Punjab’s smart bureaucrats know how to beat the retirement blues. Two months and nine days before hitting the ripe age of 60, Jagpal Singh Sandhu, a 1983-batch Punjab-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, hurriedly shed the tag of additional chief secretary (home affairs and justice) on December 22. After walking out of his plush eighth-floor office in the imposing civil secretariat, he quietly took over as the Punjab state election commissioner — a post on a par with a high court judge, with perks and prestige fully protected for five years.
Sandhu is not alone. The number of babus the Parkash Singh Badal government has helped with guaranteed post-retirement terms is at least 30.
The government’s generosity is such that it has created ‘tailor-made’ posts. And majority of the ‘pet’ officers were parked in commissions and other bodies to ensure they keep enjoying power, perks like car and bungalow and service of a battery of peons and clerk.
The pro-babu push is such that the government has amended the Punjab School Education Board Act, 2016, to help IAS or PCS officers with 10-year service to become the board chairman.
The job may vary from a low-profile member in the governance reforms commission to a member of the NRI commission. Also, the post-retirement rehabilitation depends on the equations or how well the officer had served the political masters when in service.
The Punjab State Election Commission Act, 1994, says the state election commissioner will be either an officer of the rank of principal secretary/financial commissioner or a serving or retired high court judge. When Sandhu swiftly took over as the state election commissioner prior to his scheduled superannuation in February and succeeded SS Brar, a retired IAS officer who was close to the Badals when in service, he didn’t have to resign from the IAS.
For, the state law says: “A person who, immediately before the date of assuming office as the election commissioner, was in the service of the state government shall be deemed to have retired from that service on the date on which he assumes office as election commissioner and his service as election commissioner shall be reckoned as continuing service counting for pension in the service to which he belonged.”
Former chief secretary SC Agrawal was rehabilitated before superannuation as the chief commissioner of the Right to Service commission for five years. Similar was the case of former chief secretary RI Singh, who from his sixth-floor office in the secretariat drove straight to the RTI commission office as the chief information commissioner. He was succeeded by SS Channy, who had retired as the principal secretary, home.
- DS Bains (IAS): State electricity regulatory commission chairperson
- DS Kalha (IAS): Food commission chairperson
- Jagpal Singh Sandhu (IAS): State election commissioner
- SS Channy (IAS): Chief information commissioner
- SC Agrawal (ex-chief secretary): Right to Service chief commissioner
- RP Mittal (IPS): Right to Service commissioner
- RN Gupta (IAS): Reforms commission member
- JR Kundal (IAS): Reforms commission member
- Anil Sharma (ex-DGP): NRI commission member
Though the bureaucrats are known for hiding secrets, the posting in the RTI commission has been their first choice. Among other IAS officers who were given the task of ushering in the era of transparency as information commissioners are Parveen Kumar, Yashvir Mahajan (both still serving in the commission), Narinderjit Singh, BC Thakur and Satinder Pal Singh.
The Badal government didn’t even spare the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), the recruitment body.
When Narinder Sangha was serving as an officer on special duty to CM Badal, he took premature retirement to join the PPSC as member. Sukhwant Singh Sarao, who after retiring from the Punjab government joined the Akali Dal and fought 2012 assembly elections from Lehra segment, also made it to the PPSC as member — courtesy the Badals’ benevolence.