NL Interviews Dr Ashok Khemka – Part 1

Dr Ashok Khemka speaks to Madhu Trehan about why he doesn’t like being called a whistle-blower, “covert” threats, his many transfers, Hooda, why the IAS is a “fool’s paradise”, how he got the Robert Vadra lead and more…

Dr Ashok Khemka speaks to Madhu Trehan on why he doesn’t like being called a whistle-blower, “covert” threats, his many transfers, Hooda, why the IAS is a “fool’s paradise”, how he got the Robert Vadra lead and more…

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  • rutvik patak

    Seriously our society need exemplary like him ,NIRBHAY people like Dr. Ashok Khemka is not afraid to fight against corruptions . Uthishta Bharata.

  • ThinkFreer

    Tu mera hero..

    • aldol

      O O O O….

  • aldol

    This guy gives me inferiority complex 🙁

  • Shashank

    Madhu did a very bad job in this interview… did nto do her homework properly and unnecessarily interrupted khemka…

    i request NL team to keep up the high quality standards that they have set.

    • Sachin

      agreed, quality of interview was not as good. Madhu shSaould agree to it I guess.

      • Gaurav

        agreed Madhu interrupted unnecessarily without doing her homework..
        please maintain your standard

        • Madhu

          I am open to criticism, in fact welcome it in order to improve. In this, I beg to differ. I worked very hard on the research which a skilful interviewer does not have to show off. I was acutely aware he had not been given a chance to speak on other channels. I only interrupted where I felt he was starting to meander which is understandable since he has SO much information it all tumbles out in one go. He made all the points he needed to.

          • aldol

            I think on the internet one can post looong interviews. No need to stick to a 40 min slot.
            The only problem one might face will be the time restraints on the individuals involved.
            I’m sure it can be worked out 🙂

          • Sachin

            Glad that you cared to reply and clarify.

          • Sudhir

            Sorry Madhu, you came across a very novice interviewer here. Nowhere did you look like you grasped the intricacies of the subject matter. When Dr Khemka tried explaining, you needlessly interrupted him ( Arnab Goswami would have been really proud ! ) Somehow, you had made up your mind to arrive quickly at the Vadra files without bothering to know the timeline.

          • Madhu

            He discusses the timeline in Part 2 of the interview if you care to take the time to watch it.

          • satish

            Great job Madhu..we know you were trying to let him skip the sarkari clause/acts and taking him straight to the audience…the job expected from a journalist. One of your best interviews I would say.This interview re-confirms my decision to pay for watching/reading Newslaundry, best

          • SS

            I guess Gaurav is being too harsh with words in his criticism but there is substance in what he says. And it is great to see engagement with the viewers (unlike MSM) – which makes NL very special… I have an example to support Gaurav’s view – why was the interruption with “..let us go back to the cheque….” made, taking the conversation to the first deal when Vadra BOUGHT the land when Dr. Khemka was right in the middle of describing the second deal when Vadra SOLD the land to DLF – which is the transaction that Dr. Khemka cancelled. He was being coherent and structured but by that interjection, you did give the impression of not being able to follow him (?) or of being impatient (?) or perhaps being needlessly wary of his meandering – when he was clearly not. It also disrupted the narrative and probably also the thought process of Dr. Khemka. I think, it could have been done better but kudos for the interview in any case.

            Corruption is less brazen and more sophisticated now and that is what makes it so difficult to understand and then communicate it to a “lay” audience. Imagine a politician describing what Vadra did in Gurgaon or what he did in Rajasthan (which is even more humongous than Gurgaon and complex – somewhat like the host manipulation stuff that Anand Gandhi described) or how Mayawati’s brother’s defunct company acquired value in hundreds of crores without a single business transaction. Business Standard has done a really good job of at least putting it all out there but media has a function to mediate the complexity so that people at large can understand the enormity of it and how pernicious these things are and its consequences for all of us. This ability to take complex issues to the masses is sorely lacking in the Indian media. We require more “Modi” class communicators in the media.

          • Rajkiran Panuganti

            Madhu, I do respect your hard work but, you were interrupting his flow so much that the viewers remain confused. Some clarifications would be good but, interrupting at every point did hurt the quality of the interview. Your “let’s go back to this..” etc.. was bad. At least one of you had explained the viewers what is the established procedure and helped viewers understand where all things got deviated.

          • Rajkiran Panuganti

            You did much better in part 2. And, kudos for calling him on your show which no mainstream media showed the spine. The only complaint I have is that both of you were speaking check #’s and few other things for which viewers need some background. It’d been super-helpful to viewers if you’d edited video to insert those references (since we, viewers would not do the homework as much as you do).

