Whistleblower IAS officer in Haryana shunted out after exposing dubious land deals

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Chandigarh:  A senior IAS officer in Haryana, who exposed widespread irregularities in land deals, has been transferred out of his department in less than two months. Ashok Khemka, who was Director General, Consolidation of Holdings and Land Records, had highlighted how panchayat land in Gurgaon worth several hundred crores of rupees were transferred to private real estate companies. He has alleged that the Congress government in the state shunted him out as a "punishment" for acting as a whistleblower and exposing corruption within his department.

 "It is shocking to learn about my abrupt transfer...this is deliberate and malafide to punish me due to some vested elements in the political-bureaucratic hierarchy affected by the expose of the scams in consolidation of land holdings under the exercise of powers," Mr Khemka said, in a letter written to Chief Secretary PK Chaudhary.

The senior IAS officer seems to be paying the price for standing up for farmers of seven villages in Gurgaon who are trying to get back 19 acres of panchayat land along the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway from private builders. Mr Khemka had, during his 50-day stint in the department, detected how bureaucrats had colluded with politicians to acquire prime plots near highways which were subsequently sold at grossly undervalued rates to realtors. He submitted an affidavit in court that two of his predecessors had side-stepped norms to benefit builders in 2008-09.

"The land was sold by senior officers...they sold it to builders or someone else...God only knows...but we request the government to return our land to the panchayat," said Khushi Ram, a farmer from the Ullawas village in Gurgaon.

But this isn't the first time that Mr Khemka has been transferred. In July, the bureaucrat had been moved out of the Haryana State Electronics Development Corporation (HARTRON) when he drew attention to the certain corrupt prices in the department. The latest transfer is the 43rd in is career.

"I have requested the chief secretary to allow me at least two years of posting as per the service rules... frequent transfers like these is demoralising for upright officers," Mr Khemka told NDTV.

But the government has rejected the IAS officer's accusation as his "incorrect perception" that he was being punished "for exposing scams". "It (transfer) is the prerogative of the Government. The officer was transferred for administrative reasons," the Chief Secretary said.

The Opposition, though, has seized upon the mater to criticise the state government for harassing an upright officer. "Hooda government has been exposed...innocent and honest officers are being harassed...those who don't allow corrupt practices are frequently transferred," BJP leader Anil Vij said.

Mr Khemka's transfer seems to be just one among the several cases of political witch-hunt. Earlier, another IAS officer Sanjeev Chaturvedi had met a similar fate before being finally bailed out by the Centre.


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