Transfer Policy in Rajasthan: Will History Repeat Itself or Change Prevail?

A common Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been issued regarding the proposed transfer policy, emphasizing collaboration between department heads and officers to tailor suggestions according to requirements. Notably, the SOP mandates that no employee will be transferred before completing three years of service.
 There is a pressing need for structured mechanisms to ensure periodic rotations of officers and staff, safeguarding the integrity and efficiency of administrative processes.
There is a pressing need for structured mechanisms to ensure periodic rotations of officers and staff, safeguarding the integrity and efficiency of administrative processes.(Representational Image)

Jaipur- In a bid to streamline administrative processes and address longstanding grievances, the Rajasthan government has announced its intention to formulate a comprehensive transfer policy for its employees and officers.

This initiative, inspired by practices observed at the central level, aims to introduce standardized procedures and ensure transparency in the transfer process across government departments.

However, the announcement of a draft transfer policy has stirred up controversy, with employees expressing skepticism and voicing their concerns over the government's intentions.

As Rajasthan grapples with the perennial challenge of implementing a transfer policy for its government employees, the specter of history looms large.

Despite repeated attempts over the years, the state has struggled to enact meaningful reforms in this critical area of administrative governance. Now, as discussions surrounding a new transfer policy resurface, stakeholders are left pondering whether past patterns of controversy and dissent will persist or if a new era of change is on the horizon.

The Common SOP

A common Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been issued regarding the proposed transfer policy, emphasizing collaboration between department heads and officers to tailor suggestions according to requirements.

Notably, the SOP mandates that no employee will be transferred before completing three years of service.

Additionally, every employee will be required to serve in rural areas for a minimum of two years during their tenure. This strategic approach aims to address longstanding issues and streamline the transfer process, reducing disputes and ensuring equitable distribution of human resources.

Key features of the SOP include soliciting online applications from employees before initiating transfers. These applications will be thoroughly reviewed and considered, with special attention given to individuals from marginalized groups and those serving in remote or hardship areas.

As per the SOP outlined by the department, each government department in Rajasthan is mandated to publish a comprehensive list of vacant positions across all offices, spanning districts, sub-divisions, and gram panchayats. This listing process, scheduled from the 1st to the 15th of January annually, will be conducted transparently on the department's designated portal.

Following the release of the vacancy list, employees within the department will have the opportunity to submit their transfer applications during the designated period from the 1st to the 28th of February. Subsequently, the department will embark on a counseling process, scheduled from March 1 to 30, to thoroughly review and assess the applications received.

During the counseling phase, priority will be given to factors such as the specific needs of disabled individuals, widows, single women, ex-servicemen, outstanding sportspersons, and individuals serving in hardship areas. Additionally, spouses suffering from incurable diseases, dependents of martyrs, and employees stationed in remote or dark zones will receive special consideration.

Upon the completion of counseling sessions across vacant districts or areas, the finalized transfer list will be officially released by April 30, adhering strictly to the prescribed priority and established rules.

The staff at outdoor reception room and inquiry center of Maharana Bhupal Hospital in Udaipur.
The staff at outdoor reception room and inquiry center of Maharana Bhupal Hospital in Udaipur. (Representation purpose)

The SOP devised by the department introduces specific exemptions and guidelines for its implementation across various government entities in Rajasthan.

Raj Bhavan, Assembly Secretariat, and the State Election Commission are among the exempted institutions where this SOP will not be applicable. However, it will be enforced across all other departments, ensuring uniformity and consistency in the transfer process.

Departments with a workforce of fewer than 2,000 employees will directly implement the SOP without alterations. On the other hand, departments exceeding this threshold will be required to formulate a tailored policy incorporating their unique requirements and suggestions.

These customized policies must undergo scrutiny and approval by the Administrative Reforms and Coordination Department to ensure alignment with the overarching principles outlined in the SOP.

Moreover, the SOP extends its reach beyond government departments to encompass boards, corporations, undertakings, and autonomous institutions.

Historical Context: Previous Attempts and Persistent Challenges

However, this latest announcement comes against the backdrop of a history marred by unsuccessful efforts to implement transfer policies in the state.

Dating back to 1994, when a committee led by former Education Secretary Anil Bordia drafted a policy framework, successive attempts in 1997-98, 2000, 2005, 2015, and 2020 failed to materialize into concrete policies.

Despite concerted efforts and promises from various administrations, the inability to navigate through bureaucratic hurdles and political complexities has thwarted the enactment of meaningful reforms in this regard.

A retired officer from the education department on the condition of anonymity shed light on the longstanding challenges surrounding transfer policies in Rajasthan, emphasizing the pervasive influence of political dynamics. According to him, the issue has been marred by controversy and practical obstacles, impeding meaningful reform efforts.

" During the tenure of the BJP's Vasundhara Raje government from 2013 to 2018, attempts to establish a transfer policy faced significant hurdles due to political complexities. Despite the formulation of a draft policy by a committee led by then-minister Gulab Chand Kataria, the implementation process was thwarted by the conflicting interests of certain MLAs " he stated.

"Even if a strict policy is made, it is difficult to implement because of immense political pressure. I know teachers who have never been posted in rural areas in their entire service period; when they are, they exert their influence by ministerial pressure or MLA desire, which the government adheres to," says a Teachers' Union Leader unwilling his name to be revealed.

Dr. Ranjit Meena, State General Secretary of the Rajasthan Teachers Association (Integrated), has voiced strong criticism against this decision. He highlights the history of unsuccessful attempts to implement transfer policies. "The current draft is a mere election ploy, hastily brought from Odisha to appease employees. It resembles past instances of offering superficial solutions, akin to 'lollipops,' with grand promises. Despite assurances, the timeline for a new transfer policy has been disregarded. We welcome transparency but oppose empty gestures for political gain. The organization is gearing for mobilization post-Lok Sabha elections", Meena stated.

The issue of prolonged stays and preferential treatment extends beyond the education department, permeating into the realm of law enforcement within the police department.

"In the police department, those who are politically aligned manage to secure a post of their choice, and those who don't are put to frequent district or even divisional changes," says a DySP rank officer in Udaipur district, shedding light on the issue of preferential transfers based on political affiliations.

In the health department, the competition for specific positions is glaringly evident. For example, Dr. Ashok Aditya was appointed as the Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO) of Udaipur in March, replacing Dr. Shankar Bamniya. However, despite the official appointment, Bamniya managed to secure a legal stay from the High Court. As a result, both Aditya and Bamniya currently serve in the same role as CMHO of Udaipur, reflecting the ongoing tussle for coveted positions within the department.

The absence of a stringent transfer policy and clear guidelines exacerbates the situation, as it is widely acknowledged that rotational transfers are essential for maintaining corruption-free governance.

Extended tenures in key positions can inadvertently foster a conducive environment for corrupt practices to thrive. Therefore, there is a pressing need for structured mechanisms to ensure periodic rotations of officers and staff, safeguarding the integrity and efficiency of administrative processes.

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