August 6, 2021 8:15:13 am
The Himachal Pradesh government Thursday appointed 1987-batch IAS officer Ram Subhag Singh as the chief secretary replacing Anil Kumar Khachi who was made the state election commissioner (SEC), prompting the opposition Congress to stage a walkout in the Assembly in protest while alleging that an “outsider” has been elevated to the top post.
As per notification issued by Secretary (Panchayati Raj) Sandeep Bhatnaghar, Khachi has been appointed the SEC with immediate effect. The post had been laying vacant since May. Khachi, a 1986-batch IAS officer, was appointed chief secretary in January 2020 and served on the post for one year and seven months.
In a separate notification, Additional Chief Secretary (Personnel) Probodh Saxena said that the state government has cleared voluntary retirement of Khachi with immediate effect on his request by relaxing the condition of three months’ prior notice. Khachi was due to retire in June 2023.
Ram Subhag Singh, who replaced Khachi, was the Additional Chief Secretary (Industries, Transport, Labour and Employment) before his elevation. He was also holding the charge of the post of Managing Director, Ropeways and Rapid Transport System Development Corporation. He will retire in July 2023.
Some Cabinet minister, especially Mahender Singh Thakur who holds the Jal Shakti portfolio, were not happy with Khachi who carries a reputation of being an honest officer who follows the rules. Chief Minister Jai Ram had initially opposed the move to remove him from the post before finally giving in.
Meanwhile, the Vidhan Sabha witnessed an uproar over the move with Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri saying a Himachal resident has been removed for appointing an “outsider” to the topmost administrative post, that too in the middle of an Assembly session. He also wanted a discussion on the issue. “The government must inform the House as to what were such compelling circumstances that Khachi was removed as Chief Secretary. The House has the right to know the reality,” Agnihotri said.
In response, CM Thakur said that was the prerogative of the state government to appoint the Chief Secretary. The state Assembly cannot decide who will be chief secretary and this matter cannot be discussed in the House, he added.
To this, Congress legislators made an uproar and started raising slogans.
Aginhotri said the CM had talked about Himachal and Himchaliyat while paying tributes to former CM Yashwant Singh Parmar on his 115th birth anniversary on Wednesday, but a day later he removed a state resident from the top administrative post to pave the way for an “outsider”.
He said the new chief secretary would be the sixth during the three and half year tenure of the current government. Agnihotri said that soon after taking charge, the BJP government had replaced VC Pharka, also a Himachal resident, from the post Chief Secretary. The government had then appointed Vineet Choudhry on the post, which later went to B K Aggarwal and then to Shrikant Baldi. Khachi had taken charge of the post after Baldi’s retirement.
“This government did not like the fact that a person from Himachal was the Chief Secretary,” Agnihotri said.
Agnihotri said that earlier in a Cabinet meeting there was a spat between the Jal Shakti minister and Khachi and “it seems that this might be the reason behind his ouster”. This led to heated exchange of words between Agnihotri and Cabinet ministers Bikram Singh Thakur and Mahender Singh Thakur.
Speaker Vipin Singh Parmar said he cannot allow the Congress to raise the issue as it is the prerogative of the state government to appoint the Chief Secretary and other officers, and not of the House.
To this, the Congress legislators staged a walkout in protest.
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