‘They’ve ruined our lives’: JK’s CIC Operators facing official excuses?

The CIC operators put the blame on the General Administration Department (GAD) for repeatedly “denying” the approval for their regularization despite having all the formalities completed and vetted by all the concerned departments. 

On the morning of October 6, 2019, Utkarant Magotra, 33, died on the way to his office at Ramsoo — leaving behind his old parents.

Magotra who belonged to Nachlana village of Ramban worked as a Community Information Centre (CIC) Operator in Rural Developspoment Department (RDD), Ramban.

He was waiting for the regularisation of his post and salary enhancement as was promised by the government officials when he and his ilk opted for the job in 2004.

The only son of his parents and the lone source of income for his family, Magotra has left a vacuum behind.

After his son’s death, Utkarant’s father, Suresh Chandra, 68, along with his old wife shifted to his brother’s place in Udhampur which is more than 80 kilometers from his residence. The old couple has been dependent on him for two years.

Chandra said that he never went back to his home Nachlana where his son’s belongings are still present because it gives him “restless nights”.

The old parents were desperately waiting for their son’s regularization all these years. Even the deceased hoped for a salary hike at least. Every evening after coming back from his office, Utkarant would often tell his parents not to worry and that the issue would be fixed soon as years of his hard work would never go waste.

“We lost all the hope and strength when we heard about our son’s death,” Chandra lamented. “Nobody from the government authorities came to us for the condolence even. What else do we expect from them?”

In 2004, 172 CIC Operators were recruited on contractual basis through a proper selection procedure by Deputy Commissioners at District level and were promised to be regularized after the promised time of their service.
Highly qualified Engineering graduates with MCA, MCom, MTech, MSc IT, etc degrees were selected on merit basis and have been serving the department for the last 17 years.

Ten years later, in 2014, cabinet order by the Jammu and Kashmir Government was passed to formulate a proposal for the regularization of 172 CIC Operators in RDD.

Eventually, in the year 2016, Government through its cabinet decision created 172 Data Entry Operators for regularization of their services vide Govt. Order No. 320-RD & PR of 2016.

In 2017, in its 58th and 60th meeting headed by the Principal Secretary, Finance Department, J&K, High level officials from the Empowered Committee of J&K Government scrutinized each case for regularization under Special Provision Act 2010.

They directed RDD & PR to issue regularization orders in favour of the 172 CIC Employees as Data Entry Operators vide O.M No. PS/DC/Misc-353/14 dated 22-05-2017, O.M. No. PS/SC/Misc-374/14 dated 24-01-2018 and O.M No.PS/DC/Misc-353/14 dated 01-06-2017.

The Law Department & the then Advocate General, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Department have also given a legal opinion and concurrence for the issuance of regularization orders but the CIC Operators are yet to receive any orders on ground after serving 17 years of their life to RDD.

The CIC operators put the blame on the General Administration Department (GAD) for repeatedly “denying” the approval for their regularization despite having all the formalities completed and vetted by all the concerned departments.

Talking to Free Press Kashmir, Er. Noor Ul Nayeem Siddique, President, CIC Operators Association, said, “GAD has been sending back our file again and again without any genuine reason. Every concerned committee has given a clearance nod to our regularization but the repetitive and unnecessary excuse from GAD is nothing but the dilly-dallying tactics.”

The file has been forwarded to GAD after getting concurrence and final nod from the respective departments.

The GAD has returned the file again to RDD with the advice to route the file through the Establishment Cum Selection Committee, which according to the President Siddique is a “deliberate delay” of the administration which will “take years” to process. Notably, the GAD has sent back the file for the fourth consecutive time while the ultimate call lies with them alone.

The President CIC Association said that the delegation has met every official and knocked every door and has approached officials in Delhi even. According to Siddique, concerned committees have already taken three years in this process before the abrogation of Article 370. GAD has now asked them to start the process again with another committee.

“This is a sheer excuse and a way to waste our time,” Siddique added.

“They have ruied our lives by lying to us. Our salaries are not even being hiked under the Seventh Pay Commission. We have every right to question the government. Our voices are being muzzled.”

CIC Operators working in RDD since 2004 are currently handling the official online work of government portals under Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Ministry of Rural Development.

Online portals like Gram-swaraj, SBM, PMAY or People’s Plan Campaigns like Sabki Yojna Sabka Vikas, GPDP, Mission Antyodaya, PFMS and other e-Governance related activities are handled by these 172 CIC Operators in Jammu and Kashmir.

Besides, other official assignments on ground such as Elections, Establishment, Accounts, etc. at Block, District, Directorate or Secretariat levels are as well handled by the CIC Operators offline, depending upon the timely demand of the government and their requirement.

The Data Entry Operators working in RDD believe they are being left in lurch by the authorities since their job demands 24*7 presence and active engagements.

Ashfaq Ahmad, one of the CIC Operators in RDD, said there has been no “development” in their case since 2019 after government of India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and downgraded the erstwhile state into two union territories.

“I can’t see anything productive happening on ground after the abrogation of Article 370 especially when it comes to the youth of Kashmir,” he said. “There’s no accountability at all.”

Ashfaq said that nothing has been done in their favour despite having completed the formalities as the process has exhausted the Operators physically as well as emotionally. He wants the government to openly come up with some answer.

After more than a decade of his service, Ashfaq calls it “exploitation” and “betrayal” because of the pseudo promises made by the government officials 17 years back.

“It takes me four thousand rupees for my old mother’s healthcare. I have to spend more than 3000 on my child’s education monthly,” Ashfaq said in an anguished tone.

“I have another daughter who has to be admitted to a school after a year. How can mere 10,000 rupees be enough expenditure for a family of six? I have been struggling with this small amount for a decade now. There is no enhancement in the salary even.”

After successive lockdowns with deadly virus adding to their already miserable life, CIC operators have lamented that they face trouble times and hardships on every day basis as they struggle to meet their needs on a meager monthly salary for years now. Most of them have even crossed the age limit of 45 years while few of them left are still waiting to see some ray of hope.

Seeking intervention of Lieutenant Governor of J&K, a delegation of CIC Operators recently met Yousuf Tarigami, State head of CPI (M) at his residence Gupkar Road, Srinagar. The comrade assured the delegation to take up the matter with the concerned authorities for the early redressal of their demands.

LG Sinha’s office and Arun Kumar Mehta, Chief Secretary J&K, didn’t respond to Free Press Kashmir’s media queries regarding the plight of the CIC Operators.

Amid all this, Raziya, an MCA degree-holder working in RDD at Naidkhai in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, badly regrets her decision.

In 2005, she left her teaching post at a government institution just to join as a Data Entry Operator. She was promised a hefty amount of salary and regularization by the government officials back then.

“I have been diagnosed with depression for the last four years, as mere 10,000 rupees doesn’t satisfy my basic needs,” Raziya, a single parent, rued.

“I’m not on good terms with my husband and have to take care of my child alone. But managing home and child with this meager amount is as depressing as the job itself.”


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