SRINAGAR: Former chief secretary of the state, Ashok Jaitley, 71, battling a long cancer breathed his last in New Delhi on Tuesday. He was known as Tony in his friend circles here.
“His summary removal from Kashmir in 1990 when he along with other officers protested against the atrocities and the mistrust was just one of the sacrifices he offered in the line of duty to serve the people of the state,” a retired IAS officer wrote on the social networking site, Facebook.
In 1990, government employees staged a massive protest against the bloodbath caused by forces in Kashmir. In that strike lasting for 73 days, six Indian Administrative Services officers posted in valley submitted a report to Governor, condemning the excesses committed by men in uniform on civilians. Ashok Jaitly was the one among those officials.
Political leaders cutting across party lines and bureaucrats recalled his services with the chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed describing the former bureaucrat as an “outstanding officer who rose to become the chief secretary of J&K purely on the basis of his dedication and administrative acumen.”
National Conference working president Omar Abdullah, whose father Farooq Abdullah was known to be very close to Jaitley, tweeted: “Very sorry to hear about the demise of Ashok Jaitley, former chief secretary and a close confidant of my father. May his soul rest in peace.”
A condolence meeting was held at the civil secretariat in Srinagar where chief secretary Iqbal Khandey prayed for the departed soul.
Remembering Mr. Jaitley, Chief Secretary said he had a very long association and friendship with him and always held him in high esteem. Mr Jaitley has contributed immensely to our State, its administration and its economy. From early on, when I joined the service, I found him to be one of the most intelligent men, I have met. He was naturally bright and would take decisions quickly, Mr Khandey recalled.
Jaitley served in various capacities and was the youngest IAS officer to rise to the level of a secretary among his batch-mates. He served as the chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir from 1996 to 2002.
After his retirement in 2002, he served as an adviser to the state government for six months.
He remains the second-longest serving chief secretary of the state after Peerzada Ghulam Ahmad, who was chief secretary from 1953 to 1963.
Recalling his contribution, former divisional commissioner Kashmir Wajahat Habibullah described Jatley in a write-up as: “During the Janata Party rule of 1977-80, he succeeded in getting Cadbury’s to establish a juice plant in Sopore, the first multinational to invest in Kashmir.”
“But in Delhi, Tony’s usual dedicated commitment to his work was misconstrued as political loyalty and his career suffered. Nevertheless, in those years of his being sidelined, his courage never flagged,” he added.
Being the youngest IAS officer to become a secretary among his batch mates, Tony was posted in Delhi in November 1984 when the Sikh riots broke out. He was one of the rare officers to testify against the police and political workers for their role in the anti-Sikh riots.
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah also expressed grief and sorrow over the noted bureaucrat’s passing away and prayed for peace to the departed soul. “Jaitley’s service to the state stood out and will be remembered for a long time,” said senior Abdullah in a statement.
During NC rule between 1996 and 2002, troops evacuated the Fairview Guest Housethe notorious torture centre, known as Papa 2, where a number of Kashmiri youth were done to death under the catch and kill operation. After forces quit the torture centre, Tony as Chief Secretary spent Rs one crore to renovate the building. But before settling down in the picturesque mansion, he performed certain purification rites to exorcise the place from ghosts.
After his retirement in 2002, the place was taken over by Muzaffar Baig, who shortly swapped it with Mufti Sayeeds M A Road residence.
However, post-retirement, Tony along with Farooq Abdullah was dragged into the accountability net for misappropriation of public fund amounting to Rs 5.50 crore. The fund was reportedly earmarked for renovation of state property in New Delhi during the National Conference rule in 2001.
Abdullah had allegedly ignored rules in the allotment of renovation work of Kashmir House in New Delhi to Rena Rajput Singh of a non-existent firm M/s Mansara of Sunder Nagar. The architect was also awarded contracts for renovation and re-construction of Fairview Guest House.
According to the note prepared by the Mufti government in 2002, the project design prepared by Rena Singh of M/s Mansara projected an estimate of Rs 2.80 crore for repair works only. This excluded her consultation fee of Rs 15 lakh plus 5 per cent and payment of travel expenses by air and lodging in five-star hotels.
Once the scam surfaced, Mufti government asked state vigilance organisation to register cases against five IAS officers including Tony, besides subjecting Farooq Abdullah to the accountability commission or to the institution of Ehtisab for inquiry. But as the Mufti government failed to constitute the accountability commission required under the new Act, no action was taken against the duo.
When I look back, I realise my actions werent out of the ordinary, Tony once said. My generation had many bureaucrats who thought differently. We had an ideology Post- retirement, Tony wrote articles and was reportedly penning down a book on Kashmir. Had his book out, then people would have known how Farooqs ministers were reporting to him!
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