By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 25 Jun: Ongoing confrontation between Food Minister, Rekha Arya and Food Commissioner and Secretary Food & Civil Supplies, Sachin Kurve is just one of similar cases to make news. In this case, both the minister and her Departmental Secretary seem to be on warpath, over transfers of some District Supply Officers. While the confrontation between the ministers and bureaucrats is nothing new in Uttarakhand or for that matter in most states, every time there is such a development, the top leadership has failed to resolve the issues with any finality. Of course, in such cases, ultimately, it is the minister’s will that prevails usually. Interestingly, such confrontations do happen in Uttarakhand despite the common perception of a strong nexus between the politicians and the bureaucrats and despite another common perception that in Uttarakhand it is the bureaucracy that dominates. This indicates basically a deeper level malaise in the system and a strong need for reforms.
However, as far as the current case of conflict is concerned, the tussle is in respect of the transfer of 6 District Supply Officers (DSOs). The transfer orders were issued by Kurve allegedly without consulting the minister. These transfer orders were issued by Kurve in the capacity of Food Commissioner. While Rekha Arya has taken a very strong objection to the transfers without her approval, she has also claimed that the transfers were in violation of rules of business. She then ordered cancellation of the transfers but the Secretary has not cancelled the transfers. In fact, in response to a harsh letter written by Arya to Kurve, he too has sent a terse reply to the minister. In his response, Kurve has sought to explain that as per the Rule 21 Transfer of Public Servants Act of 2017, the authority to transfer Class two officers rested with the Commissioner and not with the minister. He added that he had exercised the powers granted to him in the capacity as Food Commissioner to order transfer of the 6 DSOs. Kurve had further pointed out that a Permanent Transfer Committee in the department had been constituted in the year 2018 and based on its recommendations only, he as the Commissioner had approved the transfers on 28 April, 2022. He had further stated in clear terms that the transfer orders could not be revoked as this would create chaos in the department.
Of course before this exchange of correspondence between the two, Arya had already registered a complaint against Kurve with Chief Secretary Dr SS Sandhu, who is learnt to have summoned Kurve to resolve the issue. While the Chief Minister has taken cognisance of the case, he has chosen not to state anything publicly in this regard.
Sources claim that Arya was particularly miffed with the Secretary over transfer order of KK Aggarwal, who seemed to enjoy her backing. It will be pertinent to point out here that sources claim that KK Aggarwal, currently posted as DSO Haridwar has been posted in district Haridwar for a long time now and has seen several promotions while remaining in Haridwar only. Kurve has transferred him to Rudrprayag and this has angered the minister. Prima Facie, Kurve seems to be justified in ordering Aggarwal’s transfer out of his favourite district Haridwar and the minister’s objection seems rather an undue interference in a case of transfers of class two officer. As the Minister has alleged that transfers were ordered without her approval and consultation, it needs to be reminded here that the issue of transfers of officials is considered to be a murky affair and often involves transaction of huge sums of money for the politicians as well as some senior bureaucrats. Now, whether there was any vested interest behind objection raised by the minister over the transfers and in particular over transfer of KK Aggarwal as has been claimed by the sources, or there was any other reason behind the transfer orders is a matter of investigation. In some cases in Uttarakhand, some transfers have been ordered directly on the directions of the CM without consultation with the ministers and have resulted in confrontation between the minister in charge of that department and the bureaucrat in charge of that department!
One would be reminded of a regular confrontation between the then Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat and the then PCCF and the then Principal Secretary Forests. Rawat had alleged while he was a minister in the then Trivendra Singh Rawat Government of being bypassed in the decisions of the Forest Department.
Now Forest Minister Subodh Uniyal has openly expressed his support for Arya and has warned the bureaucrats to remember their ‘limits’. Of course, there needs to be a balance and probably it would have been better if Kurve had spoken to the minister before issuing the transfer orders to avoid this kind of confrontation, but it could have led to pressurising by the minister to cancel the transfer of certain favoured DSOs. One would recall that Minister Rekha Arya has been in news over such issues in the past too. She had made a huge issue with an Additional Secretary too while being a minister in the then Trivendra Singh Rawat Government who had urged the government to transfer him out then.