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Officer who planned Khattar’s tours is Haryana’s pick as new HPSC chief

Alok Verma, who hails from Bihar’s Bhagalpur district, completes 56 years of age on October 24 and his tenure as HPSC chairman will come to end in 2026.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh | Updated: October 23, 2020 4:32:13 pm
Manohar Lal Khattar, Khattar government, Haryana transport department, transport department Haryana, India news, Indian ExpressHaryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar.

After serving as Haryana CM’s Aide-de-camp (Tour) during Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government’s first tenure in Haryana, the 1989-batch IFS officer, Alok Verma, has been selected as the new chairman of the Haryana Public Service Commission. He is likely to take oath for the constitutional post on Friday.

HPSC is responsible for recruitments of Group-A officers across the state government’s departments.

Alok Verma, who hails from Bihar’s Bhagalpur district, completes 56 years of age on October 24 and his tenure as HPSC chairman will come to end in 2026.

Earlier, the previous government too had appointed Verma against a cadre-post of an IAS officer on which Punjab and Haryana High Court had lambasted the then state government. It was in 2010, when Punjab and Haryana High Court had questioned Verma’s appointment as project director of Haryana School Shiksha Pariyojna Parishad by then CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Justice Rajesh Bindal, in February 2010, had raised a query on the appointment of an IFS officer to the cadre post in the education department that was usually taken by an IAS officer. The then Chief Secretary DS Dhesi, who has recently been appointed by Khattar as his Chief Principal Secretary by creating a new post, had not been able to justify Verma’s posting in education department despite filing four affidavits in the High Court at that time. Eventually, Verma was transferred out of the Education department.

This time, Verma will succeed 1983-batch IPS officer, Ranjit Kumar Pachnanda, who had served in various central forces including BSF, CRPF, CISF, SPG, CBI and ITBP, besides in West Bengal police and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Pachnanda was also appointed as Security Advisor to Assam CM before he took over as HPSC chairman in July, 2019. His tenure ended Thursday.

After making tour programmes of Khattar during the CM’s first tenure, Verma was posted as Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) and also appointed on a cadre post, Principal Secretary (Environment, Forest and Tourism).

It is learnt that Verma was tipped about his new assignment for which he applied for the voluntary retirement from his current postings and requested the government to approve his voluntary retirement with effect from October 22.

Opposition’s leaders, including Congress MLA B B Batra, who too had remained as HPSC chief slammed state government raising questions on Verma’s appointment as HPSC chief.

“On one hand, the BJP-JJP alliance talks about 75 per cent reservation in jobs for Haryanvis and they are recruiting an outsider as HPSC chief. Capable officers are being sidelined in front of those who have RSS connections,” Batra said.

Former CM and Leader of Opposition, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, said, “Ever since Haryana has come into existence, HPSC chairman has never been somebody out of Haryana. I am sure there are many capable officers who have their roots in Haryana. If Verma has served for 30 years in Haryana, so have many others also. Those persons should have been given a chance to serve as HPSC chairman. I do not hold anything against Alok Verma, but a person from Haryana who understands the culture, the language, the pulse of the state should have been preferred”.

Refuting the opposition’s concerns, Verma told The Indian Express, that he had been working in Haryana for the last 30 years.

“I have served in Haryana for 30 years. Haryana is my cadre. I would not like to comment on anything what opposition is saying,” Verma said.

He added, “Yes, I took VRS from my job and will be taking oath as HPSC chairman tomorrow”.

On the question of how many years he remained Khattar’s ADC (Tour), Verma said, “I do not remember the exact dates, but yes I stayed as ADC (Tour) for quite sometime”.

While Verma’s appointment on the coveted post has raised many eyebrows, several politicians and bureaucrats were involved in the intense lobbying for the last few weeks.

Two posts of Members, Haryana Public Service Commission are already lying vacant. There is a possibility that with Verma appointed as HPSC chairman, these two posts would also be filled soon.

After Pachnanda and now Verma, it is the second consecutive occasion when an officer will be heading HPSC. HPSC had earlier seen several retired IAS officers as its chief, but Pachnanda was the first retired IPS officer to head HPSC.

During Congress’ tenure Manbir Singh Bhadana, a close-aide of then CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda was appointed as HPSC chairman. When Khattar-led BJP came to power in Haryana in October 2014, Bhadana was not replaced and he completed his tenure in July, 2019.

Khattar’s recent move of creating a new post of Chief Principal Secretary and appointing former chief secretary DS Dhesi had also led to heartburn in the bureaucratic circles. Dhesi, who was serving as Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission’s chairman too resigned from his post before his tenure came to an end and was appointed in the Haryana CM’s office as Khattar’s Chief Principal Secretary.

Lobbying is also going on to take the post of HERC chairman vacated by Dhesi. Several applications have already reached the search committee constituted for another coveted post of Haryana Right to Service Commission’s chairperson. The search committee, which is headed by Chief Secretary Vijai Vardhan, is yet to recommend the suitable candidate for the post of Right to Service Commission’s chief.

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