Puducherry’s move to revise transfer policy kicks up row

A move to revise the transfer policy for common category of staff under the cadre control of the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR) has caused disquiet among a section of government employees who feel that some provisos may adversely affect their careers.

The DPAR (Personnel Wing), Puducherry, recently issued a circular (No. B 160 13/2/2008/DPAR I CCD(2) outlining a proposal to frame a “Rotational Transfer Policy” to the common category staff under the cadre control of the department. Al1 the stakeholders can send their views or suggestions on the proposal within 15 days from the date of issue of this circular, the notification added.

On the surface of it, the stated objectives of the proposed policy are to “harmonise the objective of institutional memory, avoid development of vested interests, and provide exposure to employees working in different organisations, inter alia ensuring overall growth of an officer.”

However, employees point to unwarranted departures from convention in the draft proposal such as the classification of departments as “A” and “B” rather than the practice of categorising them as “sensitive” and “non-sensitive”.

Interestingly, there seems to be a crossover of a few conventionally sensitive and non-sensitive departments on the two broad categories. For instance, the Chief Secretariat sits with departments such as Art and Culture in category “B” while Accounts and Treasuries and a department like Indian Systems of Medicine co-exist on category “A”.

And, though the draft proposals do not demarcate the categories as “sensitive” and “non-sensitive”, a closer reading show that category “A” is deemed to be “sensitive”.

For instance, one of the provisos states that “officials who are facing disciplinary proceedings or criminal proceedings or who have been imposed penalty after conclusion of disciplinary proceedings shall not be considered for posting in category “A” departments.”

Also, officials against whom disciplinary action is proposed or initiated while they are working in category “A” departments may be transferred to category “B” department, if necessary, irrespective of their remaining tenure in the category “A” department, the draft proposals say.

According to the Puducherry Unified Ministerial Staff Association (Pumsa), by custom, the departments are categorised as “sensitive” and “non-sensitive” — a convention which is in accordance with even the guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission directions to Chief Vigilance Officer of Union Territories (Chief Secretary) — to identify sensitive departments to transfer the staff on a rotation basis to contain corruption.

Categorisation worries

“In the said proviso, it has been mentioned that departments will be categorised as “A” and “B” on the basis of administrative complex, revenue generation, public interface or nature of work, whereas there is no mention on what basis the distinction between the two categories has been made,” says A. Rajendran, Pumsa general secretary.

More importantly, he points out that the Chief Secretariat should have been brought under category “A” since it is a hyper sensitive office receiving various kinds of proposals from all departments of this administration involving huge financial implications and important decisions are processed by the staff of Chief Secretariat.

Mr. Rajendran says this fuels concerns about whether the provisions in the said policy were designed to “deliberately” extend the continuance of DPAR staff (UDC, Assistant and Superintendent) for four years who have been in the same DPAR for more than 10 years in violation of existing transfer policy.

This, when the present existing transfer policy stipulates that the staff should not continue in sensitive department for more than two years.

Favouring squatters

It is pointed out that the DAPR, as the advisory body on service matters for the entire administration, had in 1991 stipulated that an official may be considered for transfer when he completes three years in a non-sensitive department and even earlier, say, after two years, in a sensitive department. In any case, in a sensitive department, an official should be allowed to stay for more than three years, it adds.

Pumsa alleges that this was followed more in the breach as there were some in the so-called sensitive departments who had served for 10 years even as they dealt with the transfer and postings, recruitment or promotion of an estimated 3,000 ministerial staff in various grades spread across 49 departments. Until there is a reversal of this practice, proviso 7(4) in the draft transfer policy is null and void, Pumsa said.

A few other provisions that a section of employees is fretting over are:

“Request from officials for transfer within category ‘B’ departments or from category A’ department to category ‘B’ departments may be considered, on a case-to-case basis, provided they have completed the minimum tenure period while request for transfer from category ‘B’ departments to category ‘A’ departments shall not be entertained.

Except under exceptional circumstances, request transfers shall ordinarily be considered along with the rotational transfer.”

Pumsa feels that this provision not only takes away the rights of an individual but also curtails the aspiration of various honest officials to acquire experience or knowledge on the functions of “A” category departments and it is the basic requirement of DPAR to give opportunity to the officials to work in different kinds of environment to have lot of exposure for better delivery to the public.

"We fear that a situation where full powers on posting of officials to ‘A’ category department rests with DPAR, it potentially broadens scope for the play of personal whims and vested interests,” says Mr. Rajendran.

It fuels concerns whether the provisions are designed to deliberately extend the continuance of DPAR staff

A. Rajendran,PUMSA general secretary

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