Monday, July 17, 2017

Commentary: Transfer of officials as political weapon

Actually, the term ‘whistleblower’ used in the heading would be a misnomer in the present context. A whistleblower is generally a third or fourth party not directly concerned or with a direct stake in a governance process who acts out of the urgings of the conscience. D. Roopa, an official from the Prisons Department of Karnataka who was transferred days after reporting murky goings on at the Karnataka prison, and more specifically on the bribes allegedly paid by Sasikala, the Tamilnadu leader to make her stay comfortable at the Central Prison, Bangalore probably saw it as part of her routine job to report the shady dealings at the prison. Instead of acknowledging the good work the government of Karnataka decided to transfer her out of her posting and be rid of the nuisance. This is not unusual at all and in fact may be one of the routines followed by the state and the central government. There have been too many cases in the past of honest officials being perpetually on the move from one posting to another. It does not take much imagination to see what it means for the official concerned and her family and friends – it is indeed a severe form of punishment comparable to suspension or dismissal. The message behind these transfers is of course ‘mend your ways or be ready to live a nomadic life’.

This report dwells at length on some such cases.  As R. Sri Kumar, former Vigilance Commissioner of the country and retired IPS officer from the State quoted in the report says ‘Transfers are being used as a punishment to silence officials. As per the present Act, whistle-blowers need to seek protection under the Act at the outset itself. This needs to be amended to help officials seek protection from transfers and other such action.’ The Indian political system thus tries to ensure that more and more honest officials are flushed out of the system or made ineffectual and the compliant officials fill up the vacuum. 

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