recruitment agency for hiring (PSC or SSRB). This will result in better clarity, better coordination and better accountability (no blame game).

The second step would be to have a proper recruitment policy (in other words, hiring policy, which becomes first step of HR dept.). By recruitment policy I mean a proper well defined rules, who should be hired for what, which should be backed by logic & reason and should not be based on whimsical thinking or should not be twisted and turned for the benefit of near & dear ones. One can find umpteen number examples where the existing policy (in J&K) was twisted to give undue advantage to certain people. And at other times due to lack of clarity wrong people were (are) hired. It is said that the hardest part of job of a HR professional is to find an appropriate person for a job and hiring him. Well in J&K we seem to ignore the importance of this very basic fist step. It can happen only in Kashmir that for a post of labor officer candidate having a degree other than MBA-HR (one who has studied Labor welfare & law)is given preference or where for teaching a management subject the corporate experience is given no importance Or where a student from Barkatullah University (localy known as BOPO) or Dehradun is given preference over a student from Kashmir University or Jammia Millia or Jammia Hamdard or Aligarh Muslim University etc ! More recently the J&K public service commission advertised for the post of Court Manager and MBA set as the required qualification. But again due to lack of clarity problems seem to arise, the PSC authorities are very reluctant in accepting applications from candidates who have PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management) which is approved by the AICTE ( All India Council for Technical Education) . MBA degree can only be awarded by a University and PGDM is awarded by autonomous education institutes, even the IIM's don't award MBA they too award PGDM! This needs to be addressed immediately.

Let us try to understand the recruitment procedure (mostly followed by SSRB, Universities, Colleges, Schools and other Private Companies in J&K) for any post in any department in J&K; be it Govt, non-Govt, Permanent or contractual. The first step of the recruiting agency is to advertise for the post, in the notification itself it is mentioned that the selections will be on the basis of merit and then details the distribution of Marks for different aspects are listed as such:

Degree Marks
Phd 5
M.Phil 3
B.Ed 15
Masters 10
Interview 20

Now when the response in form of applications come in overwhelming numbers, the recruitment agency has to come out with a short list (merit list) as to who have qualified for interview. Now it seems to be a good policy, but what we don't pay attention to is how this short listing is done. For short listing they take in to consideration the percentage of the qualifying degree, with out taking into consideration from which ( college or university) the degree has been earned from . Well we all are well aware and understand that all education institutions can't stand on the same pedestal in terms of their student selection process or education imparted there after. So now I ask you is short listing on basis of only percentage (when students of Prist etc have marks %age well above 80 even 90, while students from reputed college only lay between 70-80 ) a good way of gauging talent. Now let me put it this way, can a student who competed on all India level to get admission in a certain college be held equal to a student from PTU (Punjab technical University) or PRIST or any other such institute, wouldn't it account to being unjust. I am not saying that students from PTU etc are not good enough, what I am trying to convey is don't mix cream with rest because after wards if you try to search for cream it would be same as searching for a needle in heap of hay. The process directly reflects in the quality of the employees that are being hired by different department, these are same people who are entrusted to serve the public in general, Teach our kids in schools & Colleges, sit in chairs of high responsibility and decide what is good for us and what not. Now taking into consideration the far reaching effects that a wrong person can have on the society at large, who would you want the responsibility to be bestowed on?

A better way to deal with this problem is by clubbing different college or universities into groups (Tiers) (A,B,C,D). Then at the time of short listing or selection process giving preference to the students from upper most tiers. Now you would say that the process of forming this list (Tiers) is time consuming and needs discretion as to which college should be included into which tier. To all those people who have this question in mind would like to tell them, well somebody else has already done this hard work for us we just need to compile. NAAC & AICTE (many other private bodies) give recognition and ratings to colleges and universities. We can make use any one of them or a mixture, but the thing that needs to be kept our mind is what ever we choose should be able to satisfy our needs, if not completely then most of our needs. Later on when the Human Resource Department of our state is competent and efficient enough we can make our own list. Where ever need for screening test is felt & is feasible, it can be included in the whole process.

