Gurgaon: Haryana cadre IAS officer Ashok Khemka has questioned the state government's decision to act against him in an alleged case when he was the Managing Director of Haryana Seed Development Corporation. Khemka, who has been chargesheeted for low sales of seeds during his tenure at Haryana Seed Development Corporation, has sent a strongly worded letter addressed to the Chief Secretary to Haryana government and called the action against him humiliating.
Khemka described the decision of the government as politically motivated. He said, "The motive of charge sheeting me without an opportunity of hearing and announcing the same in the media is to publicly humiliate me for conscientiously doing my duty and to instill a sense of fear in others as to what would happen in the event the desire of the political masters is not fulfilled. I stand condemned unheard and held guilty even before the chargesheet is served upon me, rendering the whole disciplinary exercise a futile and one-sided formality with my guilt already pre-judged."
Khemka hit the national headlines after he exposed the allegedly illegal land deals of the Congress President Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra in and around Gurgaon in 2012. Khemka has been hailed as a whistleblower by anti-corruption activists and the opposition parties.
In a strongly worded letter, Khemka said, "I stand condemned unheard and held guilty even before the chargesheet is served upon me."
But the Haryana government run by the Congress is accused of settling personal scores with him by filing false chargesheets against him in a scam that allegedly took place in the state-run Seeds Development Corporation during his tenure as it's Managing Director.
Here is the full text of his letter.
The Chief Secretary to Government, Haryana.
Memo No. 101/PS-Archives/2013
Dated Chandigarh the 21st October, 2013.
Subject: News item in The Indian Express, Dainik Bhaaskar, The Times of India on another charge sheet.
It is reported in the news item titled, "With another chargesheet, Haryana govt hounds Khemka" in the edition dated 17.10.2013 of The Indian Express and similar stories appearing in other newspapers like The Times of India, Dainik Bhaaskar, Dainik Jaagran that I am being issued a second charge sheet on the basis of allegations of Mr. Roshan Lal holding me responsible for the unsold wheat seed stocks in Haryana Seeds Development Corporation during the Rabi 2012-13 sale season. This was confirmed by the Minister and Congress spokesperson, Mr. Randeep Singh Surjewala and the Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Mr. S.S.Dhillon in the NDTV 24X7 news channel aired in the programme "The Buck Stops Here" anchored by Mr. Vishnu Som at 9:30 PM on 17.10.2013. The national spokesperson, Mrs. Renuka Chowdhary, of the Indian National Congress too supported the action of the Chief Minister, Haryana, in the media, making the decision to charge sheet me is completely political. The Indian Express story reported that the Chief Secretary had reservations over the charge sheet and argued that the charge sheet should have followed a probe into the sale of seeds and Khemka's role in it, if any, but the Chief Minister overruling the Chief Secretary chose to act upon the recommendation of Mr. Roshan Lal.
2. If anything adverse was held against me for the unsold seed stocks, the minimum expected was to at least afford me an opportunity to explain before publicly humiliating me with the announcement of a second charge sheet in the media. The statement of Mr. S.S.Dhillon before the media and aired in the NDTV 24X7 news channel that the Chief Minister had approved the recommendations of various agencies to charge sheet me is an alibi to justify the vindictiveness. The motive is to sully my reputation by airing these matters in the media even before the charge sheet is served upon me. No agency in the State can afford not to toe the desires of the Chief Minister. The sense of fear for falling foul of the desire of the political masters or the lure of greed and official favours from them is too tantalizing for an ordinary mortal to disregard. The allotments of industrial plots of HUDA in Panchkula reported in The Indian Express on 19th October, 2013 where crores by way of wrongful gains would accrue to the favoured allottees who would profit either by outrightly selling the plot allotted or by changing the ownership of the company in the future is an example where public servants in the name of Government action blatantly misuse authority to indulge in public loot. Corruption in public life is not only a public loss, but more importantly it saps and erodes the moral fabric, character, confidence, vigour and strength of the nation's youth - a loss that is unquantifiable in money terms.
