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Friday, September 24, 2021

Karnal violence: Why SDM’s transfer looks like a promotion, not punishment

Sources told The Indian Express that to move Sinha out of Karnal, the state government upgraded his rank to additional secretary.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh |
Updated: September 7, 2021 9:14:26 am
Karnal SDM’s transfer, Ayush sinha, Farmer protests, farm laws, Haryana Police, Karnal lathicharge, farm bill, Haryana Karnal SDM’s transfer news, express explained, indian expressPolice personnel lathicharge protesters in Karnal on Saturday. (Express Photo)

The Haryana government, Wednesday, transferred 2018-batch IAS officer Ayush Sinha, who was posted as sub-divisional magistrate in Karnal and was caught on camera instructing policemen to “break heads” of farmers during a protest, to the state headquarters in Chandigarh in the rank of Additional Secretary. While the government didn’t give a reason, The Indian Express explains if the transfer is a routine one or could actually be construed as a “punishment posting”.

What did the government do to the officer?

Sinha’s name figured in a list of 20 IAS officers in a late routine transfer order issued late on September 1. Sinha was transferred out of Karnal and posted as Additional Secretary to Government of Haryana in the Citizen Resources Information Department (CRID) – a pet-project of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar – against a “vacant post”.

Why it does not look like a punishment posting, as is being claimed in official circles?

The 2018-batch of IAS officers in Haryana is due for promotion after completion of four years in January 2022. Haryana has four such officers, including Sinha. Sources told The Indian Express that to move Sinha out of Karnal, the state government upgraded his rank to additional secretary. Since, only his rank could not have been upgraded, the ranks of other three 2018-batch officers too were upgraded – Akhil Pilani was posted as Additional Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Citizen Resources Information Officer, Kurukshetra; Aparajita as Additional Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Faridabad and Sachin Gupta as Additional Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Citizen Resources Information Officer, Mahendragarh and ADC-cum-District Citizen Resources Information Officer, Rewari. However, in another modification of the transfer order, Gupta was on Thursday posted as Chief Executive Officer, Shivalik Development Agency (Ambala) and Estate Officer for Management of Government Land in Excised Area (Ambala Cantt) and Administrator, Municipal Council (Ambala Sadar). The officers of the 2018-batch, currently in the junior-time scale, would not get a senior-time scale till January 2022, but have got the benefit of higher rank even though they are yet to complete the mandatory four-year tenure. It is mandatory for an IAS officer to complete four years of service to achieve a senior-time scale and also the equivalent rank.

Mahindra Singh of Barauta village was among the many who were injured.

Why is government calling it a ‘punishment’?

Senior officers in the government have termed Sinha’s transfer as a “punishment”. “There is no problem in upgradation of ranks, which can be done even if an IAS officer has not completed four years of service. It is rather a punishment only for the officer (Sinha). His three batchmates have got the ranks of Additional Deputy Commissioner. Had he also not been under scanner, he too would have got the same rank, but he has been brought to the headquarters in the rank of Additional Secretary,” a senior officer told The Indian Express.

The officer said a petition has been filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and another complaint has been moved in the National Human Rights Commission. “The officer would have to defend himself at both these places,” the officer added.

Another officer said, “It is just like a police officer is transferred out of the public dealing post to the police lines, which in common parlance is called “Line Hazir”. For such a young officer, it is not good to be attached to the headquarters in his initial years of service”.

What is the controversy involving the IAS officer?

On August 28, the BJP leaders had planned an internal party meeting at a hotel in Karnal city. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, state president OP Dhankar, general secretary Ravindra Raju, several MPs, MLAs and district presidents of the party were to attend the meeting to discuss strategy for the upcoming panchayat polls. Farmers, agitating against the three central agri laws enacted last year, had decided to stage a protest against the BJP leaders. About 15 kms away from the meeting venue, at Bastara toll plaza, police lathicharged the farmers when they tried to move towards the meeting venue. In the 15 kms, there were three check posts. Sinha was posted at the final check post near the meeting venue. He was caught on video briefing a bunch of police personnel. In the clip, which has since themn been shared multiple times on social media, Sinha was purportedly heard instructing the policemen: “Utha-utha ke maarna peeche sabko (hit them hard). We shall not allow this cordon to be breached. We have enough force available. Mere paas ek bhi banda nikal ke nahin aana chahiye. Agar aaye toh sar foota hua hona chahiye uska. Clear hai aapko (No one should break the cordon and reach me. If someone does, make sure he has a broken head. Hope this is clear).”

The officer, however, claims that the video clip was doctored and only a particular portion was leaked He claimed that no lathicharge took place at the naka where he was posted and where he was caught on camera briefing the police personnel.

What has the government done so far in the case?

Chief Secretary Vijai Vardhan has sought a detailed report from the Karnal Deputy Commissioner NK Yadav regarding the August 28 incident. Once the report is in, the government will analyse it and decide further course of action.

Police lathi-charge protesters to break-up the stir at Bastara toll plaza, Karnal. (Express Photo)

Are the farmers happy with the government action?

It does not look like so. Farmer unions are demanding that officer be dismissed from service or at least suspended. They are also demanding that a murder case be registered against the officer as several farmers had sustained severe injuries in the lathicharge, while one farmer Sushil Kajal died subsequently. While Sushil’s family claims he died due to injuries sustained in lathicharge, police say the cause of death was “heart attack”. Farmers have already given a call for a protest outside the district administration offices in Karnal on September 6, if no substantial action is taken against Sinha and police personnel responsible for lathicharge.

How is this controversy affecting the BJP in Haryana?

Karnal is CM Khattar’s constituency. Earlier, farmers protested against his event in Kaimla village of the district in January this year and did not let his helicopter land at the designated helipad. Police had used tear gas to disperse the mob. Several farmers and police personnel sustained injuries. This time, police resorted to lathicharge to prevent farmers from protesting outside the venue where BJP’s meeting was going on. If farmers gherao the district administration offices in Karnal on September 6 and another confrontation takes place, it will impact Khattar’s popularity in his own constituency. “If the CM’s own constituency becomes the epicentre of protests, it definitely is not a good sign not only for the CM but also for the party,” a senior BJP leader said.

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