New Delhi: In May, an IAS couple was transferred from Delhi after they were reportedly found to be clearing a government sports facility of athletes to walk their dog. Two months on, ThePrint has learnt, the couple went on “long leave” within a few days of reporting to their new postings in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
Sanjeev Khirwar and Rinku Dhugga are both 1994-batch officers of the AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, and Union Territories) cadre. While Khirwar was transferred to Ladakh, Dhugga was posted to Arunachal Pradesh by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 26 May.
The transfer orders — which followed an Indian Express report on the couple allegedly getting Delhi’s Thyagraj stadium shut down early so they could walk their dog — were widely seen as punishment.
According to Khirwar’s “transfer and posting” order — a copy of which is with ThePrint — he was sent to Ladakh as principal secretary. He reported to duty on 4 July and was allocated three departments by the UT administration — school education, housing & urban development, and information technology — on 6 July, the order says.
However, he went on leave after serving for a “few days”, sources in the UT administration said, adding that his departments are now overseen by other officers.
“He has taken long leave. His leave was sanctioned by the Lieutenant Governor (Radha Krishna Mathur),” a top official in the Ladakh administration said. The official refused to give any more details of Khirwar’s leave, saying it was “personal”.
Dhugga joined duty in Arunachal Pradesh on 27 June and was appointed principal secretary, indigenous affairs, sources in the state government said.
A senior official in the state government said she proceeded on 70-days’ leave days after she joined.
“Her leave was granted by the chief minister himself,” the official added, on the condition of anonymity.
ThePrint reached Khirwar through texts with queries about his and Dhugga’s leave, but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
‘Unwilling officers assigned important departments’
A source in the central government said the IAS couple was on leave and not in Delhi when the transfer order came from the MHA. The couple took over a month to report to their assignments once they returned to Delhi, the source added.
By rule, an officer gets 15 days to report to duty from the day of the transfer order. Officers of the AGMUT cadre, who serve in ‘hard areas’, are entitled to get special incentives from the time they report.
The MHA transfer order came hours after the IE report was published. No inquiry was initiated before the orders were issued, sources in the Delhi government said.
“The MHA is the appropriate authority to take the decision about initiating an inquiry,” a Delhi government official said on the condition of anonymity.
A senior IAS officer said that transfer was the only option before the central government “to address the public outrage on social media”.
Former civil servants, however, say that transferring officials to places such as Arunachal and Ladakh as “punishment” is “damaging” to the image of these territories.
“Transferring can never be a punishment,” a senior IAS officer who retired as chief secretary said. “There are several other ways to fix accountability. This is a matter of policy too. These hard areas (in AGMUT cadre) need officers and their continuous presence. It would be good if the government considers this and sends willing officers to this region.”
T.R. Raghunandan, a retired IAS officer, said that it was “unfortunate” that areas such as Ladakh and Arunachal are being promoted as punishment postings, and that the government was reinforcing the idea of punishment transfers.
“The transfer order was brought to get a handle over the public outrage. It is a complete eyewash. And it’s very condescending for the people who live in these areas,” he said. “In the past, there used to be special requests from officers expressing their willingness to serve in the northeastern states or the difficult regions. They used to be sent there and they served with huge pride.”
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)