3. The motive of charge sheeting me without an opportunity of hearing and announcing the same in the media is to publicly humiliate me for conscientiously doing my duty and to instill a sense of fear in others as to what would happen in the event the desire of the political masters is not fulfilled. I stand condemned unheard and held guilty even before the charge sheet is served upon me, rendering the whole disciplinary exercise a futile and one-sided formality with my guilt already pre-judged.
4. Mr. SS Dhillon and Mr Roshan Lal, friends and batchmates, have good reasons to nurse a deep animosity towards me. Both friends seem to have ganged up now against me and are cooking things to suit their own personal interests. It is submitted that Mr SS Dhillon was ex-facie not suitable for appointment to the post of Principal Secretary to Chief Minister on 1st April, 2013 when Mr. Chhattar Singh was re-employed on the post for a period of 3 months under Rule 9 (1) (a) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954 after his superannuation from the IAS. Mr SS Dhillon was again not suitable for appointment to the post of PSCM on 1st July, 2013 when the Central Government agreed to the re-employment of a superannuated outsider, Mr Chhattar Singh, on contract basis for a further period of 3 months to a post reserved for cadre IAS officers. Mr. Dhillon was appointed to the post of PSCM after Mr Chhattar Singh resigned in the last week of August, 2013 on his appointment as member of UPSC. It can thus be reasonably inferred that Mr. Dhillon must have acquired some "special qualifications" during this period to be adjudged suitable for appointment to the post of Principal Secretary to Chief Minister. Mr. SS Dhillon was Director General of Town & Country Planning & Urban Estates for more than four years and later Principal Secretary of the same department for over two years under the present ruling political dispensation in the State. The favours dispensed to colonizers in the Town & Country Planning and Urban Estates Departments by way of granting change in land use permissions, colony licenses, tweaking town development plans, acquisition and release of land is too well known and need not be further elaborated here. A particular land-licensing transaction of M/s Sky Light Hospitality was highlighted in Chapter 6 of my response dated May 21, 2013 to the 3-member Committee's report. It was Mr. SS Dhillon who as Director of Town & Country Planning had wrongly granted commercial colony license to M/s Sky Light Hospitality on 15.12.2008. Mr. SS Dhillon cannot be expected to be objective and fair in dealing with my case files, particularly when the Chief Minister had himself threatened action against me in the matter before the media on October 16, 2012.
5. There seems to be common purpose amongst Mr. Roshan Lal, Mr. S.S.Dhillon, Mr. T.C.Gupta and the Chief Minister. Specific references of corrupt acts of Mr. Roshan Lal were brought to the notice of your office, but unfortunately there is no action. The list of references made against specific acts of corruption and other misconducts of Mr Roshan Lal were brought to the notice of your office and are enumerated in the Table below:
1. No. 45 dated 20.05.2013, (Annexure C-20 to my response dated May 21, 2013 to the 3-member Committee's report), Attributing malafides upon the undersigned with wrong intent by Mr. Roshan Lal, IAS
2. No. 8 dated 17.04.2013, Ultra-vires order of Principal Secretary, Agriculture Department according wrong benefits to a charge sheeted officer of HSDC.
3. No. 11 dated 25.04.2013, DO letters dated 25.03.2013 written by Mr Ashok Khemka
4. No. HSDC/Estt./CT/203/3814 dated 26.03.2013 and No. 99/PS/Secy.Arch./2013 dated 11.10.2013; Regarding usage of mobile phone by Sh. Roshan Lal, IAS, Sh. Ashok Yadav, IAS and Sh. Vikas Yadav, IAS from HSDC.
5. On HSDC file through Principal Secretary, Agriculture Department; Advice U.O. No. 6/18/05-1GS1 dated 27.04.07 to the Agriculture Department and subsequent advice in the matter in the year 2013 on regularization of workers in HSDC after 25.04.2007.
