Legislators wrote at least 1,215 letters in 18 months to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan seeking either specific transfers of government officials or stay orders on transfers to fresh postings.
DNA found through the Right to Information Act that MLAs and MLCs kept the chief minister’s office busy between January 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012, by sending 13,385 letters — that is 25 letters daily on average.
Of these, 1,215 sought Chavan’s intervention in the transfer of employees ranging from state transport bus drivers to IAS officers across the state. Many of these employees were not even posted anywhere near the electoral constituency of the MLA writing the letter. Also, in the course of a year-and-a-half, some MLAs wrote at least 30 such transfer requests.
An analysis of the exhaustive data regarding the 13,385 letters shows that more than 3,000 letters were requests about government employees’ transfers, recommendations for appointment and re-appointment of lawyers as government pleaders, recommendations for nominations or political appointments to government-owned boards and corporations and requests for jobs on compassionate grounds.
A sources in the CMO (chief minister’s office) said MLAs and MLCs are not the only ones seeking favours in government transfers. Since Chavan took charge in November 2010, the CMO has received more than 4,000 such requests from legislators, politicians, VIPs and government officials themselves, including policemen, mostly displaying an unabashed will for political interference in routine government transfers.
Not surprisingly, the lion’s share of these requests pertains to the most sensitive and lucrative departments. Among the legislators’ 1,215 such requests, 227 are for officials attached to the urban development (UD) department and 221 for employees of the home department.
The water resources department, in the eye of a storm amid allegations of politician-contractor nexus in dam building contracts, saw 86 requests for officers, mostly engineers, to be transferred. The PWD, which also hands out large contracts, saw 81 such requests.
Only a small number of transfer requests pertained to employees in various departments in Naxal-hit Gadchiroli district, considered the toughest posting.
While employees of the UD department in the country’s fastest urbanising state wield some power over real estate developers and in granting permissions for building proposals, the home department supervises the functioning of the state’s police force.
While the issue of insulating police transfers from rampant political interference was in the spotlight earlier this year, an activist’s RTI application in January revealed that the Mumbai police commissioner’s office had received 220 political recommendations between 2009 and 2011 for transfers across the ranks. Some of these had been from the CMO, deputy CM’s office and the home minister’s office.
RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi had raised the issue in 2004 after the Maharashtra DGP received over 100 transfer recommendations in 2003, including some from the CM and the home minister.
Maharashtra has 366 legislators — 288 representatives elected to the Vidhan Sabha and 78 appointed to the Vidhan Parishad — but only a fraction has been writing the transfer requests.
State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, leader of the opposition in the assembly Eknath Khadse of the BJP, Congress MLA of Deori in Gondia district Ramratan Raut and Congress MLA from Yavatmal Nilesh Deshmukh Parvekar were among the most active, with each making more than 35 to 40 such transfer requests. CM-baiters Rana Dilipkumar Sananda and Sunil Kedar — both Congress MLAs — too have written several requests.
While the chief minister has called for transparency in government processes, information on exactly how many MLAs he obliged is not yet available.