Political leaders cutting across party lines and bureaucrats on Tuesday recalled the services of former state chief secretary Ashok Jaitley after he breathed his last in New Delhi early on Tuesday. Jaitley, 71, was suffering from cancer for the past few years.
Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed described 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."
"The contribution of Jaitley in development of the state will be remembered," he added.
National Conference working president Omar Abdullah, whose father Farooq Abdullah was known to be very close to Jaitley, wrote on Twitter, "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. "Jaitley has contributed immensely to our state, its administration and its economy," he said.
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 wrote in a piece for online The Wire, "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.
Former director general tourism Saleem Beg also praised Jaitley for his love for Kashmir. "Jaitley sahib served J&K with exemplary commitment, sincerity and unmatched sense of duty. He belonged to the rare and now almost vanished community of outside state officers who stood by Kashmir in their tribulations," wrote Beg on social networking site Facebook.
"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," he added.
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.