Harassment of honest Civil Service Officers
...when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle – Edmund Burke
The situation of an honest officer is like – ‘shooting the messenger because you do not like the message.’ There are numerous instances of honest civil servants raising their voices for justice and in the process ending up as hapless victims for doing their lawful duty. Some of them are forced to quit and some others are compelled to commit suicide. Some meet an untimely mysterious death. Public memory is very short and it is business as usual after all the media hype settles down. Until another incident catches our attention. We have seen and heard enough of such incidents in India in the recent past. One thing is certain these symptoms are pointing to a systemic rot and it is high time this is addressed.
In the nine plus years of service, this KAS officer (Mathai) has been shunted out from every department and has been transferred over 29 times. Normally, in the private sector one is shown the door for inefficiency and under performance but it seems here it is the other way around in the Government Sector and you will be given an adverse report in the annual confidential report for doing your duty. In this classical case K. Mathai KAS, an upright ex-serviceman, qualified lawyer has only done his duty in every assignment. Often times, this has not gone well with the powerful lobby of vested interests coming from the nexus of businessman, politicians and corrupt senior officers.
Mathai was previously targeted by the sand mining mafia during his stint as tahsildar in Hassan. Miscreants had torched his residence to deter him from taking stringent action.
As Mandya Urban Development Authority Commissioner, Mathai unearthed irregularities to the tune of Rs 300 crore in allotment of sites. This is now being probed by the CBI.
As Assistant Commissioner (Markets) BBMP, he was shunted out of the city corporation for blowing the whistle on the Rs 2,000 crore illegal hoardings scam.
Exposing the scams and irregularities in the government as a civil servant is a thankless job with no cooperation or encouragement from the government. You are called to be a live fish and swim against the tide. Very few persist to swim against the currents and many others succumb and are forced to go along the tide. Mathai is not the one to buckle down to any pressure; he is determined to take the fight to the logical end, no matter how strong and mighty the opponent could be. Sometime back, the then Chief Secretary when discussing Mathai’s case with the government, it was placed on record that “Whistle Blower’s should be shunted out”.
In his most recent assignment as Administrative Officer Sakala Mathai faces innumerable challenges every day. Sakala was on ventilator and on the verge of shutting down was revived due to the persistent efforts of Mathai. There is enough evidence to prove that it is on the right track now. But this has not gone well with the senior IAS officers. All Mathai has done is to show the mirror to them and they definitely do not like what they see. It looks like, instead of cleaning up the mess that is on them, they are only determined to break the mirror. In the process, the rot in the government administration goes from bad to worse.
So the harassment continues and the benefits of office to execute responsibilities are withdrawn as a punishment. His official car has just been reinstated after a year-long wait. His salary has not been paid for a period of 4 months between transfers and when he was on official medical leave. His increment has been denied. All these are executed, with only one intention, to frustrate him and make him fall in line. According to Sai Dutta, a civil society activist, Mathai is victimised for doing his duty and sent on punishment posting and not given his due benefits to perform his day to day official functions. He has not been given an official car, but other official’s petrol bills in his own department amounting to an average of 50,000 plus per month that include seat covers and seat beads and mineral water and sundry are passed by the senior IAS officers without raising a question. This is blatant cheating and misappropriation and no action is taken on such officers. Mathai, as a silent protest, cycles over 30 kilometers each day to office.
Now, some IAS officers have formed a lobby to continuously harass him to the point of driving him out of service. The State Government seems to be a mute spectator and cannot really take any action on Mathai for he has not done anything wrong. The IAS lobby is determined to harass Mathai. At the time of writing this, it is more than a year since Mathai has been seeking an audience with the Chief Minister. To this day, he has not been given an opportunity and if this is the plight of an Officer what would be the state of the common man, one wonders.
It is a case of the fence eating the crop. Unable to bear the injustice done to him, Mathai was forced to approach the Lokayukta when senior officials tampered with his official records and resorted to mafia-type threats. His request to prosecute the officials, including three IAS officials, was rejected citing that there was not enough evidence. The Lokayukta has only acted like a Judge, Juror and executioner - all rolled into one, without thoroughly going through the merits of the case. The law secretary has given his opinion that the decision of DPAR to withdraw his increment was totally wrong and that his benefits and increment should be restored. The Chief Secretary has not taken any action as on this date.
In his complaint titled, 'First report for essential administrative reforms', he has come out openly against some IAS officers for allegedly harassing him. He has travelled extensively across the state to popularise the time-bound Sakala scheme (which assures timely delivery of government services to citizens). The irony in all these is that the very service he is advocating for systemic change for the common good of the people is not coming to his own help, when he wants it the most.
He listed out various cases of harassment he had to face over the years.
CASES OF HARASSMENT
• Proposals were made for Mathai's suspension in 2012 but rejected by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.
• Another proposal was made for suspension by Principal Revenue Secretary in 2012 but rejected by the Legislative Assembly.
• Departmental enquiries were proposed in 2012 but rejected by the Government.
• Reopening of departmental enquiry by Principal Revenue Secretary which was closed by the Government.
• Mathai was transferred repeatedly while serving as MUDA Commissioner of Mandya in 2014 and Assistant Commissioner (Advt) in BBMP in 2016.
• An increment was curtailed by DPAR (Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms) without holding any enquiry and by misusing Rule 12 of CCA rules, 1956.
• Review petition filed before Chief Secretary kept pending by DPAR for almost one year.
• Adverse remarks in Annual Confidential Reports (ACR) by M Laxminarayana, IAS since his name appeared in the 2000 crore advertisement scam of BBMP.
• Promotion delayed at the instigation of senior officers involved in advertisement mafia.
• The chief minister's orders were modified by senior officers without his permission.
K Mathai in his complaint has requested the Lokayukta to intervene and act against the senior IAS officers who have been harassing him. He says that the basic problem honest officers were facing today was the lack of a grievance redressal authority and accountability commission because of which corrupt IAS officers were never taken to task. His complaint to the government was forwarded to the very same officials for investigation against whom he had complained.
Mathai says, he will continue to defend the truth and fight for justice. He strongly relies on his conviction that ultimately “Truth will prevail”. He quotes Mahatma Gandhi - I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
C V Joseph
Mathai has made a clarification: It was incorrectly reported that Mathai was on the verge of committing suicide. He has clarified that he is strong hearted and determined and has no reasons to think of anything as reported earlier.
(The input for this article and photos came from Mathai himself and P Morris.)
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