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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Karnataka: Labour Secy Manivannan’s transfer invites widespread flak

Citizen activists and labour collectives in the city allege "lobbying by employers" as the reason behind Manivannan's sudden transfer.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru | Updated: May 12, 2020 7:31:01 pm
Senior IAS officer Captain Manivannan was transferred out in a sudden move.

In a surprise move, senior IAS officer and Principal Secretary of Karnataka’s Labour Department and Department of Information & Public Relations Captain P Manivannan was transferred out of his posts in a late evening development on Monday.

Principal Secretary of Commerce and Industries Department (MSME and Mines) M Maheshwar Rao was appointed as his replacement for both the responsibilities he was handling.

A popular civil servant in the state, Manivannan  was appointed as the Secretary to the Government in the Department of Animal Husbandry & Fisheries. He will replace A B Ibrahim who was on concurrent charge to take over the new responsibility.

Speaking to Indianexpress.com, an official from the labour department hinted at an alleged disagreement between the team led by the bureaucrat and the government over distribution of relief ration kits to construction workers.

Manivannan, a 1998 batch IAS officer, is popular on social media platforms where he interacts with the public and responds to their queries. His role in opening a Telegram channel to field queries from the public and check the proliferation of fake news about the pandemic had gained plaudits from many.

Named ‘COVID-19 Karnataka Sahaya’, the Telegram group has over 27,000 members and admins working in teams of five members, including doctors and officials, in eight-hour shifts who respond to queries raised by the public on the platform.

On Tuesday, Manivannan tweeted, “Yesterday at 9 PM, I have handed over charge of both depts (Labour & DIPR). Thank YOU for the guidance and support! Please extend the same to my successor.”

However, Manivannan chose not to comment further on the same in a text interaction with Indianexpress.com.

Lobbying by employers key reason behind transfer: Citizen groups

Meanwhile, citizen activists and labour collectives in the city allege “lobbying by employers” as the reason behind Manivannan’s sudden transfer.

The Karnataka Employers Association (KEA) had apparently written to CM Yediyurappa pointing out the labour department’s action would “affect the harmonious relationship between employers and employees in Karnataka” after Manivannan directed the Department to issue notices to industries defaulting payment of wages.

The labour department had then urged workers to register complaints on their helpline in case of non-payments of salaries and other issues faced from their employers as well.

Following this letter dated May 8, a copy of which was posted online by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) Karnataka chapter, the government had asked the labour department to withdraw the orders. The transfer took place within three days from then.

“It is shocking and condemnable that the Yediyurappa-led govt has transferred Manivannan IAS because of pressures from industries lobby. How can industries ask for the Labour Secretary to be transferred because he tried to implement central govt notification?” AICCTU said in a statement.

Further taking to Twitter, AICCTU added, “We condemn the actions of this govt to appease industry at all costs. The govt instead of encouraging officers to talk to workers is transferring officers, leaving them without a posting because they chose to implement the rules. It is disrespectful to the officer and to workers.”

‘Govt should prove transparency’

Vinay Sreenivasa, a member of the Alternative Law Forum and citizens’ collective Naavu Bharathiyaru, said, “There are several allegations and unanswered questions. The government must come clean on all aspects.”

The government should also answer why it seems proper to give an additional charge to Industries Secretary when labour law changes are being considered, added Sreenivasa.

Meanwhile, citizen groups and social activists have also demanded the local civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to give clarification on kits, and asked the Labour Department to share details of building and construction worker funds on a public platform.

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