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Meet Ashok Khemka – the incorruptible Indian babu

Pic courtesy indianexpress.com
Pic courtesy indianexpress.com

Newton’s Law of Corruption: an Indian babu’s likelihood of  being corrupt is inversely proportional to the number of times he’s transferred. Higher the transfers, lower the likelihood of being corrupt.

While babudom and anti-corruption agitation are topics that are not within the primary ambit of this blog, every once in a while I feel compelled to stray (for ‘public good’ reasons of course). The (not so) curious case of Raju Narayan Swamy and rebooting IAS are notable precedents.

If you’ve been following the brazenness of Robert Vadra’s real estate dealings even cursorily, you may have heard of Mr. Ashok Khemka. This article on Independent caught my attention. 43 transfers in 21 years! That’s a transfer every 6 months. If you were keenly following the Anna Hazare agitation (the first phase), you might recollect Bollywood actor Om Puri castigating the political class — besides usual some choice words to describe the politicians he bemoaned the feudal power-play practice of transferring bureaucrats. There are several things wrong with the Indian political system and giving the ruling state (& central) governments power to arbitrarily transfer bureaucrats is one of them.

Below’s a chronological summary of the 43 positions that Khemka (actually Dr. Khemka — he’s also a Ph.D in Computer Science) has held so far gleaned from his official IAS record sheet. There are only five positions where his tenure was at least one year (highlighted in blue). Stints 3 mos or less highlighted in red. As Chief Administrator (Urban Development), he lasted 18 mos and his deputation at Warehousing Corporation was a phenomenal 21 mos!

  1. SDO (Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn) – 11 mos
  2. Under Secy (Agriculture & Cooperation – Cooperatives) – 1 mo
  3. SDO (Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn) – 7 mos
  4. Addl. Dy Commr (Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn) – 7 mos
  5. Registrar (Human Resource Dev, Higher Education) – 4 mos
  6. Dy Secy (Human Resource Dev, Technical Education) – 1 mo
  7. Registrar (Human Resource Dev, Higher Education) – 6 mos
  8. Addl Dy Commr (Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn) – 6 mos
  9. Addl Registrar (Agriculture & Cooperation – Cooperatives) – 7 mos
  10. Dy Secy (Social Justice & Empowerment, Prohibition) – 8 mos
  11. Jt Commr (Law & Justice, Legal Affairs) – 3 mos
  12. Dy Secy (Personnal & General Admn, Administrative Reforms) – 9 mos
  13. * Registrar (Human Resource Dev, Higher Education) – 15 mosCadre Deputation?
  14. Jt Secy (Personnel & General Admn, Administrative Reforms) – 12 days
    • Gap of 15 months – presumably for a continuing education gig?
  15. Director (Labour & Employment, Employment & Training) – 15 mos
  16. Jt Secy JAG (Communications & IT) – 6 mos
  17. Dy Commr JAG (Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn) – 6 mos
  18. Administrator JAG (Urban Development) – 20 days
  19. Jt Secy JAG (Agriculture & Cooperation – Dairy) – 4 mos
  20. Jt Secy JAG (Communications & IT) – 6 mos
  21. In Charge JAG (Commerce) – 6 mos
  22. Jt Secy JAG (Communications & IT) – 15 mos
  23. Director (Human Resources Dev) – 6 mos
  24. OSD JAG (Personnel & General Admn) – 6 mos
  25. Dy Commr JAG (Land Revenue & General Admn) – 4 mos
  26. Chief Administrator JAG (Urban Development) – 18 mos
  27. Spl Secy (Finance) – 8 mos
  28. Spl Secy (Planning & Prog Implementation) – 39 days
  29. Spl Collector (HQ) & Spl L A O (Land Revenue & General Admn) – 2 mos
  30. Director & Spl Secy (Agriculture & Cooperation – Agriculture) – 1 mo
  31. Director & Spl Secy (Rural Dev) – 21 days
  32. Spl Secy (Land Revenue & General Admn) – 8 mos
  33. * Managing Director (Industries) – Warehousing Corporation Ltd, Panchkula – 21 mos
  34. Director (Consumer Affairs, Food & PD) – 3 mos
  35. Member Secy (Personnel & General Admn) – 1 mo
  36. OSD (Planning & Program Implementation) – 1 mo
  37. Spl Secy (Social Justice & Empowerment) – 12 mos
  38. DG (Social Justice & Empowerment) – 10 mos
  39. Managing Director (Communications & IT) – 2 mos
  40. Spl Secy & DG (Communications & IT) – 2 mos
  41. DG (Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn) – 1 day?
  42. DG (Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn) – 1 day?
  43. Spl Collector (Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn) – 1 day?

More observations..

  • In 16 of the positions, the duration was 3 months or less; of these 10 were 1 month or less. What could the possible reasons have been? “I don’t like the look of this guy!” or “I can smell incorruptible on him” or “Oops! You were supposed to be transferred to Office of Assery and Thuggistan. Who sent you here?”
  • 10 of the positions were in the Land Revenue Mgmt & District Admn. While he was clearly a thorn in the flesh of corrupt land administration officials, the bane of the IAS cadre system must be such that he couldn’t have been transferred anywhere else?
  • The last 3 roles must be some aberration because all lasted ONE day?

Just for grins, I briefly perused the IAS record sheet of the 8 other officers in Haryana cadre. Here’s what their transfer count looks like:

  • Anil Malik: 24 transfers
  • Vineet Garg: 17 transfers
  • Abhilaksh Likhi: 18
  • HS Malik: 17
  • Sandeep Garg: 20
  • Apoorva Singh: 28
  • Shrikant Walgad: 27
  • G Anupama: 23

Mr. Ashok Khemka: may your tribe proliferate. More importantly, I pray that system be reformed and the arbitrariness of transfers reduced drastically.