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Caucus fist behind transfer punch

Ranchi, Aug. 14: The shock transfers of 19 bureaucrats in the past two days, including prominent faces, has induced deep unease in bureaucratic circles, causing many to eye the Hemant Soren government with suspicion and the BJP to hint that the floundering ruling coalition wants pliable officials before Assembly polls.

More than sheer numbers, the way acting chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty and other top bureaucrats were unceremoniously shunted in announcements made way beyond normal working hours, as well as postings of some seen as virtual “demotions”, have made Hemant appear a puppet in the hands of vested interests.

Bureaucrats say many were even transferred in less than a year or two of their posting, violating Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Amendment Rules, 2014. The rules suggest that an officer appointed to any cadre post shall hold office for at least two years, unless in the meantime he or she is promoted, retired or sent on deputation outside the state or on training for over two months.

Morale dampener apart, the 19 transfers will add to the mayhem in administration, senior bureaucrats say.

“Things have turned terribly bad. In all these last 14 years of Jharkhand’s creation, nothing had touched such a low ebb,” said a bureaucrat transferred yesterday.

If some officers who had been transferred in the last couple of days are to be believed, more than the chief minister, people around him are calling the shots.

Sources also hinted that Chakraborty’s transfer to a low-key member of the board of revenue, bore testimony to this fact because despite the many assurances given by Hemant to make his posting permanent he was ultimately shown the door.

Although no one came on record, power corridors were aghast at how A.P. Singh was shunted from finance to disaster management department as secretary. Road construction department secretary Rajbala Verma got finance as her additional charge.

“Many effective officials have been arbitrarily shunted to less important departments. Have you heard of a state where a department as important as finance gets a secretary on additional charge? It does not go down well as far as the effective administration in the state is concerned,” said a bureaucrat.

Chakraborty, a 1980-batch IAS officer (senior-most among the IAS lot) unceremoniously removed from the post yesterday night, said unholy lobbying among IAS officers and vested interests was the main deterrent in the state’s development.

His ouster is seen as the outcome of a flamboyant style of working without succumbing to pressures exerted by “influential people”, including a Delhi power broker, a deputy secretary ranked official and few others.

However, his critics said his appointing tainted IAS Puja Singhal as an officer on special duty in his office without the CMO’s approval and his calling a news meet to say he was hurt at being kept an officiating chief secretary worked against him.

“The lobbying (of bureaucrats) must stop and it seems caucus groups have spread tentacles in every sphere of society,” said Chakraborty after handing over his charge to the new regular chief secretary Sudhir Prasad, a 1981-batch IAS.

The ouster of Sukhdev Singh, principal secretary to chief minister Hemant Soren, was surprising. Singh was transferred as principal secretary, building construction department, and his immediate IAS batch senior Santosh Kumar Satpathy got additional charge of being Hemant’s principal secretary.

Some snidely said Satpathy’s posting at the chief minister’s office was also temporary, because Hemant only had a few months left.

IAS officers A.P. Singh, Nitin Madan Kulkarni and K. Vidyasagar were transferred as they apparently did not get along well with their ministerial bosses Rajendra Prasad Singh, Yogendra Sao and Geetashree Oraon.

A.P. Singh was shunted from finance to disaster management, Kulkarni from agriculture to registration and Vidyasagar from HRD to panchayati raj.

“Ministers don’t consider what is right and what is under rule. They want everything as per their whims and fancies,” said a secretary-rank IAS.

A senior bureaucrat conceded off the record that the chief minister was weak and a few people in the CMO were running the show.