J&K Opposition Outraged At Gag on Government Employees

Srinagar: Opposition parties have criticized the Jammu and Kashmir’s government’s latest move aimed at restricting its over half a million employees from participating in any demonstrations or strikes in support of their demands.

Terming it a “dictatorial mindset”, former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti wrote on ‘X’ (formerly known Twitter), “LG admin’s blanket ban on peaceful protests by government employees reeks of a dictatorial mindset. Stifling voices of reason in a democracy is unacceptable. Threatening them with dire consequences & disciplinary action is outrageous”.

National Conference (NC) leader Farooq Abdullah told reporters here, “I think this is injustice against them. My party stands with them, and we appeal to the government to give them what is their basic right.” He added, “If those who run the government do not work then how will the government function? I appeal to the Lieutenant Governor to see to it and try to get rid of the difficulties of the employees.”

Some other political parties and leaders have also come down heavily on the government on what they alleged is a gag on its employees.

In an official memo signed by Rohit Sharma, additional secretary to the J&K government (General Administration Department) on November 3, the government has warned its employees of the consequences of their participating in demonstrations or / and strikes. The memo refers to Rule 20 (ii) of the J&K Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971, which states that ‘no government employee shall resort to or in any way abet any form of strike in connection with any matter pertaining to his service or the service of any other government employee’.

The memo reminds the employees that the provision of law is not merely declaratory in nature but shall “definitely entail consequences in the event of any such employee found immersive in such acts”.

It further states, “Therefore, all administrative secretaries are requested to circulate these instructions to employees in their respective department(s) to desist from all such uncalled-for demonstrations and strikes: an act of serious indiscipline and misconduct.”

It has sought to “impress upon” the departments “to take strict disciplinary action against employees found involved in organising demonstrations and strikes in terms of the rule mentioned supra”.

The J&K government employees had earlier threatened to launch an agitation to press their demands and said that there will be simultaneous protests in twin capitals of Jammu and Srinagar on November 4.

However, the Jammu wing of the Joint Action Employees Forum (JAEF) on Saturday announced that the proposed protest has been deferred after a meeting with Divisional Commissioner (Jammu) Ramesh Kumar Friday night. It requested its Kashmir Valley-based counterpart to follow suit.

In March this year, the J&K government had issued fresh guidelines to its employees barring them from criticising its action and policies in the social media. It had warned them of ‘disciplinary action’ for non-compliance of the guidelines. End it

As per these guidelines, “no government employee shall, through any post, tweet or otherwise, discuss or criticize on social media, any policy pursued or action taken by the government, nor shall he or she, in any manner, participate in any such discussion or criticism on social media pages, communities or microblogs”.

The government circular said, “No Government employee shall post, tweet or share content that is political or anti-secular and communal in nature or subscribe to pages, communities or twitter handles and blogs of such nature.”

It stated that no government employee “shall himself or herself or through any person dependent on him or her for maintenance, or under his care or control, undertake any such activity on social media which is, or tends directly or indirectly to be, subversive of the government as by law established in the country on in the Union Territory”.

However, the circular sought to clarify that the guidelines are not intended to dissuade employees or departments from using social media for “positive and constructive purposes”. It said, “A government employee may, for the purpose of removing misapprehensions, correcting misstatements, and refuting disloyal and seditious propaganda, defend and explain to the public the policy of government in his posts and tweets on social media”.

But a government employee was barred from posting on social media “any such content or comments about co-workers or individuals that are vulgar, obscene, threatening, intimidating or that violate the conduct rules or employees.”

As per these guidelines, a government employee cannot post grievances pertaining to his or her workplace on social media in the form of videos, posts, tweets or blogs or in any other form, “but will follow the already established channels of complaint redressal existing in the departments.”

The circular further said that the government employees “shall not indulge in sharing or partaking in so-called giveaways and contests on social media platforms, which are actually scams in disguise, as they could unknowingly spread malware or trick people into giving away sensitive data by sharing it on their profiles.”

The circular warned “Violation of these guidelines/rules shall tantamount to misconduct and invite disciplinary action against the delinquent official under the relevant rules.”

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