Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ashok Khemka – hero or abject failure?

Ashok Khemka is in the news again. This time for submitting his report to the enquiry commission set up by the Haryana government to investigate his charges against Robert Vadra and DLF. The media loves Khemka. It has portrayed him as “the most honest officer”, someone who has the “courage to take on the political establishment”, etc etc. Media loves people who go against politicians. It helps create good news content, especially on TV. Media also doesn’t bother much about truth, forget the real truth. But this blog does!

I have personally been involved in recruitments for jobs in my company for more than a decade now. And the one thing I have learnt is not to hire someone who changes jobs in an almost “predictable” pattern – typically every 1.5 to 2 years. When I meet them, I get immediately impressed by their confidence, their academic record, their “achievements”. Every single time, I have been convinced that the person has a “genuine” reason to look for a change, even though its so soon. These guys are smart. They have high IQ. They are good looking, well dressed…..basically they come to impress. I have been conned many times by such people. In the end, I have realized that we simply cannot hold on to such people beyond the usual 1.5 to 2 years. They move on. It’s not a reflection on my company; it’s just that there are such loonies out there. I have now issued a standing instruction to my HR team now: Do not meet such people.

Ashok Khemka fits this description to the T. He is brilliant – a Computer engineer from IIT, a PhD, an MBA, and god knows what else. He is impressive in his conduct – just observe him on TV shows and he comes out as confident, honest, sincere – not a typical rabble rouser but as someone deeply concerned about the country. Khemka is also very very smart. He has made himself look like the victim of politics – repeatedly brandishing his “41 transfers in 21 years” as evidence of victimization. An audience of TV news watchers – seeking juicy, gossipy, political entertainment every evening – latches onto his every word. Khemka goes from one channel to another, spreading his victimization word. And they all lap it up. I wouldn’t be surprised if Khemka is recommended by media for one of the Padma awards…..just for his help in building up their TRPs. In the recent past, another such person has come centerstage – Arvind Kejriwal. Another smart, well educated bureaucrat, who turned hostile against his own employers. Where he is headed will be known soon. Where Khemka is headed though is already known – to the next TV studio.

Khemka would have been sacked a long while ago in the private sector. He would be called a “trouble maker”. But the government is a benevolent employer. Sacking is not something that it does. It transfers when it cannot handle someone any more. Yes, Khemka has been transferred innumerable times, but for a change, let’s turn the wheel on him and see just how responsible he himself is for this.

Khemka has worked in many many departments of the Haryana government: Land Revenue – management and district administration, Agriculture and co-operations co-operative (don’t ask me what it means!), HRD, Social Jusice & Empowerment, Law & Justice, Personnel & General Administration, Labor and Employment, Communications & IT, Urban Development, Commerce, Finance, Rural Development, Industries, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution…..and god knows how many more. So he’s been given a fair chance by his employer. How is it that he couldn’t succeed anywhere? Is it anyone’s point that all departments are corrupt? And that he never felt empowered enough or responsible enough to clean up the mess?

Khemka has worked under several political parties and CMs. In his last 21 years, he has worked under the Haryana Vikas Party of Bansi Lal (later merged into the Congress), the INLD (Chautala) – which was in alliance with the BJP, and of course the INC (Bhajan Lal, Bhoopinder Singh Hooda). How is it that he could not work under any boss? Is it his point that every political party is corrupt and pathetic? That there is no one that he can work with? Then why did he join the IAS at all? In the private sector, the needle of suspicion would have shifted onto Khemka long back – after he failed with 2-3 bosses. Here he survives, and in fact, is being hailed as a hero.

Khemka has had tenures as small as 1 month (in fact, a few of just a few days). What do you “unearth” in 1 month that is so sensational and incriminating of politicians that you become an immediate nuicance and have to be shunted out? When in the urban development ministry, he was there for just 19 days. And he was shunted out. What did he do or find in 19 days? Just as another statistic, he was shunted out within 6 months in 20 of his 41 postings. What kind of an officer has a record like that? Here’s one more: his longest stint has been for 1 year and 9 months when he was with the Industries ministry between 2008 and 2010 – with the same CM in charge. How come he is unable to survive when so many of his other IAS brethren survive and thrive? Are they all corrupt because they don’t get transferred like he does?

Khemka has held positions of power and authority, where he could have effected changes if he wanted to. He’s held secretary level postings, been Managing Director of government undertakings – he’s had his fair chance at making changes, but has he? No. Not once.

In reality, Khemka is an abject failure. The kind of person who cannot claim to have achieved anything in his professional life. I think he is like the “runaway bride” – running away from responsibilities, worried that if he stays too long in a job, he will be held responsible for his deeds, or misdeeds. So he finds excuses to go, becoming inconvenient, preferring to be “thrown out” than be exposed as a professional failure.

The real truth is that my sympathies would have been with Khemka if his record was not so pathetic. I would have understood if he had been shunted out a few times, and by one particular party or boss. But 41 times, and sometimes within 19 days? And by all political parties? Sorry, I think he is not a hero, but just an abject failure….

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