This will increase the quality of the new hires drastically thus slowly having an affect on the over all working of the whole Govt. and Non-Govt. apparatus. This will make the whole procedure more just and transparent. To make this system more effective it needs to be communicated in a very robust way to all the stake holders. And hopefully we will see less litigation after any selected candidate list is released, thus time and resources will be saved. The bright minds will stop cursing themselves for working hard and getting admissions in good colleges and Universities. I am not claiming that this is the Solution of all that is wrong but over all this can be the first step towards the adoption & implementation of the world renowned Human Resource Policies in J&K.

This Article also appeared in "The Kashmir Monitor"

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Loss of Pain

This article was first published in Bloggers Park (Jan 2012, edition).

It is a weekend and to add icing on top it is the last weekend of year 2011 and where am I; in Kashmir’s biggest hospital (SKIMS), among the dead and those waiting to be. You would say I don’t have a life, yep true my life doesn’t matter the last time I managed to run a check. I Am a Kashmiri and to make things worse a Muslim, not a good combination to have in this part of the world!

This particular hospital is very famous (or should I say infamous) among the Kashmiri’s, a local (kind of) legend has grown around this hospital according to which, “from here either you leave cured or you leave dead”. Some sections of the society blame this particular characteristic on the name itself {Sheri (Loin of) Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences}. Many a times the issue of name change has been raised and there was once Shakespeare saying, “What is in the name”. In this hospital almost every 6 hours there are couple of deaths in a ward.Here I saw people wailing over there dead and the whole atmosphere of ward, with almost 50 other patients, turning very gloomy and heavy and at the same time a small room in the corner is upbeat with smiles flying around and smiles turning into laughs occasionally due to some funny joke being shared. This upbeat room belongs to no other but the doctors! You might be thinking, how unsympathetic, rude and ill-mannered our doctors are. But the question that is rising in my mind is, “How and what made these people so immune to other peoples pain?”

This same question had risen in my mind couple of months ago when Amnesty International in its report had disclosed the discovery of the Mass Graves in Kashmir valley and the subsequent response shown by the international fraternity, politicians and the media at large. Even the general masses behaved as if nothing significant had been uncovered. Is it because the people have seen too much bloodshed and no amount of killings will move them now or is it because of the fact that these deaths didn’t affect them personally? While I was brooding over this, there came another possible reason, perhaps people were just too busy earning their livelihood and making ends meet. The later seemed to be more logical and human, as I couldn’t accept the first two causes which would simply mean that we no longer are humans! Accepted the fact that the masses are fighting for their livelihood and hardly have time for anything else, what happened to the institutions which the masses had entrusted for upholding the social and human morality. It seems that these institutions (elected representatives, NGO’S, Media

etc) have themselves become morally corrupt and chose economics over morality. All chose not to speak about it, but when someone else (Mr. Steve Baker, British parliamentarian) tried to highlight the issue and bring it in notice of the world fraternity the Indian Parliament raised the issue of their authority of discussing India's internal issue (even when India is the largest beneficiary of British foreign aid) rather than discussing the issue itself! And simultaneously with help of some jokers an attempt (I must say a successful one) was made to divert the attention in some different direction by raising some non issues like, Cinema’s, Liquor and skillfully transforming them into issues, they also raised some genuine only to help them in diversion like AFSPA . So what do we do when entrusted breach our trust; we introspect a little, take the reins in our hands and show them that we can’t be taken for a ride.

