At 62, Panjab pollution board member secretary still hangs on to his post
This open-ended appointment is at the heart of the officer sticking to the post even after completing 62 years of age in May this year.punjab Updated: Jun 02, 2017 20:55 IST
In an apt case of ‘kissa kursi ka’, Dr Babu Ram, 62, member secretary of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), the key post that he has been holding since 2008, refuses to retire.
The order dated May 31, 2015, which the previous Parkash Singh Badal government had issued to retain him as the PPCB member secretary “in public interest and till further orders”, while referring to previous extensions given to him, does not specify till when Dr Ram will continue on this plum post.
This open-ended appointment is at the heart of the officer sticking to the post even after completing 62 years of age in May this year.
“I had retired in May 2015 as chief engineer and member secretary (from the PPCB). Now, I am not on a regular scale as member secretary, as I get last pay drawn minus pension,” Dr Ram said over phone to HT. “I have put in 41 years of service in the PPCB with utmost dedication and honesty. I have devoted my entire life to the PPCB. If the government appoints a new member secretary, his salary will be two times than what I draw at present.”
When contacted, secretary, science and technology and environment, AS Miglani said he was in a meeting.
APPOINTED IN 2008, GOT TWO EXTENSIONS
The senior most chief engineer of the PPCB is appointed as the member secretary. Dr Ram was elevated to this post in June 2008 by the previous Akali Dal-BJP government and was given extensions, according to official papers HT has accessed.
“…the Governor of Punjab is pleased to post Babu Ram, senior environmental engineer as member secretary of the PPCB...” reads the June 19, 2008, order. In May 2013, when he superannuated at the age of 58, the government as per the rules gave him an extension in service till May 2015 and till the age of 60 years. And a day before his two years extension was to end in May 2015, Badal, who held the portfolio of science and technology and environment, again appointed Dr Ram.
PPCB sources say Dr Ram is the longest serving member secretary, at least, in the recent past. His predecessors Birinderjit Singh held this post for nearly 19 months (October 2006-May 2008) and Malwinder Singh for nearly two years.
In neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, the member secretary — usually an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer — holds the post till the official age of retirement and not beyond 60 years of age.
In sharp contrast to extensions given to the officer in question, the PPCB in 2015 had stopped giving two-year extension in service to its employees and retires them at 58 years of age.
The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, says that a full-time member secretary, possessing qualifications, knowledge, control, is to be appointed by the state government. Leaving a lacunae, the Act does not mention till what age a person can hold this post.