Brijesh Kumar case: It’s State vs City

The state government’s urban development department has cancelled BBMP’s transfer of its top forest officer. The officer had initiated steps to protect lakes in the city and more.

Twenty days after BBMP issued his transfer, Brijesh Kumar, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) was able to get a stay on it. The state government’s Urban Development Department (UDD) issued the stay, saying that BBMP could not make the decision on its own.

In the order, written in Kannada, UDD clearly says that BBMP’s decision was unilateral, and that no permission was asked from UDD. It was UDD that had passed the initial orders to create the new CCF position in BBMP, and to appoint IFS officer Kumar to it.

BBMP had issued Kumar’s transfer order on October 11th, and the officer got the stay from UDD on October 31st. He has been back in BBMP working as CCF, since November 2nd.

Asked why BBMP may not have asked UDD’s permission, the UDD Principal Secretary Amita Prasad says, "If BBMP had asked our permission to transfer Kumar, we would have said ‘no’. May be that’s why." Amita is clear that Kumar will complete his tenure of one year, which will end in May 2013. The CCF position was created temporarily in BBMP for a year.

"It is not good to have officers transferred within the government often. There is lot of work on environment to be done within BBMP, and Kumar had started much work on lake development," says Amita.

Citizen Matters had earlier reported how Kumar, an IFS officer, was transferred out of BBMP just as he had started off some major initiatives and exposed irregular spending to the tune of Rs 21 crore.

Brijesh Kumar was CCF in BBMP for five months. Pic: Meera K

UDD does not expect BBMP to raise the issue again. Though BBMP Commissioner Rajneesh Goel had signed the original transfer order, it was based on a resolution by BBMP’s Establishment and Administrative Reforms Committee. The committee, which comprises elected corporators, had said that BBMP could not afford Kumar’s salary. But Kumar’s salary was only Rs 5 lakh higher than that of the previous DCF position (which was upgraded to CCF position).

While Kumar was gone, BBMP had appointed a DCF temporarily in his position. In its order, UDD cancelled the resolution of the Establishment and Administrative Reforms Committee. With this, the temporary appointment of the DCF also stood cancelled.

Now the committee is free to go back to UDD, and explain the reasons for their original transfer decision. "UDD has the power to cancel committee resolutions. Even if the committee comes up with explanations, we can still pass a final order. The current stay is as good as the cancellation of the transfer order", says Amita.

Corporate disapproves of state government’s line

BBMP Commissioner Goel could not be reached for comment. V Vagish (BJP, Maruthi Mandira ward), Chairman of the committee, says that he has not yet seen the files relating to Kumar, and that he will challenge the UDD order.

Vagish also sounded defiant and hit back at the state government. "What is the use of the committee if UDD can cancel its orders?" Vagish says that the committee has also formed new Cadre and Recruitment (C&R) Rules, defining the number of positions in BBMP, number of employees for each position, their qualifications, salaries etc.

"We are placing this in the (city) council session this month end. Once these rules are approved, government will have to follow these rules, and cannot create new positions as they wish," he says. Vagish says that C&R Rules have not been amended at all, ever since they were first formed in 1971.

I B Srivastava, former PCCF at Forest Department, says that the councillors’ reason that BBMP cannot spend Rs 5 lakh for the position of CCF seems unbelievable. "Now a days, officers get promoted to CCF position within 18-20 years of service, unlike the earlier times. They have the experience and knowledge, and are also young enough to run around and get works done."

Srivastava says that BBMP had formed its own Forest Cell within the last decade, which has been a good move. He says that more officers should be deputed from the Forest Department to strengthen it. "Earlier the Forest Department’s urban division was in charge of BBMP area. But this division had other responsibilities. On the other hand, BBMP’s Forest Cell can do more focused work. The city’s lakes also used to be under Forest Department, but many were transferred to BBMP. There are a lot of environmental issues in BBMP that needs to be worked on." Srivastava had retired as PCCF in March this year.

Second of messy transfer cases undone

Brijesh Kumar’s case is the second such, in which BBMP was involved, in recent times. A few months back, BMTF chief Rajvir P Sharma had faced a similar situation. After he got a transfer order, Sharma got the decision reversed through the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). Like Kumar, Sharma had also initiated many reforms within BMTF.

When asked about the Brijesh Kumar episode, Sharma says, "In the case of postings and transfers, UDD and BBMP should be on the same page." He further points to the larger systemic issue within BBMP. He says that BBMP needs a systemic overhaul, and hence deputing 4-5 individuals from the government to BBMP will not change things.

"BBMP should have an independent financial advisor from the Indian Audits and Accounts Services (IAAS), and an IPS Vigilance Officer of SP/DIG rank. These officers should be deputed for fixed tenures in BBMP so that they can work independently to check corruption," Sharma says.

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