The All India Central Council of Trade Unions on Monday night released a letter written by the employers to the CM, lobbying for a transfer.

A picture of Captain Manivannan IAS at Bokaro Steel Plant
news Politics Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 13:10

Hours after the Karnataka government transferred Captain Manivannan IAS, the Principal Secretary of both the Labour Department and Information and Public Relations Department, a letter written by the Karnataka Employers’ Association (KEA) to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa demanding the bureaucrat's transfer has surfaced. 

The letter released by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions showed that KEA, an industry body, was upset with Captain Manivannan for a circular on April 13, 2020. The former Labour Secretary had issued a circular asking employers not to cut salaries of employees and to not remove employees including temporary employees. The circular stated that action would be taken under the Disaster Management Act if the employers fail to comply with the circular. It was later withdrawn under pressure. 

However, state Congress President DK Shivakumar tells TNM that he and certain ministers and MLAs had issues with the way the Labour department was functioning, and had raised it with the Chief Minister. The KPCC chief says that ‘his threat to expose how the Labour department bungled with the distribution of relief kits’, was behind the transfer.  

Pressure from industry body

The letter written by KEA President BC Prabhakar brazenly asked the Chief Minister to remove Manivannan from the post.

“We are pained to request that immediate steps be taken to change the leadership in the Labour Department, which in these difficult times, has to play the role of the umbilical cord that connects the employers and employees and not an impediment in the harmonious relationship, which is the need of the hour,” BC Prabhakar’s letter to the Chief Minister states. 

The AICCTU on Monday night expressed shock over the transfer of Captain Manivannan. “It is shocking and condemnable that the BS Yediyurappa government has transferred Captain Manivannan because of pressures from industries’ lobby. How can industries ask for a Labour Secretary to be transferred because he tried to implement a central govt notification?” the AICCTU said in a tweet. 

Captain Manivannan had issued the April 13 circular based on a central government order. However, despite this the Employers’ Association called the circular a threat in the letter to the CM. The letter claims it (KEA) influenced the government’s reversal of the circular. 

“Alarmed by this shocking circular, the Industries Association including the KEA, had submitted memorandums to the Chief Secretary, whose timely intervention resulted in the withdrawal of the above circular,” the letter states. 

It also complains of Captain Manivanna’s tweet in response to that of an employer alleging that he was unable to pay his employees as he was under immense loss. Captain Manivannan, had at the time tweeted, “Business is your domain sir. Implementing Law is my domain. Let each of us do our job. That is Dharma.” 

“It is our humble submission that employers' dharma is to create wealth for the benefit of the nation. And that is why they are called Udhyogadaatas and Annadataas,” KEA’s letter states. 

“It is submitted that when no work has taken place during the lockdown period, the hands of employers are tied due to the lockdown, and therefore they have been unable to run their businesses and produce wealth. In such a situation, the ‘Dharma’ of the government, particularly, the Labour Department, instills confidence,” the Karnataka Employers’ Association’s letter to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa reads. 

“It is further noted that the Labour Secretary is actively encouraging workers to register their complaints regarding non-payment of wages or retrenchment with the assurance that strict action will be taken against employers,” the Karnataka Employers’ Association’s letter to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa reads. 

‘I will expose corruption’

Though the letter by KEA is out in the open, Congress leader DK Shivakumar believes that the real reason for the transfer was that MLAs from both opposition and ruling party were unhappy with the Labour Department.

“Have you seen any migrant worker at a railway station, camp or bus stop carrying a food kit? Where did all these food kits go? We have proof of more corruption and I told the CM that I will expose it soon. This transfer was because the government is worried,” DKS alleged. DKS also hinted that the Congress was looking at alleged corruption in the call centres that was set up by the Labour Department.

'Minister was unhappy'

The buzz is also that the Labour Minister was unhappy with the bureaucrat.

A senior IAS officer expressed shock at Captain Manivannan’s transfer and said that there was also a tussle between Captain Manivannan and Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbbar and indicated that this could have also led to the transfer.

“There was a tussle over distribution of ration kits for the poor," the officer said. Though the Labour Minister wanted to distribute kits through local MLAs, Captain Manivannan wanted the distribution through the department.

Small scale industry owners also opposed Manivannan

The April 13 circular had ruffled feathers of the Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association (KASSIA) also. The Association expressed its disapproval and said that Captain Manivannan was going against the 'interest of entrepreneurs' and insisting they pay salaries.

"He should be a facilitator between labour, government and entrepreneurs – but he was not doing that. He was one-sided in his approach. He is a government representative, who was not interested in a mutually acceptable solution. He was one-sided in his approach," said R Raju, vice-president, KASSIA.

He further stated that Captain Manivannan’s approach would not have been unfounded under normal circumstances as employers cannot exploit employees. "In normal circumstances, I would say Manivannan's actions were perfectly right. No industrialist should take it out on workers – the most vulnerable. But we are in an emergency; it's an unprecedented situation. Something that we never envisioned in 100 years," R Raju added. 

Bring back Captain

Though Captain Manivannan has faced opposition from various quarters, he has also been receiving much support. #BringBackCaptain trended on Twitter with many people asking for his reinstatement. Credited with starting the government Telegram group that addresses people’s concerns on COVID-19 and also running a robust volunteer group called ‘COVID-19 Karnataka Team’. 

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