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Why the ‘transfer-season’ gives anxiety to some people in Mantralaya?

Departments that see hectic transfer activities every season are home (police), revenue, public works, irrigation and rural development.

mumbai Updated: Feb 13, 2018 01:16 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Mantralaya,Mumbai,Maharashtra government
Departments that see hectic transfer activities every season are home (police), revenue, public works, irrigation and rural development.(FILE)

As the summer season is just a few weeks away, there is spurt in activities in Mantralaya, the state secretariat.

It is about the transfers, especially of middle and lower level field staff in various key departments. Majority of transfers in the state administration are conducted during April-May every year. Several senior officers and even some ministers dread this period because of the kind of pressure they have to face from elected representatives and several other politicians to get people of their choice appointed in key posts.

Departments that see hectic transfer activities every season are home (police), revenue, public works, irrigation and rural development.

Not all transfers are done with certain motives but at the same time, nobody can deny that a significant number of transfers or appointments are made under political pressure.

Several elected representatives insist on appointment of officers of their choice as inspectors in charge of police stations in their area, local level revenue officers, PWD and irrigation engineers and key officers in zilla parishad (district council). In cities, netas take extreme interest in appointments of state government officers on deputation to municipal bodies. It is the ministers and secretaries in charge who have to handle this pressure and decide on transfers.

In theory, elected representatives insist on getting efficient officers in their constituencies. In practice, these transfers form the every basis of politician-bureaucrats nexus for lot of things: engineers of irrigation or PWD handle projects worth crores and select the contractors for the same. Zilla parishad officers implement various government schemes for rural areas. Revenue officers play important role in land matters. Local politicians always prefer that the police in their area are under their influence.

Over the years, the transfers and appointments of government staff have become a major activity in the government especially during the summer months. If asked, several ministers show journalists the fat bunch of recommendation letters they receive from fellow politicians seeking appointment of particular officers in particular posts. The ministers who want to run the departments as per their plans find themselves in a dilemma as they cannot easily reject the local elected representatives or colleague from the party.

This was worse during 1999 to 2004 when the government did not have majority but later when the ruling combines did not have to rely on wafer thin majority, the `transfer industry’ continued to thrive.

Significantly, following agitation by anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, then Congress-NCP government enacted a law, Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfer and Prevention of Delays in Discharge of Official Duties Act 2005, making it mandatory that a government staffer should have three year-long tenure at a particular post. However, there are some loopholes that are used to get the transfers done to bypass the provisions of the law. “The most common loophole cited is transfer for `administrative reasons’ which can be anything. At times, it becomes difficult for us to retain some efficient officers in key posts,”says a top senior officer.

It doesn’t matter which party or parties are in power, certain things don’t change. Even if the person at the top wants to introduce discipline, it is not necessary that others will follow him. After he took over, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis delegated powers to transfer officers of certain levels to the ministers in charge of various departments. That may have reduced the number of elected representatives crowding his office to recommend transfers and appointments but the crowd is now diverted to ministers’ offices. This has become headache for some ministers though everyone is not complaining.

Probably, it is not easy to put an end to something when a lot is at stake.

First Published: Feb 13, 2018 01:16 IST