Whenever I hear the term Mass Grave in no instance the scenes from the movie “Behind the enemy lines” flash in front of my eyes. The movie got 1 award and 2 nominations because of good acting by Owen Wilson & co. and the importance of the issue which it brought among the masses. Now trying to bring forth magnanimity of the issue in Kashmir let me put forth some figures and facts. The Issue of Mass Graves in Kashmir is not a standalone issue but with it is entangled the issue of torture and enforced disappearance. When we talk about torture it is the most underreported phenomenon in Kashmir, it seems that both authorities and people have accepted it as a norm. If you go to any village almost every single person has been tortured be it physically or emotionally not just men but women, children and even old. I happened to read recently about the torture of a 60 year old man on narrated by Parvaiz Khurram, Liaison of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK), “I have documented very horrible cases, but this is the most horrible.” The army kept a 60-year-old man in solitary confinement for one month. During that time, he wasn’t given anything to eat, but his own flesh. They cut the flesh from his body and served it to him. This was all he was given to eat for a month. Recounting the torture Parvaiz said, “This was something that shook me. We have hundreds of Guantanamo Bays here. Why is nobody talking about it?” there are more gruesome stories like these; Kunan Poshpora: a village, where woman were mass raped by Indian army,

Sopore Massacre on 6th Jan 1993,9171,977469,00.html

These are only a few and there are many more but the thing is who will report them to you!

In July 2011, the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir (SHRC) released a report documenting 2,156 (according to Amnesty the number is 2700) unidentified bodies in 38 graveyards People are fearing that the dead in the mass graves are those who were reported disappeared (enforced disappearance) and to add to their fears 574 bodies (out of 2700) have been already identified as disappeared locals – 17 of these have already been exhumed and shifted to family or village grave sites. So if we are to deduce that all the disappeared people found their way to mass graves then the numbers are going to increase many folds, almost 8000 people have been reported disappeared till now. Recently more mass graves have been identified and investigation regarding them has started. Here would like to mention that till 2004, 16500 bodies were recovered from mass graves in Bosnia (considered to be this centuries holocaust, even a movie “Behind enemy lines” was made regarding this issue). Now you can imagine the magnanimity of the issue and amount of human rights violations that is happening in Kashmir. Even now should we turn a blind eye and accept anything and everything in the name of national interest and security. Don’t you feel that it is our moral duty to raise our voice against the injustice and human rights violations?

It will not be wise to blame security forces only for all the rights violations (Mass Graves) out and out; no doubt they are responsible and should be held accountable but there are others equally responsible. If the media had showed a little bit of interest and investigated the story a bit they would have added a new dimension to the story. They didn’t do it that doesn’t mean we can’t do it, so let us try to retrace the footsteps leading to Mass graves. As the mass graves and enforced disappearance are linked so following one should reveal something about the other. If we try to figure when did people start disappearing (or when did the process of disappearances intensify, at the same time let me clarify the process is yet to cease) it overlaps with the birth of Ikhwan (the dreaded pro Govt. brigade). Now let’s try to answer another question who created Ikhwan and we reach the erstwhile people who are in power even now in the state. So it is not so surprising after all to figure why they created a comedy circus to divert and distract the attention from the burning issue of Mass Graves. They were trying to cover the footprints which led to their home.

Even after all this pondering was not able to figure what made the doctors immune to others pain. Finally gave up my so called intellectual quest and decided to ask a Doctor. So I went ahead and shot the question, “how & what makes you so immune to others suffering?” bemused , staring at me, doctor not knowing what to say say he could just utter “What!!!” so understanding that he never expected this question, I slowly broke it down to him exactly what and why I want to know. So doctor took some time and finally said that it is due the combination of a lot of things; during degree it is made sure that you don’t freak out seeing a dead body so you are given a lot of exposure wrt dead bodies and experiments, then when you join hospital as an intern you have long, hectic work hours and you tend to work on lot of seriously ill people all of whom don’t make it. It is sort of conditioning, which is very necessary to make you emotionally strong as it is very much needed in this profession. Hope we as a society are not being treated to same sort of conditioning by the media and other institutions to make us emotionally strong and with a promise that we are going to enjoy the loss of pain!