Ex-babus bat for man who dared Vadra, other upright officers

Retired bureaucrats slam Haryana govt’s move to transfer Ashok Khemka, demand “scientific management” of transfer of public servants

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | April 8, 2013


PTI file photo
PTI file photo

Slamming the Haryana government’s decision to transfer senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka again, top retired bureaucrats have called for laying down a proper system to shunt out officers deemed against interests of the government of the day.

While TS Krishnamurthy, a former chief election commissioner, said the very idea of frequent transfer of a civil servant is a sign of poor governance, former cabinet secretary TSR Subhramanian said bureaucrats are public servants but are in effect treated as personal servants of political leaders — “a serious malice in our governance.”

Both Krishnamurthy and Subhramanian are among 80 retired senior bureaucrats who have filed a PIL against “reckless and irrelevant transfer” of bureaucrats, which is scheduled to come up for hearing in supreme court soon. Through the PIL, the former bureaucrats are calling for a scientific management of transfer of public servants.

Khemka, who had unleashed a political storm after alleging irregularities in land deals involving realty giant DLF and Robert Vadra, businessman and son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in October last year, was transferred for the fourth time in less than a year on Thursday. Known to be an upright officer, this is Khemka’s 44th transfer in his career spanning a little more than 20 years.

Khemka, who was the managing director at Haryana Seeds Development Corporation, has now been posted as secretary, Haryana Archives, after exposing another alleged scam in the seed corporation. He had recommended a criminal case against a German pesticides manufacturing company for making false claims of selling round Rs 60 crore worth fungicide to farmers in Haryana.

Slamming the move
Criticising the move to transfer Khemka, TS Krishnamurthysaid, “If an officer is not competent enough, take action against him. But the government actually demoralises the officer by transferring him again and again.”

TSR Subhramanian said: “Khemka’s service record is outstanding but he is (still) found unfit every six months and is transferred. If he is unfit, he should be thrown out. Now if a corrupt officer will come back, it will be against the public interest.”

Former DGP of Uttar Pradesh Prakash Singh said though it is said that a transfer is not punishment, the government always uses it as an “instrument to harass” public servants. “They (government) say they follow rules but actually the administrative grounds are also made by the government,” Singh said. “So by transfers we are told who controls our movement — and if we are not loyal to them, we will be punished.”

According to Singh, if a corrupt officer is brought in to replace an upright one, it shows the government wants an officer who promotes its own political agenda. “There is no way the officers can resist it (getting transferred whimsically). They can approach courts but on most occasions they do not want to risk further harassment,” he added.

Echoing the contention, Krishnamurthy said though an officer who is transferred has the option of moving the court or approaching the central administrative tribunal (CAT), it is difficult for an officer to actually challenge the government. “Frequent transfer of officer is very common in state governments, and transferring (an officer) every six months does not make any sense,” the former chief election commissioner said. “I always resisted if I felt wrong about something I was asked to do. But, luckily, I did not face such frequent transfers.”

Explaining the root of the problem, Subhramanian said: “As a bureaucrat, there is always pressure of transfer. The moment you displease a politician, you will be transferred — and there is no way the officer can resist it.”

The PIL filed by ex-bureaucrats is demanding forming of a proper method to transfer public servants and that the tenure should be fixed before a public servant is transferred. According to the former bureaucrats, as many as 22 committees formed by the government have made the same demands till date but the government is yet to do anything about the issue.

Subhramanian said the apex court’s ruling says transfers are no punishment. “But this is highly misused. The government has the right to transfer (an officer) by fulfilling norms, and we want those norms to be in place.”

Khemka was shifted from the director general of consolidation of land holdings and land records-cum-inspector general of registration to the seed development corporation in October last year, shortly after he initiated a probe into the land dealings between Robert Vadra and DLF.

Hours after the government ordered Khemka out as the managing director of seeds corporation, an officer from the agricultural department reportedly rushed in to take charge, claiming he was given the post.

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