6. No. 59-60 dated 10.07.2013, Regarding HSDC's supply order dated 29.03.13 for Raxil 2% DS (Tebuconazole).
7. No. 65 dated 08.08.2013, PAR for the year 2012-13.
8. No. 97/PS/Secy.Arch./2013; dated 8.10.2013, Newspaper reports of criminal complaint against Ashok Khemka in a Panchkula court under the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
9.No. 82/PS/Secy.Arch./2013, dated 17.09.2013, Mr Roshan Lal's letter dated 29.07.2013 to Ashok Khemka
6. Some of the files relating to the above references were examined in your office under the RTI Act. Unfortunately, the issues highlighted in the above references made to your office were not dealt with at all. On the contrary, I was transferred out of HSDC on April 4, 2013 within one day of a complaint made by Mr. Roshan Lal without examination of his allegations and an opportunity of hearing to me. The transfer was deliberate so that the pre-existing corruption in HSDC may re-commence and further, to prevent me from filing a true and complete reply in the PIL writ petition filed in the Hon'ble High Court regarding the unapproved use of RAXIL fungicide at public cost. Encouraged by such biased approach of the authorities, Mr. Roshan Lal is creating further references to cause wrong injury to me. One example of his vindictiveness was the motivated reference on an engineered, pseudonymous complaint alleging corruption in purchase of moong seeds in March, 2013, so that the purchase of seeds of a particular middleman through National Consumers' Cooperative Federation can re-commence. A well-organized scam in the purchase of seeds from a private middleman-broker was in existence in Haryana Seeds Development Corporation. The modus operandi of the scam was reported to you in detail in my letter no. 62 dated 18.07.2013. As reported in The Times of India, HSDC was blacklisted by Jharkhand state for spurious supplies of Kulthi (horse gram) seeds sourced from the same middleman. Jharkhand and several other States were cheated by wrongly showing the supplies to be a produce of HSDC. In particular, Mr. Roshan Lal was peeved at my following actions -
(i) Protesting against RAXIL fungicide for unapproved use and that too the supplies of RAXIL being canalized through one particular private firm to the private seed producers causing wrongful gains to the private firm and others;
(ii) Filing complaint to CBI registered as PECHG2013A0003 on 17.10.2013 after initial verification in the wheat seed purchase scam of November, 2010, where Central RKVY subsidies amounting to `.5 crores were misappropriated causing wrongful gains to a private middleman and others;
(iii) Purchasing 45,600 quintals of wheat seeds at high rates in November, 2009 directly from select private traders without tenders and then applying a subsidy of Rs 400/- per quintal from the central RKVY scheme to enable HSDC to sell the seeds purchased at high rates to the farmers;
(iv) Exposing the connivance with private companies and objecting to placing indent for specific branded seeds and weedicides;
(v) Withdrawing the wrong promotion order of his crony, Shri B.S. Saini (this order was later set aside illegally and without jurisdiction by Mr. Roshan Lal within three days of my relinquishing charge of HSDC);
(vi) Demanding the distribution of Government subsidies directly to the farmers instead of routing them through HSDC, to prevent misappropriation of subsidies;
(vii) Writing to Mr Roshan Lal to refund Rs.54,223/- wrongly paid against the second mobile phone 8699028765, when he was already being paid for the bills of his first mobile phone 9417001339 by the State Government.
7. Two modes were adopted in HSDC to misappropriate Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana subsidies in collusion with the officers of the Agricultural Department. In the first mode, indents for the purchase of specific branded seeds belonging to private seed companies would be placed by the Agriculture Department with HSDC. The time for finalizing the purchase would be kept short, between 7 to 15 days. The officers of the Agriculture Department would already be in touch with the private seed companies. The sham enquiries or tenders by HSDC would fetch pre-meditated rates, which would be communicated to the Agriculture Department after padding the commission margin of HSDC. The rates so communicated would be approved and the private branded seeds would be purchased at high rates and sold to farmers after applying subsidies of up to 75-100 per cent from the Government RKVY scheme. The officers of Agriculture Department and HSDC would receive their "baksheesh" from the private seed companies. Two specific examples were of hybrid maize and sunflower seeds. Shri Roshan Lal, IAS, despite being the Principal Secretary of the Agriculture Department for four long years remained silent on this type of corrupt practice widely prevalent in the Department.
