Karnataka IAS officer Captain Manivannan has been transferred from his post as Principal Secretary of the Labour Department and Information and Public Relations Department late on Monday. In a surprising move, the officer, who was in charge of addressing the issues faced by labourers in the state during COVID-19 pandemic, hasn't received a new posting.
Replacing the veteran officer in both his posts is the current Principal Secretary, Commerce and Industries Department (Mines and MSME), M Maheshwar Rao, who will take his new post effective immediately,
Reason behind Manivannan's transfer
The reason behind Manivannan's transfer remains a mystery, but the circumstances under which the change has been made suggest a possible political power-play.
The Karnataka Employer's Association had also complained that the officer was asking labourers to lodge complaints against their employees, disrupting the "harmonious relationship between employers and employees in Karnataka." IBTimes India obtained a copy of the KEA's complaint letter addressed to the CM, in which the association has raised concerns about the IAS officer's practices, such as encouraging workers to raise complaints if not paid during the lockdown. More than 700 workers registered their complaints upon the direction of Manivannan. The KEA sought immediate steps be taken to change the leadership in the Labour department. The letter was dated May 8 and the transfer order for Manivannan came on May 11.
Another report speculated that Manivannan's transfer could have been a result of his differences over supply of food kits. "There was pressure from legislators that they be given the food kits for distribution and the minister was on the same page. But Manivannan resisted this," a senior IAS officer familiar with the matter told the DH.
The reasons cited for Manivannan's transfer by the legislators are said to be mismanagement and poor handling of the food supplies to the workers. Also, Manivannan's social media use has reportedly been tagged as "too much."
Manivannan's work during COVID-19
Prior to being transferred, Manivannan had been dealing with the issues of employees not getting paid by their employers during the lockdown period. Manivannan had raised a voice in support of employees by issuing notices to employers for not paying full salaries or wages for April, but the decision was reversed in a matter of 24 hours. The Karnataka Employer's Association had also complained that the officer was asking labourers to lodge complaints against their employees.
The timing of the transfer is partly suspicious because the Karnataka government is reportedly considering relaxing labour laws governing minimum wage policy, increasing overtime working hours and easing compliance with key labour legislation to help the industry sector, TNM reported.
The labour department came under fire for the way it handled transfer of migrants. Hundreds of migrants complained of lack of food and wages. Many had even started walking back to their respective states due to the lack of transport to ferry them back safely.