When Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, elected on the anti-corruption plank, drew up a list of officers he wanted in his core team six months ago, he handpicked Sanjiv Chaturvedi, who had just been removed from the post of chief vigilance officer of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), for the job of officer on special duty (OSD) to send a “big message”.
Though Kejriwal has been pushing the ‘whistleblower’ officer’s case, the deputation proposal of Chaturvedi, a 2002-batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer of Haryana cadre, is still stuck in the union health ministry and AIIMS, where he had also exposed a scam. But then nothing has come easily for the upright officer, who is locked in a legal tussle with the Narendra Modi government for allegedly “obstructing” his request for change of cadre, in his 13-year-long bureaucratic career.
Before he moved to the Centre on deputation in mid-2012 and long before his relentless fight against corruption was widely recognised, the fearless forest officer, who draws extreme reactions from bureaucrats, politicians and scribes, had to wage prolonged battles against his frequent transfers, central deputation and trumped-up charges in Haryana, a state from where he is seeking change of cadre to Chhattisgarh. His travails had begun soon after he blew the whistle on a number of irregularities in the corruption-swamped forest department, upsetting a powerful bureaucrat-politician nexus in the state without caring about their might.
Took on vested interests
Chaturvedi made first impact as the divisional forest officer in Kurukshetra in 2005-06 when he started taking action against influential persons for illegal poaching of rare birds and animals. Later, he halted felling of trees and digging of a canal by private contractors in the protected Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary without permission. The officer’s action infuriated the state top brass and he was shunted out.
His next posting was Fatehabad where he detected irregularities and stopped use of public funds in an herbal park being established on private land allegedly belonging to relatives of a close associate of an influential minister in the Congress government. The state government placed the officer under suspension in August 2007 and then chargesheeted him.
Harrowing times in Haryana
Chaturvedi, who does not flinch from facing the repercussions for his actions, was determined to fight against what he perceived as “gross injustice”. He dug out documents under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and petitioned the Union forest ministry as well as the cabinet secretariat. The Centre, through a Presidential order, reversed his suspension, calling the grounds cited for action against him as unjustified.
While he continued to expose misuse of funds and irregularities in the implementation of tree plantation schemes in Hisar and Jhajjar, his troubles did not end. He was kept without posting for months, posted in a non-cadre post and then chargesheeted once again. The state authorities were embarrassed as the Centre intervened two more times to overturn their orders, including the chargesheet.
The IFS officer saw 12 transfers in seven years, but he kept fighting for a CBI inquiry into forest scams in the state. When Chaturvedi wanted to go to the Centre on deputation in 2012, the Hooda government first kept his request pending for months and then forwarded it, making adverse remarks against him. The officer was accused of embarrassing the government by painting the forest department as a “den of corruption”.
When he was picked up by the then UPA government for posting in AIIMS, the state authorities kept delaying his relieving. During his stint in Haryana, Chaturvedi also faced a case of abetting suicide when forest range officer Sanjiv Tomar was found dead at his house in Jhajjar on December 14, 2009, and his father accused the IFS officer of harassing his son. While the officer was cleared in an inquiry, the matter keeps cropping up from time to time.
Before being selected for the Ramon Magsaysay Award, 2015, Chaturvedi had received the Manjunath Shanmugam Integrity Award in 2009 for the grit and determination he showed while fighting to the save the wildlife sanctuary. He was also honoured by Public Cause Research Foundation of Arvind Kejriwal for his contribution to society through the use of RTI.
Chaturvedi’s 5 face-offs with the Centre and Haryana govt
Requested change of cadre from Haryana, where he faced “harassment”, to Uttarakhand, but the Centre is dilly-dallying
Took on AIIMS and health ministry for trying to nullify his annual performance appraisal report and directing him to rewrite it
Removal from the post CVO of AIIMS where he had unearthed several cases of financial irregularities
Use of of public funds for a herbal park being developed on private land belonging to influential people in Fatehabad
Illegal felling of trees and digging of a canal by private contractors through Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary in Kurukshetra