In minister versus bureaucrat, the politician takes the game, as the officer is moved to a "better" assignment.
Punjab's director general school education (DGSE) Kahan Singh Pannu, who is also project director of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), Centre's universal education programme, was on Monday transferred as agriculture secretary after more than a month of tussle with education minister Sikandar Singh Maluka over the alleged misuse of the SSA funds.
Pannu, who had proceeded on "protest" leave of absence for two weeks, would join his new posting as secretary, agriculture, on Tuesday to work on the team of financial commissioner (development) Suresh Kumar.
On Sunday, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who also holds the agriculture portfolio, had called Pannu to tell him he would be passed "a better assignment", sources here have said.
Principal secretary Anjali Bhawra continues to hold the additional charge of the DGSE until further orders of the chief secretary. She has a massive task ahead, of preparing and sending a detailed explanatory reply to the union ministry of human resource development, which has three key questions related to the much-talked-about book scam.
The issues on which the state will reply include the minister's constituting a committee bypassing the DGSE (Pannu) for the purchase of school-library books; centralising the purchase of library books against the norms (local school committees are supposed to float quotations to procure the books locally); and assigning a "hand-picked" trader for the supply of books to schools across the state.
The education minister, who looked calm in virtually waiting for the chief secretary's orders for Pannu's transfer or removal, confirmed that the state government had received the Centre's report and the education department was preparing the reply. "All is well, I met the CM today (Monday), but we didn't talk on the issue," he stated, when asked whether he had spoken with the CM on Pannu's removal.
It was on Pannu's recommendation in his dissent note that the principal secretary had suspended the three officials of the committee that the minister had constituted. Pannu had also recommended a through inquiry into the matter, in which Rs. 39 lakh had been paid already to the trader for the supply of books.
The Centre's report has also pinned down Pannu for issuing statewide orders to the schools to procure the library books from the language department. Pannu had got the feelers already that he could be transferred, as the chief secretary had handed over the DGSE's charge to the principal secretary "till further orders" during Pannu's leave period.
A year ago, Pannu took over as DGSE from Ashok Singla when the state's success in the implementing the SSA had dipped to 60%. The recent annual plan report has marked the achievement for the year 2013-14 at 80%. The figure had crossed 95% four years ago during the tenure of IAS officer Krishna Kumar, who is now with the union government.
Pannu has also been at loggerheads with SSA additional project director Parampal Kaur, daughter-in-law of the education minister, whom Maluka had roped from her parent department of rural development and panchayats, where she worked as district development and panchayat officer.