Khattar’s ‘zero tolerance’ ends with Khemka, Kasni?
By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, April 3 (IANS) Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s oft-repeated “zero tolerance to corruption” claim seems to be flying in the face of his government’s handling of upright IAS officers Ashok Khemka and Pradeep Kasni. The ‘zero tolerance’ seems to end at the doors of officers who dared to challenge the corrupt system.
Both officers were abruptly removed from their posts by the Khattar government just days after they, in their respective jurisdictions, tried to cleanse the system in the departments they were heading. Khemka and Kasni have seen 46 and 60 transfers respectively in their service.
When the Khattar government took office on October 26 last year, heading the first BJP government in Haryana, it was widely believed that Khemka and Kasni, who had dared to take on the powers that be in the previous Congress government headed by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, would be picked for important assignments.
There were reports that Khemka could join the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). But nothing of this sort happened.
Both officers were picked up for assignments which were not really in consonance with the expectations from the BJP government.
Khemka, whose actions had caught the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election speeches in Haryana last year, hit the headlines in October 2012 when he cancelled the mutation of a Rs.58-crore land deal between Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and realty giant DLF and ordered a probe into the controversial land deals of Vadra in Haryana.
He was shunted out this week from the state’s transport department to the inconsequential archaeology and museums department.
Khemka’s transfer, it is becoming clear, happened because he upset the powerful lobby of transporters who have been violating rules with impunity over the years and endangering the lives of other motorists by plying over-sized trucks and heavy vehicle trailers on the roads.
Khemka had ordered that trucks and trailers adhere to the prescribed dimensions or go off the roads. The illegal vehicles have stayed on — but Khemka lost the post in just about four months.
Khemka tweeted after the latest transfer: “Tried hard to address corruption and bring reforms in transport despite severe limitations and entrenched interests. Moment is truly painful.”
All hell broke loose for the Khattar government though the chief minister tried to sheepishly defend Khemka’s transfer as a “routine administrative matter”.
From Chandigarh to Hisar to Bengaluru, the Khattar government and the BJP put up a weak-kneed defence in the transfer controversy.
In the case of Pradeep Kasni, who had challenged Hooda’s last-minute appointments to constitutional posts just before the assembly polls, the transfer was even more abrupt.
He was transferred in December last year within a month of being made the divisional commissioner of Gurgaon, which adjoins the national capital. Most people believe that the land mafia’s pressure worked on the Khattar government.
Kasni fell out of favour with the Khattar government after he submitted a report to the government on how Haryana’s revenue officials had allegedly connived with land grabbers in Gurgaon and adjoining areas.
After his transfer, Kasni, who expressed his “surprise” at being shunted out, was without a post for some time.
Ironically, a few officers who were considered close to the previous Hooda regime over the past 10 years, have ended up with lucrative postings in the Khattar government too.