Karnataka Labour Secretary transferred without posting

Published : May 12, 2020 19:09 IST

Captain Manivannan.

Captain Manivannan, an IAS officer who was Principal Secretary of the Labour Department in the Government of Karnataka, was transferred without a posting yesterday. The sudden transfer without a reason has led to widespread speculation that the builders lobby pressured the State government to remove Manivannan from the crucial department. A letter from the Karnataka Employers’ Association (KEA) dated May 8 demanding that Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa remove Manivannan from the crucial post has also been circulating on social media. The KEA is a representative body of employers in the State that aims to “promote, safeguard and protect the legitimate interest of employers”.

The letter makes reference to the Labour Secretary’s order of April 14 that employers should not cut salaries and not terminate employees’ services. The KEA’s letter also pointed out that the Labour Secretary has “actively been encouraging workers to register their complaints regarding non-payment of wages or retrenchment with an assurance that strict action will be taken against employers”. The letter adds that when “no work has taken place during the lockdown period, the hands of the employers have been tied due to the lockdown and therefore they have been unable to run their businesses and produce wealth”.

According to a source close to Manivannan, the Labour Secretary’s initiative to start a complaint helpline “led to a lot of nuisance for a lot of major employers,” leading to tremendous pressure on the State government to shunt him out. “We have such a strong builders’ lobby in Karnataka and they also put a lot of pressure as Manivannan was trying to support the labourers’ rights,” the source added.

Manivannan also started a novel volunteer-based initiative called “Corona Sainika” which has approximately 22,000 volunteers across the State. “It was the first of its kind in the country where volunteers were roped in to help alleviate the widespread distress caused to all sections of society during the lockdown period. We have been very effective in coordinating with various departments of the State government regarding issues on the ground,” said Vijay Grover, a freelance journalist and a “Corona Sainika”.

According to reports, A. Shivaram Hebbar, Labour Minister, also had differences with Manivannan over the manner of the distribution of ration kits for the distressed. While Manivannan wanted the ration kits to be distributed through the Labour Department, the Minister insisted that the distribution should take place through MLAs.

Manivannan has been replaced with his IAS batchmate, M. Maheswar Rao, who will hold concurrent charge of the Labour Department along with being the Principal Secretary of the Commerce and Industries Department. H. Vasu, the editor of a Kannada weekly newspaper called Nyaya Patha, asked: “How can the same person be in charge of the Industries and the Labour Department as these represent different interests? This is highly incongruous.”

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