Haryana CM defends Khemka's 45th transfer in 24 years

The change of government at the centre and in Haryana has not changed anything for senior Indian Administrative Service officer Ashok Khemka, known to be intolerant of corruption. He was on Wednesday once again transferred to an inconsequential posting by the BJP government in Haryana.

This is Khemka's 45th transfer in 24 years.

After the news was reported, Khemka took to Twitter to express how painful the moment was for him in the middle of his efforts to address corruption in the transport department, where he was last posted.

Khemka, as per the latest orders of the Haryana government, has been posted as secretary, archaeology and museums department and director general, archaeology and museums.

Haryana chief minister M L Khattar has defended Khemka's transfer while describing him as an honest officer. He stressed that officers are transferred and posted as per needs.

"He's an honest officer. He has been transferred on administrative grounds, it's a routine transfer," Khattar said. "Depending on the need, officers are transferred. It's a routine process," he added.

But his colleague, state health minister Anil Vij, came out more strongly in Khemka's support, saying he will talk to the chief minister regarding the officer "who had worked to weed out corruption during the previous Congress regime".

Vij, an outspoken BJP leader and Ambala Cantt MLA, said that he had always stood by Khemka, "who had worked to weed out corruption during the previous Congress regime".

Notably, the government did not mention any reason for his transfer. Chief Minister Khattar's officer on special duty Bhupeshwar Dayal termed it an administrative matter.

Khemka was appointed as transport commissioner and secretary last year after Khattar assumed office as chief minister of the first BJP government in Haryana.

At that time, Khemka, who had blown the lid off from the controversial multi-million-rupee land deals of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, was touted to get an important assignment. However, he was posted in the transport department.

Haryana's transport minister Ram Bilas Sharma maintained that "transfer is not a punishment" and stressed that it was a "routine" matter.

"Transfer is not a punishment, a promotion or demotion. Transfer of senior officers is a routine matter. There is nothing special or extraordinary about it," he said while replying to queries on the issue.

He said decisions are taken after the chief minister holds consultations with his council of ministers.

Notably, as transport commissioner, Khemka had refused to issue fitness certificates to over-sized trucks and trailers for carrying automobiles, leading to a truckers' strike in January.

Later, the truckers in Haryana withdrew their strike after the state government gave them one year's time to get their vehicles modified as per the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR), 1989.

Khemka, in a tweet then, had said that "60 percent of road accidents due to overloaded and over-sized transport vehicles. Industry cooperation needed to stop this road menace."

During the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government, the official had cancelled the mutation of the multi-crore land deal between Vadra's company Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd and DLF, terming it as illegal. However, the previous Hooda government gave a clean chit to Vadra in the land deal.

Last week, Khemka in a tweet had said that his action in Vadra-DLF land-licence deal has been "vindicated in the CAG report."