Three weeks after the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) was gutted in a massive fire, 18 of its 50 employees have been transferred to regional museums of natural history (RMNH) in various cities across India.
The transfer order had taken these employees — scientists, taxidermists, artists, educational assistants, lab assistants among others — by surprise. Many of them said they had lived in Delhi for years and didn’t want to leave the city.
The transfer order, issued on May 16, stated, “…All 18 of the officials of the NMNH are ordered with immediate effect and until further orders in the interest of public service… officials are relieved of their duties with effect from May 18, 2016 (afternoon) with instruction to report for duty to the head of office of the concerned RMNH.”
The letter was signed by NMNH administrative officer Vinod Kumar Garg. The officials have been transferred to regional museums in Mysore, Sawai Madhopur, Bhubaneswar and Bhopal.
“A few of us only have one or two years of service and we are settled in Delhi… how can the management just move from one place to another without even consulting us first,” said Ramesh Chander Lall, an artist who is due to retire in February 2018.
Some of them have written to the secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, requesting him to reverse the transfer orders.
One of the museum staffers taken aback by the transfer order is Vivek Chugh, who is hearing impaired. “Both me and my wife are physically challenged. We stay with our eight-year-old son and my parents. Because of our disability, we are dependent on my parents for our well-being,” stated Chugh in the letter. He said he has been working with the NMNH since 2002.
Another employee in a similar predicament is Nand lal, a senior exhibit preparator. “I have only seven months left of my service and now they are transferring me to Sawai Madhopur. I don’t understand the rationale behind picking only 18 out of 50 employees. On what grounds were we chosen for transfers,” he asked.
NMNH Director B Venugopal could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.