Khandey sticks to his guns, J&K without Chief Secretary
Chief Secretary, now former, Muhammad Iqbal Khandey
SRINAGAR: From top bureaucrats to lowly peons, a beeline of visitors dropped in to meet Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary, Iqbal Khandey, on his last day at the civil secretariat here on Monday.
There was a sombre mood at the secretariat, tensed by the absence of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who is out of state for undisclosed reasons, as well as his deputy, Dr Nirmal Singh, and the finance minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu,
Emotions ran high as Khanday shook hands with his junior officers for the last time, smiling occasionally and thanking everybody before hopping into a white Maruti SX4 car and exiting the civil secretariat. Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, BB Vyas, saw him off at the gate.
Earlier in the day, senior bureaucrats, middle and low-rung officers in the state administration made a beeline outside Khandey's with the rush of visitors continuing throughout the day.
Khandey decided to seek voluntary retirement after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and other cabinet ministers turned down his request of delaying the August 19 cabinet meeting.
The grandson of Khandey's brother died recently and he had sought "few days" from the government so that the mourning period could end, a request which was turned down by the political establishment, causing anguish within the state's bureaucracy and "hurting" Khandey, following which he put in his papers.
At the end of the day on Monday, barely minutes before the clock struck 5 pm on Monday, a large number of bureaucrats circled Khandey, who mostly kept to himself throughout the day, and walked him to the elevator. At the ground floor, many top bureaucrats had assembled to wish him good luck on the last day of his 37-year old bureaucratic career.
The chief secretary, whose relationship with the political executive ran into extremely rough weather at the end of his bureaucratic career, called it a day on August 31, three months ahead of his retirement date, despite pleas by three cabinet ministers, including Dr Drabu, to reconsider his decision.
It was not immediately known whether the charge of the chief secretary has been handed over to any senior officer or if it was required at all. Many officers regretted that Khandey had to call it a day "on a bad note".
Meanwhile, senior bureaucrat Khursheed Ahmed Ganai is reported to have decided to quit if the government doesn't appoint the new chief secretary “as per seniority and set rules.”
A close aide of Ganai, who is presently serving as the financial commissioner (Industries and Commerce), said he will have no second thoughts about resigning in case the government "violates" seniority norms for appointing the new chief secretary of the state.
Sources said Sharma, principal secretary (Planning), who is reported to be the favourite of the coalition government for the CS's post, is on the 5th number in the seniority list and falls behind Ganai.
“Of course, there will be resentment if the government does not appoint new chief secretary as per the seniority of officers. Reputation of senior officers is at stake. It will be better if government gives preference to seniority norms,” Ganai, the 1982-batch IAS officer, told a local news agency.
According to the rules and seniority list, BR Sharma's attending two cabinet meetings, which were skipped by Khandey due to the death in his family, has put his seniors - Arun Kumar, Sonali Kumar, Ashok Kumar Angurana and Khurshid Ganai - in tight spot.
Resentment is growing in the bureaucracy with at least three senior IAS officer threatening to opt for a long leave or voluntary retirement if Sharma is appointed chief secretary. Arun Kumar, 1979 batch officer, is presently financial commissioner Revenue while as his wife Sonali Kumar is also 1979 batch officer and is presently chairman special tribunal.
Ashok Kumar Angurana is on central deputation. Ganai is 1982 batch IAS officer and is presently financial commissioner, industries and agriculture. Sonali Kumar and Ganai are retiring this year while as Arun Kumar has still 16 months of services left.