8. The second mode of corruption was operationalized through the trading firms of a middleman-broker. This person acted as the middleman-broker not only to HSDC but also to some other Central organizations in the northern region like NAFED and NCCF. The broker acted as the kingpin of the supply racket by first empanelling his trading firms as "co-producer" of the partnering Government organization. There was no record of co-production of seeds by either the Government organization in whose name the trading firms of the middleman supplied seeds or by the "co-producer" himself. The entire process of purchase was managed by the broker from both the purchaser and the supplier sides. The seeds were purchased from open market from other private traders by the trading firms of the middleman-broker and transferred on paper to the partner Government organization at a fat margin to the broker firm. These seeds were then supplied to the buyer agency after adding 3 per cent margin of the partnering Government organization in whose name the seed supplies were made. The partnering Government organization received 3 per cent commission for lending its name to the broker firm. The profit margin accruing to the broker firm was shared with the officers of both the supplier and the buyer Government agencies. This corrupt racket could be sustained because of two critical factors which were conveniently overlooked -
(i) A limited tender was floated restricted to Government/Cooperative agencies. There was no check by the buyer that the seeds were actually produced by the supplier.
(ii) Huge Government subsidies would lower the net cost of the seeds purchased, so that the seeds can be sold off without loss to the buyer agency.
9. HSDC was supplying seeds to other State agencies in the above fraudulent manner making the buyer believe wrongly that the seeds supplied were produced by HSDC, when in fact the seeds were purchased from open market by the trading firms of the broker and directly supplied to the buyers under the name of HSDC. HSDC lent its name to the supply of seeds worth Rs 77.5 crore by the trading firms of this broker in a fraudulent manner during the 30-month period from April, 2010 to September, 2012, prior to my joining HSDC in October, 2012. The Commission earned by HSDC from such fraudulent supplies to other State/Central agencies was Rs 2.32 crores. The actual purchase by the trading firms of the broker from the open market was at far lower rates. The trading firms of the broker enjoyed a high margin of 25 per cent to 50 per cent and part of the benefits was shared with the officers of HSDC and the buyer-agencies. Such fraudulent supplies were completely stopped after my joining as Managing Director of HSDC in October, 2012.
10. In a reverse mechanism, one lakh quintals of old variety seeds of wheat were purchased by HSDC in November, 2010 at very high rates of Rs 2,050/- per quintal from the trading firms of the same broker, by routing the supplies of wheat seeds through the regional offices of NAFED and NCCF. The trading firms of the broker had purchased uncertified wheat stocks from 32 different private firms. The seed certification was illegally managed from the State Seed Certification Agency by the buyer-HSDC itself. The wheat seeds purchased could be sold off because the Agriculture Department under Mr. Roshan Lal released Government subsidy @Rs 500/- per quintal on the entire stock. The whole thing was managed in criminal collusion with the State Agriculture Department, State Seed Certification Agency and the Central supplier agencies, NAFED and NCCF. The Agriculture Department under Mr. Roshan Lal aided and abetted the scam by restricting the purchase of seeds from Government/Cooperative agencies; allowing State Seed Certification Agency to illegally certify the wheat stocks of private traders which were purchased by the trading firms of the broker for supplying to HSDC under the banners of NAFED and NCCF and releasing Rs.5 crores subsidy from the Central RKVY scheme. A simple check that the seeds supplied were produced by the Government/Cooperative agency was ignored by design. Five crores were thus misappropriated from the Central RKVY scheme in a criminal conspiracy in the purchase of wheat seed stocks in the month of November, 2010. A complaint was filed by me with the Chandigarh office of Central Bureau of Investigation to register and investigate the scam in which the prime suspects are the officers from the Regional Offices of NAFED and NCCF, State Seed Certification Agency, HSDC and the Agriculture Department. The complaint is registered as PECHG2013A0003 on 17.10.2013 after initial verification. The main suspects from HSDC and State Agriculture Department include Mr BS Saini, then Regional Manager of HSDC who was charge sheeted by me, Mr BS Duggal, Additional Director of Agriculture (who was helped by Mr. Roshan Lal to come on deputation as M.D. of HSDC on 4th April, 2013), Mr Ashok Yadav, IAS, then Director of Agriculture & M.D. of HSDC and Mr. Roshan Lal, Principal Secretary (Agriculture) and then Chairman of HSDC. Mr Roshan Lal obtained Chief Minister's approval of a deliberately tweaked policy to enable purchase of wheat seeds from the particular middleman-broker through NCCF and NAFED, which were not in the business of producing or co-producing wheat seeds. Under the circumstance that no State seed agency producing wheat seeds would offer to sell wheat seeds outside the State during the peak time of the wheat sowing season in November, the policy got approved from the Chief Minister was tailor made to result in wrong gains to this particular middleman. Moreover, after the matter was reported on file to the State Government through Mr Roshan Lal on 05.03.2013, it is confounding why no action was taken in the matter till date.