          • Devil

            Agree with Madhu. She was only trying to establish the timeline of the whole saga.

    • Nishant

      Well I guess administrators, when they are honest, have a tendency to tell fact exactly what it is, compared to a journalist’s to always try finding what it could mean.

      Still Mrs. Madhu did a a great job for letting Mr. Khemka describe the facts as he sees them. Any other journalist would not have been as patient, and would have surely tried to dumb it down. I hope more such interviews follow.

    • Nitesh

      Did you notice that Madhu kept quiet whem Mr Khemka stated that a lady anchor of a leading News Channel was forced to invite Mr Tulsi on her show ( & who went on to berate Mr Khemka & question his integrity ). So Madhu, just wondering, was it Sagarika Ghose or Barkha Dutt ?

    • Neelam

      Do the Newslaundry anchors ( especially Abhinandan & Madhu ) suffer from an obsessive compulsive disorder to interrupt the normal flow of the interviews ? They have the tendency to butt-in when they don’t like the tone / tenor of the interview. Would suggest that they do a poll to find out how pissed the viewers feel about their constant interruptions

      • Madhu

        My job was to let him talk and stir the conversation without extra distractions. I did not interrupt except when it was going into meandering. He is a good man with a lot of information filed away in his brain. If I did not guide it, it would have been difficult to watch. He got to say everything he wanted to and more. Watch Part 2 if you care to.

        • vijay c s

          You know, Karan Thapar could also give a similar justification. Thats were NL could stand out. Let the speaker speak, once he is done pick your points and summarize instead of guiding him/her and disrupting their flow. TV channels have restriction on time, is your producer from TV? Its the net, use it, and put the questions in comments section, let people decide for themselves.

          And Madhu, what was that about him going from IIT to Computer Science ….. You should find out about how engineering research is set-up in the country.

          And why the surprise about him moving from research to services. You should check as to how many civil servants coming out currently are engineers.

          And finally, jumping to discrimination when he says the environment is constrained, just gives you away. Exposes your lack knowledge as to how the academia is distributed outside journalism schools. Since when does south mean iyers !! And yes there are an overwhelming number from researchers from the south, because they have worked for it, why the stereo typing.

        • Saurabh

          It was a nice calm interview. It could have been great if you could’ve made him reveal more secrets of what happens in IAS. Otherwise it was all quite good. I think the criticism is too picky.

        • AT

          I think u did a great job with this interview, Madhu. U did well to channel the conversation whenever Dr. Khemka was being too technical and detailed. Most of the people do little to check and state facts to articulate their argument/response, unlike Dr. Khemka who is obviously very intelligent, but he’s also detailed. His style of presenting a response wouldn’t fit well during an interview like this. U did well to balance it.

        • Dhruv

          Meandering? Would have accepted your defence if your interruptions were not unintelligent non-sequiters.
          Were you even listening to what he was saying. He is trying to answer YOUR OWN question on why probable inferences are not the same thing as ‘assumptions’. He is linearly and lucidly coming to the point where he establishes that he dis not have access to ALL the documents once he is not in the official capacity anymore, and can make his infernces basis publicly documented documents only and
          that is why he cannot arrive at either conclusion with certitude but only infer- but even before he can make the third point- and thus conclude the train of thought- you interrupt him with a Sunetra Choudhuriesque non sequiter- “So you were only doing your job, right?”.
          Again where he is presenting his thesis on why Civil Service is not the most creative profession, and I believe he would have offered some interesting bits on why he thinks the way he does- you interrupt him with a non-sequiter again. Yes, interviews are not monlogues- that is why you have follow up questions. Non of your questions followed from what he said or tried to build upon/ or rebut his arguements. You could have well asked him about relative merits of Madhuri Dixit v/s Sridevi when he was expounding on dgitising all land-records in Haryana- which is pretty much what you did during the interview.

          • Lavanya

            Hahaha! Sunetra chaudharyesque non sequitur – good one.
            Agree with your summary too.

      • TheHobbit

        Not sure as to how long have you been following NL but this is quite possibly the first time such a thing might have occurred while Mrs. Trehan was interviewing somebody. It is utterly ridiculous to make a blanket call of this sort.

      • Madhu

        It is an INTERVIEW! Not a monologue!

        • Observer

          Exactly! Sometimes, you may not understand whether what’s being said is “relevant” or not because you may not be aware of it, already!

    • z

      check out part 2.

