(The following may be read as Part II of the earlier Article titled ‘For efficient transaction of ESI Corporation’s business’. This forms part of the Note to be submitted to the Sub-Committee constituted on 19.09.2013)
A transparent Transfer Policy is one that is made applicable universally to all the officers. But, the non-introduction of such a policy facilitated the persons in power to take over the entire organization to sub-serve their personal interests by transferring just a few officers, now and then, at any time, whimsically and, thereby, sending a veiled but apparent, constant and unmistakable threat to the other officers that they would also face the same fate, if so desired by those persons in power. The ESIC Officers’ Federation had been demanding for long a comprehensive Transfer Policy as there were many ‘Pressure Groups’ functioning and the issue of transfers remained a ‘vexed one’.
Minister saw through the bureaucrats
The commencement of this century saw a period of turmoil in the matter of transfers in the ESI Corporation. 2003 and 2004 was the period when the then Minister for Labour was compelling the Administration of the ESI Corporation to make transfers of officers of Group A and Group B with his approval. He was of the opinion that when the top-level bureaucrats of the ESIC could transfer the subordinate officers without following any policy, he should also have a role to play. He was clever enough to see through the justification given by those bureaucrats that they were adopting the policy of “Need-based transfers”, an euphemism to justify whimsical orders. Whose need was served by those transfers was the question that went unanswered. It was in such a situation, the new Director General attempted to bring some order in the matter of transfer of officers. He formulated a transfer policy in the year 2003 and conveyed it to the ESI Officers’ Federation to enable the latter to explain its stand. The following was the reply sent by the Federation to the Director General and circulated among the officers for their information:
Volte face by the Federation
This letter was totally in contradiction of its stand on various occasions that the ESI Corporation must formulate and enforce a proper transfer policy to avoid “pressure groups”, as stated by it. What the Federation had displayed through its letter dated 28.1.2004 was that it lacked the sense of responsibility not only towards the organisation but also towards the nation. What the Federation had overlooked to see was that the persons in power, by transferring, according to their whims and fancies, a minority of officers sent a very strong message to the majority also that any one of them could, at any time, become part of that minority, if one did not display one’s loyalty to those who happened to occupy the positions of power.
But, the Officers’ Federation did not care. It had refused to see that the past practice defied the principles of Rule of Law. It had refused to go through its own demands in the past. It did not want to refer to its own Minutes. The stand of the Federation showed that it did not insist on all its members being treated as equals by the Administration. All its members joined the organization with the absolute prior knowledge and clear understanding that the posts in which they joined carried all India transfer liability. But, the stand of the Federation showed that after joining the organization with a promise, they developed an organised strategy and tendency to renege from the transfer liability voluntarily undertaken by them to benefit only themselves and not the society. But, in the end, the absence of transfer policy did not facilitate all the officers represented by the Federation. It benefited only those who were the office-bearers in the Federation and those considered closer to them. How to become closer to them was known only to a few.
Because of the actions and inactions of the Federation in the years 2003 and 2004, the Transfer Policy introduced on 29.5.2003 could not be enforced. There was a lot of political interference and the ‘full power’ legally vested in the Director General was attempted to be curbed and taken away by the Ministry of Labour during the years 2003 and 2004, in spite of the fact that the ESI Corporation was an autonomous body and that it was only the Director General who was accountable for the performance of the organization, his being the Head of Department, the Appointing Authority, the Disciplinary Authority for officers and the Chief Executive Officer of the ESI Corporation.
Light came at the end of the tunnel
However, the situation changed dramatically when Shri K.Chandrasekhar Rao, former Minister for Labour & Employment, became the Chairman of the ESI Corporation. He came to know all the on-goings, got disenchanted with the machinations of the Ministry of Labour and the manipulative tendency of the Officers Federation. He declared openly, in the meeting of the ESI Corporation held on 27.2.2005, that there would be no interference with the powers vested in the Director General. He had, thus, ensured that the Director General exercised the powers of transfer as vested in him already in the capacity of the Chief Executive Officer, Head of Department and Appointing Authority, and as per the proclaimed Transfer Policy. This was recorded in the Minutes. Consequently, a transparent Transfer Policy came into existence and force on 17.3.2005. Subsequently, the next Director General had also found the merits of enforcing transfers as per the Transfer Policy. He made further efforts and enlarged the concept. He introduced, a Transfer Policy for Inspectors too, for the first time, in the year 2006.
