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Dr Ashok Khemka: The ‘unsung’ hero

 

 DEBASHIS BASU | 04/02/2014 04:39 PM |   

Here is the introductory speech by Debashis Basu about Dr Ashok Khemka, the Secretary to Haryana government. Dr Khemka addressed an august audience at Moneylife Foundation’s 4th Anniversary last week in Mumbai

I have the honour and immense pleasure of introducing Dr . I would liketo beg your indulgence that this introduction will be longish. But please do bear with me. Dr Khemka is not an ordinary person and yet little is known about him.

The first thing that strikes you about Dr Khemka is that he could have chosen just about any career path he wanted to and would have succeeded immensely, including a corporate life where he would have been a mutltimillionaire by now, given his brilliant academic record. He is a BTech in Computer Science Engineeringfrom IIT Kharagpur and a Ph.D inComputer Science from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He also has anMBA in Finance and MA in Economics. While researching on him, I picked up a couple of interesting stories. It appears that as a student of Class 4 in St Xavier’s School, Kolkata, he had memorised every chapter of Radiant Reader, the English textbook, to teach himself English. Also, in Class 10, once burst into tears because he had scored 99% – behind another student who had scored 100% – in a mathematics test.
Anyway, for some reason, despite his terrific record, Dr Khemka chose to join the IAS in 1991. As a member of the Haryana cadre, he has been through dozens of departments including fisheries, housing, AIDS control, finance, planning, land administration, rural development, supplies and disposal, social justice and empowerment, etc. He has also served as the managing director of Haryana’s public sector units in warehousing, seeds and electronics.
Then suddenly in October 2012 he became a household name, when heading the land consolidation department, he simply cancelled a sweetheart land deal between DLF, the real estate giant and Skylight Hospitality owned by Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law. Dr Khemka had been in this job for less than three months. If you remember, Vadra had got this land transferred to him in February 2008 for Rs7.5 crore and within a few months flipped it to DLF for Rs58 crore, for a 700% windfall gain in a few months. A son-in-law like no other.
Vadra was acting as a middlemen in the true sense – he had not even paid for the land. He had only produced a cheque, an overdraft, and the land was transferred to his company. The seller of the land had not even encashed the cheque. It was a sham transaction. Vadra then sold this land, which he did not own, to DLF. In effect, Vadra paid for his purchase after he sold this land, which he did not own. The land belonged to those who were close to the Congress and the CM. Dr Khemka cancelled this sham deal.
The Congress government of Bhupinder Hooda reacted in the two ways they always react. One, by shunting Dr Kehmka out. And two, by serving him a chargesheet for having caused damage to the reputation of and that of real estate giant DLF, and for “illegally” cancelling the land deal.
Dr Khemka packed his bags and headed to his new job. He had been in the land department for just five months. But this is normal for him. This was his 41st or the 42nd transfer. Perhaps Dr Khemka himself would find it hard to remember how many times he has been transferred, given the speed with which the govt packs him off. In 2012 alone, he was shifted thrice. He was moved out of Haryana Electronics Corp in May 2012, within eight weeks after he started asking tough questions.
From the land dept, he took charge of as the MD of Haryana Seed Development Corporation, a junior level assignment — the job was held by someone 12 years junior to Dr Khemka. Never mind the humiliation, within months Dr Khemka got active, exposing a multi-crore fungicide purchase scam involving multinational company Bayer. The fungicides were bought at a higher rate without tendering, and then sold to farmers on subsidy.  A Bhiwani-based NGO had filed a PIL in the High Court, alleging the same irregularities and demanding a CBI probe. The case was coming up for hearing. Thegovernment transferred Dr Khemka in a hurry so that he could not testify in that case. Dr Khemka registered a complaint about the scam with the CBI but the government rejected it saying he was not competent to do so.
At Haryana Seeds he exposed a second scam involving officials of NAFED for selling seeds at inflated prices to HSDC which allowed some to pocket the seed subsidy meant for farmers. Both these scams were exposed in his short 5-month stint. Not surprisingly he was transferred again and this time, in a humiliating manner.
Firstly, he was been banished to the Archives department, working out of a small room without facilities and manpower. Second, he was replaced by BS Duggal, an Under Secretary five ranks below him. Third, Duggal came to his office at 3.30 pm and told him to vacate the office without a transfer order. Dr Khemka suggested that he wait for the order but the chief secretary’s office asked him to download the order from the net and move out. The transfer order was delivered four hours later at his residence. Dr Khemka said later that this kind of humiliation would be very damaging to the morale of upright public servants.
This is the life of an honest officer in a dishonest political set up. First, the transfers. In some posts Dr Khema lasted for only 4-5 days. Only in four posts was his tenure extend to one year. There is an established rule that you cannot normally transfer someone in two years. But this is easily violated.
Then, people like him are not just removed but subjected to chargesheets, full of false charges, investigation, suspension and worse. The govt charged Dr Khemka with low sales at the HSDC. And as just a few weeks ago charged him to showing favours to a particular party when he was the managing director of Haryana State Warehousing Corporation when all decisions were as per norms and taken by the board of directors. In the Vadra case, the government says he is guilty of administrative misconduct and that he violated the rules by discussing the controversy in the media and criticising government policy. Dr Khemka is anticipating 10 more chargesheets along with 10 private complaints but his disarming question is what should he have done when he saw a scam or a sham deal?  Indeed, he asks: “Should I have just ignored Mr Vadra’s land deal? Is it only that poor people will be probed?”
All this is a matter of terrible shame for us, as citizens. The least we can do is show our support to people like him and plus hope and pray that things don’t get any worse. After all, party goons can go to any extent.

* * *

There is another very important reason we must show our support in whatever way we can. The land deal for which we all got to know of him involved Vadra and so we all tend to assume it was the Congress govt, which went after him. Here is a dose of reality. The same Dr Khemka was the blue-eyed boy of the Congress when the party was in the opposition and he had strongly opposed the acquisition of land worth crores in Gurgaon district for a private builder for a paltry sum.
Congress was very happy with him too when as the director secondary education, Dr Khema stopped the mid-session transfer of hundreds teachers even though the CM Chautala had personally issued transfer notes. He was promptly shunted out to an inconsequential post without an official vehicle and office. He started walking down to his office. The Congress, then in opposition, clapped from the sidelines.
Dr Khemka 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. As long as he does his job, Dr Khemka will be a target of politicians, no matter which party is in power. And this why people like him need the support of citizens.
It is matter of some consolation that he has been recognized for his outstanding work. Apart from the nationwide recognition he has received, Dr Khemka has been recognized Crusader against Corruption chosen for the SR Jindal Prize in 2011 along with Sanjiv Chaturvedi, another upright officer of Haryana. He also received the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust Commendation on Public Works in 2009.
Dr Khemka says, “I will continue to do my duty. This is not about whistle-blowing, it is about doing your duty. Everyone, including the CM, is under the rule of law.” He also says “I am not a quitter. I am part of this system and will stay in it. I am proud of it. I don’t get scared by any of this but there is a lot of mental stress.”
Ladies and gentlemen, please give big hand welcome to a man who is fighting for us every single day.

Read mor ehere – http://www.moneylife.in/article/dr-ashok-khemka-the-unsung-hero/36260.html

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Comment (1)

  1. Communal Award

    Why do you want to fight corruption when your Z-Plus security Prime Minister himself is refusing to fight/prevent corruption?
    Do you want to get killed? Remember Satyendra Dubey, Shanmughan Manjunath, Narendra Kumar.

    If I were to write Constitution of India, I’d give Licensed Pistols to all whistle blowers in India.

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