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  Opinion   Oped  15 Dec 2019  Dilli Ka Babu: J&K babus in a spot

Dilli Ka Babu: J&K babus in a spot

Love them, hate them ignore them at national peril, is the babu guarantee and Dilip’s belief. Share significant babu escapades
Published : Dec 15, 2019, 12:30 am IST
Updated : Dec 15, 2019, 12:30 am IST

The Narendra Modi sarkar has got the “heaven born” on the backfoot.

Haryana IAS officer and whistleblower Ashok Khemka (Photo: PTI)
 Haryana IAS officer and whistleblower Ashok Khemka (Photo: PTI)

In the Narendra Modi era, babus seem to be increasingly reluctant to serve in New Delhi. In fact, the government has admitted that the number of IAS officers appointed on Central deputation is the lowest in five years, as reported in this column (Nov. 12). To reverse the trend, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) has said that it will stop empanelment and promotion of IAS officers who fail to file mandatory annual immovable property returns and do not opt for mandatory five-year Central deputation after completing the initial service of 10 years.

This has put babus in the newly formed Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir in a spot. Sources say that in the erstwhile state of J&K, the babus never took the guidelines seriously. Currently, 19 IAS officers and 16 IPS officers have not declared their immovable assets. Among the IAS officers who haven’t filed their immovable property returns/declaration, four were in the rank of commissioner/secretaries and an equal number of them were posted as the deputy commissioners in different districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Union ministry for personnel has also issued a fresh circular calling upon the IAS officers to update their immovable property returns online or otherwise by January 31.

Khemka moved out again
Haryana IAS officer and whistleblower Ashok Khemka is the quintessential outsider in babudom. He has just been transferred for the 53rd time in a career spanning 28 years. This is surely a record that will last for a long time. By now, of course, Mr Khemka is not thrown off by his abrupt displacements, except tweeting his displeasure. Over the course of his career in the civil service, the 1991-batch officer has held myriad positions in several departments such as land administration, housing, AIDS control, finance, rural development, planning, fisheries, supplies and disposal, social justice and empowerment, among others. His latest transfer sees him move from the science and technology department to the archives department.

Mr Khemka’s peripatetic career came into the limelight when in 2012, as head of the land consolidation department, he cancelled a land deal involving Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra. He lasted three months in the post before he was shunted out. Clearly, no matter who is running the government in the state, Mr Khemka continues to face the ire of politicians.

IAS turf under siege
The Narendra Modi sarkar has got the “heaven born” on the backfoot. The government is steadily loosening the grip on IAS officers in senior positions in the government. It has appointed officers from other all India services in positions that the IAS officers have considered their “turf” for decades. In the most recent instance, the government empanelled four non-IAS officers for holding secretary/secretary-equivalent posts, a decision that will rankle for a long time.

So far only IAS officers are empanelled to hold secretary-level posts, although officers from other Group A services are also given apex scale posts in their own cadres. However, with this notification, the Narendra Modi sarkar has sent the unambiguous message that it will not be obliged to bend towards the “heaven born” and their definition of what is their “territory”.

The four non-IAS officers empanelled by the government are Prem Kumar Kataria (Indian audit and accounts service), Prashant Kumar (Indian forest service), Sanjay Kumar Mishra (Indian revenue service) and Shefali Shah (Indian revenue service). Mr Mishra is chief of the Enforcement Directorate, Ms Shah is additional secretary, department of consumer affairs, Mr Kumar is additional secretary, rural development, and Mr Kataria is additional secretary, ministry of textiles. Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas, indeed!

Tags: narendra modi, ashok khemka, j&k babus