Stories of civil servants shunted out by the political executive for carrying out their responsibilities aren’t new. With the political executive holding immense discretionary powers, those civil servants who don’t toe the line are transferred out to departments where they can’t affect any real change.
However, the story of IAS officer Pradeep Kasni, who had joined the Haryana Civil Services in 1984 and later promoted to the Indian Administrative Services, is curious even by the standard ‘honest IAS officer transferred’ narrative that we are accustomed to hearing.
In a career spanning 34 years in public service, Kasni has undergone 71 transfers. What was rather unusual about his last transfer six months ago was that he was shunted out to a non-defunct department, and has received no salary since.
Despite the current Haryana government’s promise to fight corruption, increase transparency, and stem the tide of random transfers, Kasni was transferred 12 times in the past three years.
In his latest posting, Kasni served as an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Haryana Land Use Board. According to the government’s very own records, the department is defunct with no budget earmarked for its operations. In other words, he was appointed to a post that didn’t even exist.
When he joined the Land Use Board, Kasni reached out to the government asking why there weren’t any staff or official files in his office. Unable to elicit a response from the government, he filed a right to information (RTI) application. In their response to his RTI application, it was found that Board has remained defunct since 2008. Despite this fact, Kasni was posted there.
What’s worse, Kasni did not even get paid any salary for the six months he has spent there.
The officer has filed an appeal with the Central Administrative Tribunal, which will adjudicate on the matter next Thursday. Meanwhile, on March 1, Kasni retired from the service, and vowed to carry on his fight against governments unresponsive to the need of common citizens.
Similar to Ashok Khemka, another civil servant with a similar track record of transfers for his run-ins with the political executive, Kasni blew the lid on anomalies in the appointment of commissioners in the state right to service commission and state information commission under the previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda government.
Despite both officers receiving plum postings after the current regime took over, it wasn’t long before both officers were shunted out. When Khemka was facing heat from the previous regime for exposing the discrepancy in mutation pertaining to Robert Vadra-DLF land deals, Kasni even led and organized public rallies in his support.
Following his retirement on Wednesday, Kasni told the media of Manohar Lal Khattar government’s assurance to civil service officers that they will not be transferred before two years. “The officers are responsible for their work, and if there is any dereliction, then disciplinary action can be taken against them. Still, if there was a need to transfer officers before two years, then civil services board were to be constituted and only on their recommendation were such transfers to take place. These boards were also supposed to tell whey the transfers were necessary,” Kasni said.
Evidently, the Haryana government didn’t follow through on their assurances. In fact, the Haryana government didn’t even bother telling him why was transferred on multiple occasions.