PUDA law officer’s appointment as OSD to local bodies minister sparks row
The Punjab local bodies department’s decision, in the middle of the covid-19 pandemic, to appoint Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) senior law officer Abhijit Kumar, on deputation, in the state water supply and sewerage board has sparked a row. Sources claimed that the move was aimed to ensure that Kumar, already working as an officer on special duty (OSD) to the local bodies minister Brahm Mohindra since June 2019, can get his pending salary for the past eight months. PUDA had refused to pay the salary, saying Kumar had gone on deputation on his own.
“As per norms, an OSD is appointed with the minister and not with department. PUDA, Kumar’s parent department, refused to pay his salary, saying that he had gone on deputation on his own. Now, without calling any applications from the department and without finance department permission, the local bodies secretary has issued fresh orders appointing Abhijit as senior law officer at sewerage board, which is against rules,” said a source, adding, “He will continue to work as OSD, all this has been done to draw his salary against the post of the law officer.” The source added that Kumar had not even completed his probation period as senior law officer, thus he can’t be taken on same post.
Kumar, a resident of Patiala, is a voter of constituency of Mohindra, and is considered close to him.
On January 10, 2020, PUDA chief administrator Dharampal Gupta had even withdrawn Kumar’s deputation with Mohindra by saying, “His services are needed in PUDA.” Mohindra took up the matter with PUDA minister in-charge Sukh Sarkaria, who restored Kumar as OSD to the minister, but still did not allow salary from PUDA.
The first order for Kumar’s appointment as OSD was issued by the then local bodies secretary A Venu Prasad on June 14, 2019. In July, Mohindra had written a demi-official letter to Sarkaria, seeking that Kumar’s salary be charged from a vacant post of law officer at Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority. PUDA, however, did not accede to this.
When contacted, Kumar admitted that PUDA had once cancelled his appointment as OSD and that his salary had not been released. “Yes, the cancellation orders were issued in January. I didn’t join back as such orders were not conveyed to me. Later, the order was withdrawn,” he added.
On his appointment on deputation in the sewerage board, he said “I am not authorised to comment.”
Local government secretary-cum-chief executive officer (CEO) of the sewerage board Ajoy Kumar Sharma said, “Yes, the local government department has issued orders to appoint Abhijit Kumar as senior law officer on deputation. We will put it up before the next meeting of the board for approval.” On pointed queries on ambiguities related to the appointment, Sharma said, “I am just following orders that the local bodies department has issued.” Additional chief secretary Sanjay Kumar could not be contacted for comments.