BJP can’t get away with “routine transfer” excuse on Ashok Khemka

Social media has been abuzz with the news of yet another transfer of IAS officer Ashok Khemka – who exposed wrongdoings in land dealings of Robert Vadra – ever since the news became public last night.

This is the 46th transfer order that Khemka has got in his career spanning over two decades. Not only transfers, he has even got a chargesheet against him for – wait for it – damaging reputation of Robert Vadra.

While run up to the state elections in Rajasthan and Haryana, and during the general election campaigning last year, BJP raised a lot of noise over Vadra’s dealings and Khemka’s observations, but it seems that the party has now forgotten about those. Vadra is flaunting his six-packs while Khemka is packing his bags.

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Amid outrage, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has termed the latest transfer of Khemka a “routine transfer” which is part of regular administrative decisions.

Indeed, transfers of IAS officers are routine and part of administrative decisions, but BJP can’t get away with this excuse in wake of the department Mr. Khemka was handling hitherto.

Khemka was with the transport department, where he had taken up cudgels against those transporters who were violating rules and running oversized commercial vehicles in Haryana.

These vehicles, despite flouting Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR), were plying on Haryana roads because the earlier Congress government of the state gave them fitness certificates. Once he got posted in this department, Khemka refused to honor those certificates as he found those “ultra vires and void ab-initio”.

This slowly led to confrontation between transporters and Khemka, with transporters threatening to go on an indefinite strike.

Since Haryana has many industries, strikes by transporters could have impacted supply chain of lot of big companies, and thus the state government felt the need to resolve this matter before it became a crisis.

Ashok Khemka
No country for honest men?

And it seems that the state government has found the solution by transferring Mr. Khemka.

And that is why it can’t be called a “routine transfer”.

BJP has to explain if it succumbed to any pressure from transporters and industries or if they thought that Khemka was being unreasonable in implementing strict rules.

Maybe the rules are indeed strict, unreasonable, and business unfriendly. Let us remember that Lalu Yadav, as Railways Minister, had relaxed similar strict rules for freight overloading, bringing in extra revenues (which otherwise were going as bribes and kickbacks) for Railways. One may similarly argue for relaxation of the rules for “oversized vehicles” without compromising on safety.

However, in that case, the state government should be writing to Union Transport Minister to relax some aspects of Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR). The solution is to rationalize rules, not to break rules. We haven’t heard of any such request from the state government to the union government.

Simply put – you can’t transfer an honest bureaucrat who’s merely doing his duty of following the rules, even if the rules are deemed too strict or unreasonable. This is punishment for doing an honest job. Khemka too said that the transfer was “truly painful”.

If the Haryana government doesn’t clarify on these issues, one would be forced to conclude that the transfer was done under pressure from the transport lobby and industries.

This is not good governance. This is not achche din.

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