  • Aviral

    Madhu please be patient and let Dr Khemka complete his sentences and thoughts. You interrupt him way too much. Request you to not make Newslaundry an Arnab show.

    • Ritu

      Very well said. Hope she reads the feed back

      • Madhu

        See Part 2

  • Raghav

    Khemka comes across as a sincere person of highest integrity. He is not a crook, neither does he have a personal agenda. He seems to be just an honest officer doing his job!
    It ‘s not like Madhu to interfere and interrupt the interviewee and upset his thought stream and the chronology. I dont know where did she get this Thaparitis! Good interview anyway.

  • Mahesh


    An opportunity lost!

    This story has been in the national media for a while. The major news channels are constrained by time and TRP to get key phrases out of the interviewees mouth. But you have an online platform, which is not restricted/victim of these constraints. If you had let Khemka speak and further tried to understand the chain of events, the parties involved, context of the story, it would have made for an excellent interview. I am very sorry to say that by your untimely interjections, changing topics haphazardly, you have failed to let the audience understand Khemka’s version of events.

    I do not believe that the audience of Newslaundry would mind even a three part series, if at the end we come out better informed. It is possible, that Ashok was under time constraint (though from his responses, it does not seem so) and hence you had to rush the interview.

    • Mahesh

      I must confess here, that this remark of mine was written out of frustration after watching the first part. The pace of the second part of the interview was VERY WELL DONE. It was informative. What we did not get to learn (enough detail) in the first part – his discovery process, did he apply a similar yard stick to all applicants, was it a fishing expedition (as alleged by the other party), the circumstances that led to this dismissal, more on his past services, etc.

      A side note, I finally learned the the reason for Ashok using the phrase “probable inference”. His training in Mathematics/Statistics and Computer Science are the likely cause. This is what TIFR does to a student!

  • aldol

    I forgot, in the initial part of the interview, Dr. Khemka also points out to the favoritism going on in research institutes of India.
    Anand can follow this up ?? 🙂
    Altleast science should have remained stainless. 🙁

    • Mahesh

      This has been a perpetual problem, in particular at TIFR. There have been a number of instances of people reporting favoritism depending on the region the student came from and sometimes even beyond that, for example if you have studied from Padma Sheshadari, you were preferred in the field of Mathematics. Though, I hear things are better now.

      • aldol

        Yes I think it has to do with academic lineage rather than other factors. Ofcourse, in maths its more pervasive than other fields. It will be less problematic with increasing number of institutes I guess.

    • Anand Ranganathan

      What is this – aldol “condescension”? hahaha, 😉 Now waiting for your bro Claisen to come by, lol! So refreshing to meet a fellow chemist now and then!
      No but seriously, aldol, Dr. Khemka is a real hero in my eyes. He is probably right in his assertion but I’d need to collect a lot of data to be able to back this theory. It is a fact that our institutes are presently choc-a-bloc with madrasis and bengalis…but i’m not sure if one can see something deeper into this – and within this “sect” I again am not sure if caste equations come into it. That said, as with everything else in this country, let me also assure you that our institutes are not immune to all sorts of problems…
      And I’ll also like to take this opportunity to mention something that’s been bugging me ever since Abhinandan’s interview of Madhu Kishwar. Either i am completely wrong or not in tune with so many commenters here, but for the life of me I did not find either Abhinandan or Madhu interrupting the interviewees. I really didn’t. I mean, c’mon, this is supposed to be an interview, not an intraview! and secondly, what does one do if one wants to proceed to the next question and the interviewee is not aware of this and carries on with the answer for longer than what Abhi or Madhu think is appropriate? Should Madhu keep a small red flashlight that she can switch on to let the interviewee know the time has come to move on to the next question??! 🙂 Great interviews are always great discussions, no?
      I completely agree: Timesnow, CNNIBN and other MSM interview shows can never be the benchmark for NL, but NL’s interviews are definitely at par – many a time even better – than BBC’s, which BTW holds the best interviews on MSM. Steven Sackur is brilliant, but please see his Hardtalk interviews (and Zena’s as well)…they “interrupt” MORE than Madhu!! More than anything, I think it’s the equation between the interviewee and the interviewer that should come through as honest and sincere. Now see NL’s interviews through these glasses and compare this interview with the DA interview – and you’ll have the answer. Do you honestly believe that, like KT, MT was also out to take AK’s trip? C’mon man, no way! Anyway, that’s my two bits on this. Bye, Anand

      • aldol

        Thanks for the reply. And yes its the “condensation” 🙂 People usually take it as something Arabic or a “a doll”
        Well, been a student once, I know that science in India has overwhelming number of Bengalis and Mallus and Tams. Just as most of stock brokers are gujratis, autowalas are biharis, gangsters and from UP etc. 🙂
        It would be interesting to look at staple professions of each state.
        However, having been close to some of profs at my institute I know a few details about the hiring procedure. I dont think it has anything to do with caste or religion, I think it has to do with your scientific lineage. I have seen similar things in west as well but its not that pervasive I guess.
        I can empathize with the commentators here as I think they just wanted to hear Dr. Khemkas story directly from him atleast I did. And I also understand that with time constrains, the interviewer has to interrupt at times even though displeasing ate times. You have ample examples.

