Scared Telangana bureaucracy treads cautious path to avoid EC wrath

Except for election-related work, officials avoid acting on new decisions; work comes to a standstill

October 30, 2023 08:22 pm | Updated 08:22 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Personnel trained by the Election Commission giving training to the presiding and assistant presiding officers on the exercise of polling for the Telangana State Legislative Assembly elections in Hyderabad on October 28, 2023.

Personnel trained by the Election Commission giving training to the presiding and assistant presiding officers on the exercise of polling for the Telangana State Legislative Assembly elections in Hyderabad on October 28, 2023. | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

Scared by the unprecedented action of the Election Commission (EC) in transferring over two dozen IPS and IAS officers in a span of three weeks, the bureaucracy in Telangana is treading a cautious path and reluctant to take any decision that could attract negative reaction ahead of the November 20 Assembly elections.

“The work has come to a standstill and the situation will continue for the next 40 days” is what officers say. Implementation of the ongoing welfare and development schemes before the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force will continue.

Also read: ECI orders transfer of several officials ahead of Telangana Assembly Elections 2023

Senior bureaucrats admit that district-level officers are ‘afraid’ to take decisions on urgent matters, fearing action. “They are asking higher-ups for advise and want to know if their actions could be in violation of the MCC,” said a senior official requesting anonymity.

Except for election-related work, the district-level officers are not touching any other work, it was pointed out. Newly transferred officers are running against time to cope up with the demanding poll-related functioning and getting familiarised with the requirements.

Th EC team, during its visit to Telangana in October first week, held wide-ranging consultations with the State administration. It is said the team had taken serious note of the complaints of discrepancies in voter enrolment, multiple entries in voter list, unchecked flow of liquor and money besides the partisan action of a few officers.

Cracking the whip

On return to New Delhi, the EC cracked the whip and transferred 13 police officers, including three police commissioners and four Collectors in the first order. Hyderabad Police Commissioner C.V. Anand, a DGP rank officer, along with Warangal Commissioner A. V. Ranganath and Nizamabad Commissioner Satyanarayana were transferred. Surprisingly, the Excise Commissioner, the Commercial Taxes Commissioner and the Transport Commissioner too faced action. This order was followed by another one last week transferring the Karimnagar Collector and the Commissioner of police.

The EC then named new IPS officers for key posts and appointed Collectors in the vacancies caused by the abrupt transfers. Officers unwilling to be named said a three-line terse order from the EC transferring All India Service officers and directing the Chief Secretary to send a panel has upset them. “At least the commission should have specified the reasons for the transfer in its order or sent specific information to the Chief Secretary or the Chief Electoral Officer,” said a senior IAS officer.

Officials are unanimous that there was some justification in the transfer of nine non-cadre police officers holding position as Superintendents of police. “There is no shortage of direct recruit IPS officers. But, shunting out chiefs of Commercial Tax, Excise and Transport department appears a bit harsh,” another officer remarked.

“Look at the list of transfers issued by the EC, only native bureaucrats and police officers have been shifted in the first order. What signal does this send across with this selective action,” question the officials.

EC has powers: forum

Forum for Good Governance (FCG) president M. Padmanabha Reddy said the EC had power to transfer officers found to be not neutral. Citing an example of how things in the past were very bad, he said that in 2009 the DGP of the united Andhra Pradesh was transferred but after the counting was over, he was brought back to the same post. “A general impression created is that all these hulla gulla is for a month only,” he said.

Mr. Reddy charged that the Police department had totally aligned with the ruling party. “The Station House officer or the ACP/DSP cannot be transferred without the recommendation of the local MLAs. Letters are sent to the commissioners of police and SPs regarding the transfers. We had petitioned the EC with all these paper clippings, urging it to check the facts and call for a report,” the FGG chief said.

Another disturbing trend, Mr. Reddy pointed out was that in the last decade except one DGP, all others after their superannuation and retired senior IAS officers had been accommodated by the ruling government with plum posts. “This is setting a bad trend,” he said.

Former IAS officer R. V. Chandravadan observed that the EC decision was anticipated as the bureaucracy was not dealing in a neutral way. The EC had gathered information that there was no equitable approach and neutrality in the affairs of the government. “A series of representations had been sent to the EC about the role of retired bureaucrats in the Chief Minister’s Office,” he said.

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