(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)
Srinagar – The arrest of a Guajarati conman for posing as a senior official in the Prime Minister's office (PMO), who led to a political slugfest in Jammu and Kashmir with two major regional parties National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) mocking the Union Territory administration and questioning its competence.
Kiran Patel, the fraudster hailing from Gujarat posed as an additional director (strategy and campaigns) in the Prime Minister's Office and enjoyed many perks, including a bulletproof car and security cover besides other hospitality. Hours before Patel's arrest, three of his accomplices who were accompanying him had managed to escape.
Patel was on this third visit to the Kashmir Valley when he was nabbed by security officials on March 3.
Purported videos of Patel surveying the snow slopes of Gulmarg with a posse of armed security personnel around him and of a convoy of vehicles accompanying him weaving through a Valley town have been circulated widely across social media platforms.
He had even visited the last post at Uri in north Kashmir, posing for pictures at a bridge treated as a Line of Control between India and Pakistan.
Addressing a party function here in the south Kashmir district, Omar Abdullah said,“My colleagues are not provided security even after so many requests. When they have to travel and seek an escort, the police say they do not have any vehicle or personnel... It is fine that you do not have a vehicle, we cannot complain. But when a fraudster comes from outside, then you have the vehicle available.”
A person came from Gujarat and said he was an officer in the PMO but no one verified his claim, the NC leader said.
“They should have called the PMO to verify his credentials or a letter would have come from there. We understand that you (J-K administration) were befooled once, but what incompetent government is this that you were befooled four times,” he said.
The former J&K chief minister said the fraudster was provided with a bulletproof vehicle, an escort at the front and the other at the back, a room in a five-star hotel, and held meetings with officers every evening.
Referring to Patel's photographs and videos which have gone viral on social media, the NC leader said Patel went to Gulmarg to inspect hotels there and even visited the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri sector where confidential information may have been shared with him.
“He went to Uri, to LoC and was given a tour of the border. We do not know what he was told there and what confidential things were told to him. What kind of government is this?” Omar Abdullah asked.
He said fingers were being pointed at a deputy commissioner, but the reality is that the security was sanctioned by the police headquarters.
“A retired officer was made to write that it is the fault of a DC (deputy commissioner). I was a chief minister myself, a DC is no one to provide security. That decision is taken at the police headquarters. An ADGP decides whether to provide security or not. The decision to provide a vehicle is taken in the secretariat.
“A DC does not provide for the bill of a five-star hotel, the finance department and the (hospitality and) protocol department clears that. If this is not incompetence, then what is?” he asked.
Lashing out at the Jammu and Kashmir administration, the National Conference vice-president said this administration was not for providing succour to the people, but only to please the PMO.
“This one (Patel) was arrested. But we do not know how many frauds must have come here. We do not know which hotel they stayed in. Some say three came here and then left. Is this a government?
“This government is not to provide succour to the people but to please the PMO. This is the difference between an elected government and one thrust from the above,” Omar Abdullah added.
Echoing similar views, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said that conmen were enjoying government patronage but common Kashmiris were being“harassed”.
“Conmen, whether outsider or local, enjoying government patronage & hospitality, are given protocol, security & access to powerful babus. Compare this to common Kashmiris viewed suspiciously & harassed in every way possible (sic),” she wrote on her Twitter handle.
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