11. In a pre-planned conspiracy to punish me for the act of filing the complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation, a note was sent by the Agriculture Minister to HSDC on 12th March, 2013, i.e., 80 days after the end of the sale season on December 21, 2012. This was a deliberate ploy to fix me on the pretext of unsold wheat seed stocks. However, the Agriculture Department agreeing with my prognosis had agreed to reduce the general sale rate of wheat seeds for a 22-day period from November 9 to 30, 2012, and also permitted HSDC in December, 2012, to sell 34,250 quintals of old variety of wheat seed stocks to central seed agencies for sale to farmers in UP and Bihar. No questions were raised at that time. Mr Roshan Lal who was Chairman and Principal Secretary did not tender a single advise during the sale season about my performance, though he had illegally used Rs 54,223/- worth of talk time on the Corporation's mobile phone.
12. As part of the conspiracy after the filing of the CBI complaint, the Agriculture Minister issued a Press release just before the 170th meeting of the Board of Directors of HSDC which was fixed for 18.03.2013 that responsibility for unsold wheat seed stocks would be fixed. Acting on cue, Mr. Roshan Lal misused his position as Chairman and tried to make me responsible for the unsold wheat seed stocks in the meeting of the Board of Directors without a formal agenda item for meaningful deliberations by the members. He changed the minutes of the meeting at his level. Based on an in-house inquiry by senior officers of HSDC including the Chief Manager Production and the Chief Manager Marketing, an official reply of the Corporation explaining the reasons for unsold wheat seed stocks was sent to the Agriculture Minister on April 4, 2013.
13. It seems from Press reports that Mr Roshan Lal, Principal Secretary, Agriculture Department, who is heavily prejudiced and vengeful in his attitude against me for exposing his own misconducts in the scams involving the purchase of RAXIL fungicide against the provisions of The Insecticides Act and the instructions of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, the purchase of seeds at high rates without competitive tenders from a particular middleman-broker routed through National Consumers' Cooperative Federation and wrongly allowing supply of seeds of this middleman-broker under the label of HSDC, has sent some note to your office alleging that I was responsible for the unsold wheat seed stocks. Mr Roshan Lal ought to explain my role in the alleged low sale resulting in unsold wheat seed stocks. He ought also to enumerate the action taken against the Chief Manager Marketing, Chief Manager Production in case of faulty production planning or others from the army of Marketing Officers, Regional Manager, District Managers, Assistant Marketing Officers, and Salesman in HSDC. Instead the two persons who had officiated as Chief Manager Marketing of HSDC during the sale season were accorded wrong benefits of promotion in relaxation of qualification laid down in the Rules. Mr BS Saini who officiated as Chief Manager Marketing for major part of the sale season and who was the kingpin of the wheat seed scam of November-2009 and 2010 and chargesheeted for major penalty was accorded wrong benefit of promotion to the post of Chief Manager Production without jurisdiction by Mr Roshan Lal. The second man was promoted to the post of Chief Manager Marketing by the Managing Director recently in relaxation of the qualifications laid down in the Rules. Even though the total wheat seed stocks for sale this year including the carry-over stocks of the previous year is down by 50,000 quintals as compared to the previous sale season, the Corporation has sought an increase of government subsidy from Rs 500/- to Rs 800/- because the varieties produced are no longer in demand and the increased subsidy would help in offloading the seed stocks for consumption as grain.