Transfers in respect of Group ‘A’ officers were, thereafter, made from the year 2005 onwards as per the policy dated 17.3.2005.
But, all of a sudden the said Transfer Policy has not been shelved frm the year 2007 onwards. The transfers and postings have, largely, been made in an arbitrary manner again.
Public interest lost sight of
The letter dated 14.11.2008 of Administration Division would testify to the fact that public interest had taken back-seat in the matter of transfers and postings in the ESI Corporation. This letter was issued and circulated among the officers community to motivate them to discharge their work better. The letter said that the officers have been accommodated in their places of their choice even where there was no vacancy. The Transfer Policy enforced from 17.3.2005 has been quietly buried and was to be forgotten, in spite of its being part of the Manual of Administration published by the ESI Corporation.
So much power, wielded by subordinate officers
This letter provides clear evidence that the placement of the officers depended not upon the workload at a particular place but upon the pleasure of the officer in charge of the Administration who occupied the post in which his duty was to submit the facts to the Director General. Placement of officers had, thus, been made a ‘privilege’ extendable by the person manning the Administration Division, only to the officers of their choice and subjective preference. It was not a ‘right’ to be expected and claimed by ‘all’ the officers. Significantly, this letter had been issued without the prior knowledge and approval of the Director General. So much was the power wielded de facto by everyone in the Administration Division of the Headquarters, during this period.
Policy Vs. Luck
Evidences were many when officers had been transferred and posted to faraway places against their wish. The past practice of selective discrimination in transfers and postings had, thus, again, been restored and enforced with more gusto. The personal loyalty of officers to the persons occupying the posts in the Administration Division (as was in vogue during the pre-2003 era), had, again, become the basic touchstone to decide their places of postings. How a proclaimed Transfer Policy could be quietly buried had not been made known. The reason for having shelved the said policy had not been made public.
The system of governance of a public organization was so fragile and frail that an established system proclaimed in writing and circulated nation-wide as a policy could, simply, be dispensed with, silently, because of change of incumbency, (i) even without making the reasons public, and (ii) especially when many officers had been subjected to transfers as per that policy in the earlier years and had, then, been left to believe that they had become victims of the circumstances and that the career and placements of officers in the ESI Corporation depended not on any policy but only on the extraneous factors like chance and luck or one’s ability and smartness to please those who matter.
Professionalisation of Personnel stopped midway
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has observed, on 25.8.2003, that “Transfer is an incidence of public service and the power to transfer is available to be exercised by the employer unless an express bar or restraint on the exercise of such power can be spelt out. The power, like all other administrative powers, has to be exercised bona fide”. (State of Rajasthan & Ors Vs. Anand Prakash Solanki –C.A.NO. 6733 OF 2003). Moreover, laying down proper Transfer Policy and its adherence has been the norm all over the nation as could be seen from the following few facts. Some of the State Governments have beautifully explained the need for transparent transfer policy:
- The Government of Andhra Pradesh has laid down a Transfer Policy in its order No. Finance (W&M) Department G.O.Ms.No.100 dated 01-05-2007, stating that “the transfer policy should be an effective tool in capacity building with departmental employees getting a variety of experience within the department, thus becoming more fit to hold higher responsibilities”
- The Government Of Mizoram has, in its O.M, NO.A.22011/1/2006-PAR(SSW) dated 22.8.2006, issued by the Department of personnel & administrative reforms, laid down the Transfer Policy providing detailed “Guidelines for transfer and posting of Mizoram Secretariat Service Officers”.
- The Government of Maharashtra has laid down the Transfer Policy for the Maharashtra Government Servants through “Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005 (Mah. XXI of 2006)”, effective from 1.7.2006.
- The Government of Himachal Pradesh has laid down the transfer policy duly taking “into consideration the directions of the High Court given on the subject, according to which all employees should be treated fairly by the policy”.
- In regard to Uttar Pradesh, The Surendranath Committee recommended specific scheme for functional specialization and placement of officers to ensure civil service reform and professionalization of personnel.
It was this march towards ‘Professionalisation of Personnel” that had been stopped midway by the quiet burial of the proclaimed Transfer Policy which had been enforced from 17.3.2005 onwards. The letter dated 14.11.2008 issued by the Administration without the knowledge of the Chief Executive Officer testified only to this fact.