        BTW it was Madhus interview of Karan Thapar that brought me to News Laundry!! Sometimes, interrupting is fully justified 🙂

      • shaalu

        You know what pisses off the viewers is that instead of admitting, Madhu made a mistake, you get people like Anand trying to browbeat viewers by being condescending. Since he is on the topic of conducting interview without excessive interruptions, it would suffice if he or Madhu checked out how the late Sir David Frost or even Charlie Rose conducted their interviews.

  • Tarun B

    Very poor interview yaar! In a case like this, chronological structuring of events matters the most and that is where the story is. Khemka kept going back and forth making it bloody difficult to understand what exactly is it that he felt was illegal in this episode.

  • Abhiram Chintangal

    I hope our Government realizes the potential of this bloke. Coming from a similar technical background as his, I am very much interested in how in mobilized the pension funds in such a short amount of time.

    Keep up the good work Madhu Tehran and the NL team!

    You folks have earned a loyal subscriber 🙂

  • Rajeev

    Dr Khemka should resign his job & fight the next Haryana Election on
    the Aam Admi Party ticket. We require people of high intelligence
    & absolute integrity like him as our elected representatives ( rather
    than crooks & goons that most national parties dish as as
    their candidates ). It should be brought to the collective notice that both the BJP &
    Congress have recently collaborated in the Lok Sabha to overturn / reverse the recent Supreme court judgement
    that bars criminals from getting elected. If left to these two parties,
    Indians would be keep getting fooled & the country would continue to get looted. It’s high time
    that we, the slack & lazy educated middle class should now awake.

  • Sreekanth

    Coitus ‘Interruptus’ of an interview

  • Harsh

    One of the worst interviews by Madhu.. another bad one was the Francois Gautier one. Madhu does not try to understand and let others understand how governments work. She had a golden and rare opportunity to let viewers understand the finer details of the weird ways in which administration functions but she threw it away. But anyday Madhu is better than the morons on TV.

  • TheGlobeTrotter

    Dr. Khemka’s honesty, fearlessness, and serenity rubs off on you even through the video. He makes you believe in leading a life of righteousness, thought, and service. I wish him godspeed on his journey.

  • zurial

    why is this interview not 2 – 3 hours long ??? if you have any conversation unedited could you please upload them…

  • sanjeev vasishtha

    excellent interview, what a man- he is a real man, hope all his hard work pays up

  • Vivian Rathinam (@VivRathinam)

    Thanks for doing a great service to public by being neutral without bias in your interviews. Your interviews just put all other channels to shame! Looking forward to more interviews. How about interviewing the man-most-talked-about Mr N Modi? Did you ever try asking him?

  • Itachi

    An Interviewer’s job is not just to ask questions, but also steer the interview in a direction that enables the interviewee to reveal useful information. Dr.Khemka might go on and on explaining the intricacies, not all of which might be important. Madhu did not go the Karan Thapar way. Excellent job, Madhu!

    • jatin

      Not important from the point of view of Madhu as they are beyond what she can comprehend ,but there are things more important than that rogue Vadhra which many people out here want to hear .She should shed her air of superiority and listen to people like him who almost always talk sense and not sensationalism

  • Gaurav

    Hi Madhu,

    We love your interviews but please allow the interviewee to complete the point.Don’t jump the gun.


  • Rohit Maindwal

    Good Interview. Wish Khemka the best to cope up with the challenges, will like to see him out of his current assignment into more meaningful role in Haryana Government.

  • Prof. of Vadranomics

    “Ethics and Morality” – I hope the person who calls him selves the Prime Minister of India had some.

  • guest

    Madhu, please disturb the flow of your intervieweee,happening too many times now.. for gods sakes:)

  • Karthik

    By far Madhu’s worst interview. You just wouldn’t let him complete what he wants to say.
    1) He was talking about what function IAS actually serves, and you cut him off.
    2) Then he was talking about how he single-handed transformed a system pushing Rs 550 crores in 5 months to the people, and you just weren’t interested…
    …and numerous such other instances.

