Indian civil servant moved 53 times for exposing corruption to be immortalised in book

Amrit Dhillon in Delhi
Photograph: Altaf Qadri/AP

The ill-starred career of the Indian civil servant who has been transferred 53 times in 26 years is the subject of a new book written by two journalists to be published next month.

Ashok Khemka, 54, has been shunted around because he kept exposing corruption by politicians.

The story of how horrified politicians, on hearing that Khemka was coming to their state, used to get busy devising reasons to shunt him out, is narrated in Just Transferred: The Untold Story of Ashok Khemka by Bhavdeep Kang and Namita Kala.

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“Throughout his career, Khemka has suffered at the hands of his political masters for his refusal to compromise ... the actions of those with vested interests have not been able to shake his indomitable spirit,” says the book.

Khemka told the Guardian he has not named names but left it to the authors to unearth facts about the politicians who kept transferring him, and why. His longest posting was 19 months; the shortest was one week. He was transferred on average once every six months.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International said in a report last year that more than half of Indians had paid a bribe to police or other government officials. Close to half the MPs in the current parliament have criminal cases pending against them.

Khemka shot to fame in 2012 when he cancelled an allegedly illegal land deal by Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi.

He is presently “rotting” - as he puts it - in the archaeology and museums department of Haryana state.

Despite his experiences, Khemka hopes that Indian youths continue to join the civil service. “You must keep at it if you wish to bring change. They will suffer hardships if they are honest officers but every job has its hardships,” he said.

His wife, elderly parents and two children have known plenty of hardship. Constantly finding a home to rent meant it was hardly worth unpacking. Just when the family became familiar with a place, it was time to leave. By the time his children made new friends, it was time to move on. They have been to more schools than Khemka cares to remember.

But more than the hardship and flux, it was the indignity of the transfers that hurt the most. “It was the humiliation I and my family felt that was hard to take,” he said.