The whispers in the corridors of power about the "politics of transfers" reverberated loud and clear in the Himachal Pradesh assembly on Friday.
Drawing a parallel between toffees and transfers, former two-time chief minister and BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal said transfer notes in the state education department were being issued freely to favourites.
Transfers have always being an issue with the employees in the hill state due to geographical conditions, with "favourites trying to grab postings" in towns leaving remote areas for the "less privileged".
The state government has no less than 300,000 employees with a substantial number in the education department.
Initiating a debate on the motion of thanks to the governor's address, leader of opposition Dhumal said the transfer notes "are being distributed like toffees".
"On an average 50 DOs (demi-officials) are being issued every day relating to transfer of teachers. Why are you executing so many transfers, especially in the mid of the session," he said.
Expressing concern over the deteriorating education system, he said: How will the standard of education improve, especially when so many transfers are being carried out?
He said certain leaders were allegedly involved in executing the transfers.
Agitated over the allegation, chief minister Virbhadra Singh intervened and said: "If you have any information, you can provide me secretly."
Dhumal said there are 1,117 schools in the state where there is only one teacher. "But in my Hamirpur constituency there is a school in which there are 17 students and seven teachers. Why have so many teachers been posted in one school?"
Concerned over the declining standards of education at the primary and elementary levels, Dhumal said a majority of Class 5 and 6 students in the government schools are not even able to comprehend textbooks meant for students of Class 1.
Dhumal thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for liberal grants to the hill state as recommended by the 14th Finance Commission.
"We are thankful to Modi and government of India for accepting the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. The state will get Rs.75,000 crore in the next five years," he said.
Intervening during the debate, the chief minister said the credit for getting the grants from the central government went to the state government and not to the opposition BJP.
He blamed the previous BJP government headed by Dhumal for underestimation of committed liabilities by the 13th Finance Commission. This, he said, had resulted in the grim financial position of the state.
The chief minister will reply to the debate on the motion of thanks on March 17.