14. To charge sheet me without even affording a single opportunity to explain or to reply to the allegations of Mr. Roshan Lal is unprecedented and extremely unfortunate. I cannot recall any other case where an IAS officer of my seniority was subject to the humiliation of a charge sheet without affording him an opportunity to reply to the allegations leveled against him. My position is like the batsman in a cricket match who is asked to bat in a match where the umpire is totally biased and he knows that the umpire will raise the dreaded finger on any frivolous appeal by the fielding team. The umpire is this matter is not neutral, but is the mentor of the fielding team continuously goading the players of the opposing team to appeal so that he can raise his dreaded finger. I will be subject to wrong and illegal action on a reference from anybody inimical towards me for daring to speak out in the course of my official duty against the open public loot and conflict of interest by public servants in the release of land, change in land use permissions, grant and transfer of colony licenses, earmarking of commercial zone in Town Development Plans, arbitrariness in public appointments, arbitrary allotment of plots in HSIIDC and HUDA etc. The corrupt politico-bureaucratic-business nexus make tonnes of money by arbitrary grant of State largesse to their own companies which are specifically floated for this purpose and then milk the premium by either transferring ownership of these fly-by-night entities or by selling the plot or license to the real entrepreneur. My biggest 'crime' of course was my cancellation of the mutation by Shri Robert Vadra's Sky Light Hospitality to DLF Universal on 15th October, 2012. It is not difficult to see that that is the real crime or misdemeanor for which I am being punished. In a most profound sense, October 15, 2012 has become the watershed moment of my service career.
15. The sales from HSDC's own sales counters was better by 15% in 2012 as compared to the previous year 2011, even when the sale rate was higher by Rs.200/- per quintal. How can the MD be held responsible for faulty State policies including the illegal ban on the sale of wheat seeds outside the State by an order dated 5.11.2012 of the Director General Agriculture, when it was specifically brought to the notice of the Agriculture Department in the meeting on 9.11.2012 by various parastatal agencies involved in seed production that the sales of wheat seeds in the State were likely to be poor? Am I to be punished for the high cost structure of HSDC due to gross overstaffing or for putting a curb on fraudulent seed sales under the Seed Village Scheme to wrongly profit from the 50% central subsidy? How can I expect a fair hearing in the proposed charge sheet when the authorities deciding the same are behaving in a vindictive and vengeful manner after their wrong doings were highlighted? If this yard stick is adopted against me, why is the Managing Director of HAFED not chargesheeted. The relative performance of HAFED was no better. If the inability to sell huge inventory of wheat seeds of unwanted varieties at a high price due to over-staffing is ground for charge sheeting me when posted in the sale season, then is not the failure of SEZ, Nano-city, Edu-city, KMP expressway or the poor performance in education, e-governance, power, law & order, atrocities on Scheduled Castes not a greater reason to charge sheet the concerned IAS officers at the helm of affairs?
It will be the first time in the State that an IAS officer of 23-year seniority will be put to charge sheet without proper examination of the issues on your file or seeking comments before subjecting him to the humiliation of a charge sheet. I request the issues be examined in an honest, impartial and dispassionate manner, consistent with the best traditions of the All India Services. I learn that there are instructions to issue ten charge sheets and ten criminal complaints in the courts against me in order to sully my reputation and tar me so as to benefit the ruling political party in the ensuing general elections. The witch-hunting must stop. Disciplinary action as a tool and instrument of vendetta and witch-hunting, geared to political ends, would subvert and destroy the All India Services and the very purpose for which they have been established.