    Madhu, do also LISTEN to what your interviewee is talking about…God, this was frustrating to watch!

  • AT

    It is very depressing to see the way they have treated Dr Khemka. Pushed him aside… and they r continuing to loot the country in daylight. I really hope these corrupt politicians r shown the door and people like Dr. Khemka run the Country… A fool’s dream, I suppose.

  • Sam

    Madhu, I do agree that you, as an interviewer you have to steer the discussion towards the relevant context without engaging in the paraphernalia. Having said that, I would expect a Journo of your stature to do so without being invasive. I believe the comments are not necessarily about the ground work on the subject matter, but about how in this particular interview you were not able to seamlessly steer the conversion from the inconsequential to the relevant without being irreverent.

  • Arbind

    Awesome interview. Simple and informative.

  • Deepak Kumar

    I am surprised to see so many negative feedbacks on this interview.Though, I must admit that Madhu did interrupt. Not highly frequently but yes, to some extent. There is no denying on the fact that Dr. Ashok Khemka is an exemplary gentleman. Whatever he speaks, people just want to listen and listen as there are very few people in the system who talks sense. I guess thats the reason viewers got angry even due to slightest of interruption. Really need to appreciate Madhu for allowing Dr.Khemka to speak his mind. I loved it.

  • A Youtube user

    Any particular reason, the youtube comment section is being censored? I will be really disappointed if even newslaundry starts censoring public comments 🙁

  • Vandna Gahlot

    I don’t understand why everyone is being so hard on Madhu???? Dr. Khemka was in a flow of explaning the whole story in his own terms and he was not pointing out the names or checks or transactions that we have heard off on news channels or news papers. Madhu was just making sure that we know what he is talking about and if she will not interrupt to put the story in a timeline .. it will not make any sense!

  • gangesh gunjan

    nice interview….respect for him “given a chance i will rejoin IAS”

  • jatin

    This guy is a legend not only in terms of the courage he has shown but as a Academician .He is a BTech in computer science with a PHd from tata institute of fundamental research and then IAS .Madhu it will take you three more lifetimes to achieve what he has .He is trying to make a point that inspite of his almost regular transfers ,he has made phenomenal difference .For example the part where he was explaining the creation of accounts for pensioners ,linking them togather in a database and 10 million transaction in 5 months …500 crores in disbursement !!! This is a huge accomplishment from a technical ,implementation and administrative point of view …but he was cut short by Madhu and repeatedly so .Madhu you should learn to respect people who are astronomically more intelligent than you .When it comes to intellect Madhu ,you are no match for him and yet he responds with such remarkable humility to your rubbish .So have some respect and let him complete whatever he is saying .This very Delhi like air of superiority of yours on display looks good with douche bags like karan thapar but not with legends like Mr Khemka .

    • jatin

      We still prefer to watch you interviews over the MSM but for heavens sake be a little patient with people of such calibre and try to comprehend whatever they are trying to say .Dont make your interviews look like assembly line products .A gas bag like karan thapar cannot be equated with Mr Khemka

  • Veera

    There is no match between the interviewer and the interviewee. Watching this link on recommendation by a friend. This lady is doing a very poor job. This one being an open interview, she should have given enough space for Mr. Khemka to speak freely. At times her interruptions are very irritating..!!!

  • Pramod

    Thanks a lot Madhu for this interview.. you did a wonderful job

  • Raakshus

    All criticism is fair but Vijay CS, comparing Madhu to Karan Thapar!!! Thats taking it a bit too far dude. Ouch!!!

  • Observer

    Interruptions are more in the first part of the interview. Generally the interviewer tend to think, that the person being interviewed is deviating from the question/topic or is giving relevant details, which is true in many cases but for the interview of this kind, it may very well be the case that the other person is trying to cite those details which is still not known ( and may look irrelevant at that moment! )
    I missed on why his “cancellation order” was right when he passed that order after he was given his “transfer orders”.. he was trying to explain but “these INTERRUPTIONS”!

  • Pradeep Ullal

    Thank you for having Dr. Khemka. Its time for the Gandhi’s to move on. If this does not convince people then I wonder what will.

  • Kranti Kaari

    I don’t agree with the criticism below. Mr. Khemka does have a propensity to spew Babu-ese (I’ve heard him machine gun sub-clauses on the studio walls at Timesnow, which left even the great Gowswami stumped). He must be quite a difficult person to interview.

  • chiranjeev desai

    Hats off to Dr.Ashok Khemka and Madhu Trehan, for striving to make India a better place.