Khanday breaks silence, says CM turned down his request to put off Cabinet meet

Breaking his silence, J&K’s Chief Secretary Muhammad Iqbal Khanday, who has opted for voluntary retirement, Wednesday said the State Government’s refusal to defer a cabinet meeting on August 21 at his request forced him to take the decision.
Khanday breaks silence, says CM turned down his request to put off Cabinet meet
File Photo

Breaking his silence, J&K's Chief Secretary Muhammad Iqbal Khanday, who has opted for voluntary retirement, Wednesday said the State Government's refusal to defer a cabinet meeting on August 21 at his request forced him to take the decision.

"There was a tragedy in my family. My brother's 10-day-old grandson had died and I had requested the Chief Minister to postpone the cabinet meeting. But the Chief Minister thought it better not to postpone it and asked B R Sharma (Principal Secretary Planning) to assist him as Cabinet Secretary (in my place)," Khanday told Greater Kashmir.

"After that (the Chief Minister's decision) my position had become untenable and it is not appropriate for me to continue at the position," he said.

An official said the death of the infant had emotionally moved the Chief Secretary and that's why he sought deferment of the cabinet meeting.

"I won't reconsider my decision and won't go to office from September 1," Khanday said.

The official said the Chief Secretary, while opting for the voluntary retirement on Monday, has sought that he may be relieved on August 31 and also made a request that his notice period may be waived off.

The Government is expected to take a call on the matter in a day or two after Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed returns from New Delhi.

Sources said the Government was likely to approach the Chief Secretary to ask him to reconsider the decision, once the Chief Minister returns.

On Tuesday, three senior ministers had intervened and asked Khanday to reconsider his decision. But he had stood by it, sources said.

"It is a small matter. I don't know why it is being made so big. I am retiring in coming three months," Khanday said.  

Sources said as per the procedure, the Chief Minister would take a call on Khanday's request and if it's accepted, the decision would be ratified by the cabinet and communicated to New Delhi. Khanday, who was retiring this November, opted for voluntary retirement on Monday.

Sources said the Chief Secretary was also upset with the way Government was ignoring his office in decision-making and administrative matters.

Khanday is learnt to have told the Cabinet sometime ago that it should "hire a stenographer as his replacement as he (stenographer) would be in a better position to deliver on writing the dictations."

 "The gap between the Government and the Chief Secretary office was only growing for the past six months. The refusal to his plea to postpone the cabinet meeting hurt him (Chief Secretary) badly," the sources said. 

Another senior official said the differences between Chief Secretary and Government came to fore first in Jammu last March when the Government ignored some of his "valid suggestions" while effecting transfers and promotions in a cabinet meeting there.

The Chief Secretary is the custodian of bureaucracy, including KAS and IAS officials, said the official.

As a norm, when a cabinet memo is being prepared, the Chief Minister takes into confidence his Chief Secretary while the GAD Secretary is also kept in loop.

"But he (Chief Secretary) was ignored for quite some time now," the official said. "Then there was a confrontation between the office of Chief Secretary and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh over some transfers and promotions made through government order No. 725-GAD of 2015," said the official.

He said there were "other factors" which could have prompted the Chief Secretary to take the decision.

The Government has attached more than a dozen senior super-scale KAS officials in General Administration Department at a time when many departments are without special secretaries and additional secretaries, said the official.

He said at least nine senior officials were asked to report to GAD in the last cabinet meeting.

"All these officials are sitting idle. No Chief Secretary would like his officials to be treated in such a way. We have a unique situation where a senior official is holding topmost position in a Department and at the same time looking after two lower positions in the same department," the official said.

The Government has also earned criticism for effecting premature transfers and promoting some junior officials above their seniors.

One case in light is the recent transfer of former DC Baramulla as Registrar Cooperative Societies while his senior Peerzada Hafizullah Shah is acting under Shah as Additional Registrar Cooperatives.

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