Not a whistleblower, just doing my duty: Khemka
With the Robert Vadra land deals causing an uproar in Parliament, Ashok Khemka, the IAS officer who cancelled the mutation of the 3.5 acres of land in question, is currently the man of the hour. HT talked to a cautious and combative Khemka who has kicked up a political storm. Robert Vadra's business empireindia Updated: Aug 14, 2013 12:52 IST
Ashok Khemka is making headlines again.
In his recent 100-page report, the 1991-batch Haryana IAS officer not only stood his ground on his charges of "sham transactions" against Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in the Vadra-DLF land deal, but he has also obliquely accused chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda of practicing crony capitalism.
His latest bombshell sparked off a political storm that rocked Parliament on Tuesday.
Yet, Khemka, now posted in an insignificant position as secretary of the state archives, puts up a remarkably unfazed demeanour.
In an interview with Hindustan Times at his Chandigarh office, Khemka was cautious and combative while answering a range of questions:
HT: When you went about cancelling the mutation of the Vadra-DLF deal of 3.5 acres in Gurgaon, did you expect a backlash?
Khemka: I didn't expect to be garlanded for whatever I had done. Holy Gita speaks about nishkaam karya (selfless service). You have to do your duty without fear and favour and dispassionately. I do my duty with the philosophy of the Gita.
HT: But did you expect this kind of a response? Are you worried about consequences?
Khemka: I do not expect anything, and I am not worried.
HT: But after your exposure you suddenly went public saying I have nothing against Robert Vadra
Khemka: I have nothing against anybody. I am just doing my duty. If I don't do my duty, it is dereliction of duty; it is a misconduct of omission and betrayal of public trust. It is not a question of friendship or enmity. A referee is supposed to blow the whistle when there is a foul or a goal.
HT: So you are a whistle blower in this case?
Khemka: No. I am not a whistle blower. That's a dirty word to use. I am just doing my duty.
HT: Are you worried with what's happening?
Khemka: So much of pressure is being applied. After all, I am human. Don't think that I am super God.
HT: Have you received some threats?
Khemka: I would not like to comment on that now.
HT: You have said your efforts to procure documents/files pertaining to grant, renewal and transfer of licenses to the companies of Robert Vadra, including Skylight Hospitality; ownership of M/s Onkareshwar Properties, all cases concerning transfer of licenses in the past 10 years etc were stonewalled by Haryana govt. What is your locus standi in seeking this information?
Khemka: Please read the report. All the information is given there. I would not like to comment. It's not fair for me at this stage to say anything about my response when I know it is being debated in Parliament.
HT: But this was not the issue you were dealing with when you were director-general, Consolidation of Holdings/ DLR/ IGR?
Khemka: That's your interpretation. I think you know more than I know about my job. You are free to draw your own conclusions.
HT: But the three member government committee has said in its findings that you did not have the jurisdiction.
Khemka: Let the committee or the government pose those questions to me. They will be answered too.
HT: But they have posed those questions to you in their report
Khemka: I have answered them in my 105 page response with annexures. Let the government respond to it.
HT: But if you were not given any records, how is your response fool proof
Khemka: That's for you to interpret.
HT: Was it difficult to compile the response since you did not have access to records
Khemka: It was very difficult. I would have done a better job if I had access to records.
HT: You have gone off the tangent in your response, leveling allegations against your bureaucratic colleagues and even making a reference to the chief minister. How do you justify this?
Khemka: It is all contained in my response. It may be read and interpreted accordingly.
HT: What was required from you was a reply to the fundamental issues inquired by the committee. Haven't you gone beyond the brief?
Khemka: That's for the reader to interpret. Please go through the letters addressed against my transfers on October 12, 2012. You are free to interpret in your own way.
You are being accusatory. It is for the government to read the report and come out with its conclusions.
My response is under the state government's consideration. In case any objection or clarifications are to be made, they can address a letter again and it shall be replied to.
It is not for me to comment on the response which has been submitted to the state government.
HT: Who will finally decide who is right? The government has not agreed with your contention.
Khemka: Government's action is to be taken by the government. I can't make the government decide in a particular way.
HT: But if there is any difference of opinion with regard to interpretation of law who will decide?
Khemka: I won't make any comment regarding my response to the report of the three member committee.
HT: So what next now?
Khemka: How can I hypothesize? The ball is outside my court. I have submitted my response to the government.