I’m not a quitter, will stay in the system: Ashok Khemka

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : He has been transferred 43 times in just two decades of service, with 19 of these having been ordered by Haryana’s present Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government. Senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka says he is being hounded for “just doing my duty” and has no intention of quitting.

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“I am not a quitter. I am part of this system and will stay in it. I am proud of it. I have only been doing my duty as an officer,” Khemka, who got his 43rd transfer order last week, told IANS in an interview, adding that the frequent shifts don’t worry him.

The Haryana cadre officer was in the spotlight last October when he cancelled the mutation of a controversial multi-crore rupee land deal between UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and realty giant DLF.

Khemka, whose living room walls have framed copies of international publications like Washington Post and Gulf News carrying stories on his run-ins with the powerful elite in the country, thanks to his actions as an administrator, says that his hounding by the Hooda government was “initially subtle” but has now become “blatant”.

The latest examples are, besides his transfer to the insignificant post of secretary-archives, a wrongly sent non-bailable warrant from a court in Haryana to being given a tiny room sans facilities and inadequate manpower comensurate with his status as a senior officer.

“I don’t feel scared by all this. But there is a lot of mental stress. In my last transfer, they threw me out in the most humiliating manner. My reliever had come to the office even before the transfer orders had arrived. This is unprecedented,” Khemka pointed out.

Khemka was shunted out as director general (Consolidation) after he cancelled the Rs.58 crore Vadra-DLF deal and also ordered an enquiry into all of Vadra’s land deals in four Haryana district around Delhi since 2005. Thereafter, he was ousted as managing director of the Haryana Seeds Development Corporation (HSDC) after he exposed major irregularities in the purchase of fungicides from an international chemicals’ manufacturer.

Khemka’s postings in various departments have lasted from a mere 4-5 days to a longest stint of one year and eight months.

“There have been over five posts where I lasted only 4-5 days. Only in four posts did my tenure extend beyond one year,” he stated.

Despite hitting national and international headlines after he undid the Vadra-DLF deal and exposed other scams at most places where he was posted, Khemka hates being called a “whistleblower”.

“I hate being called a whistleblower. I am just doing my work which others may not be doing. I am also not an activist. Once a job is taken away, my part gets over in that matter,” Khemka, a computer science engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur and a 1991-batch IAS officer, told IANS.

The outspoken officer admitted that his repeated transfers and events of the past few months have left his family “stressed”. His wife is a home-maker while his two sons are studying in a school here.

Khemka, who has got some outstanding annual confidential reports (ACRs) and is empanelled as a joint secretary with the government of India, has worked with four chief ministers – Bhajan Lal, Bansi Lal, Om Prakash Chautala and Bhupinder Singh Hooda – and has had run-ins with all of them over His stand on various issues.

“I only go by what the public expects from me. I do this without fear or favour,” he pointed out.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])