In a sudden decision announced by the Karnataka government, Karnataka IAS officer Manivannan P was unceremoniously transferred on Monday. The announcement comes amidst the state government's efforts to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, in which Manivannan played a key role in dealing with the plights of labourers in the state.
He held the roles of Principal Secretary of both the Labour Department and Information and Public Relations Department. He has been relieved from both the roles. M Maheshwar Rao, Principal Secretary, Commerce and Industries Department (Mines and MSME), has replaced him in both roles with immediate effect.
However, Manivannan has been transferred without a new posting.
Manivannan P, was an active user of social media platforms. A Telegram group he initiated for the public to raise queries about the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown imposed due to it has recieved much applause.
As the Principal Secretary of the Labour Department, he was forced to reverse his decision to issue notices to employers for not paying full salary or wages for April, in less than 24 hours. The department had received over 700 complaints at the time. The government came under severe pressure from various industries against this order. Many sources indicate that the transfer could also have been linked to this. The Karnataka Employer's Association had written to the Chief Minister alleging that the officer was creating unrest by asking labourers to lodge complaints. Another IAS officer told TNM that Labour Minister Shivram Hebbar wanted relief kits to be handed over to MLAs, who in turn would distribute to people. However, Manivannan was against this idea and the department distributed the kits. Many MLAs had alleged that the kits were not reaching people properly.
The labour department had come under severe criticism recently for the way the migrant labourer crisis was dealt with. Hundreds of migrant labourers complained that they had not received food and wages, and many had started walking back to their respective states.
The announcement of Manivannan's transfer also comes at a time when the Karnataka government is considering relaxing labour laws governing minimum wages, increasing overtime working hours and easing compliance with key labour legislation to help industries.
A 1998 batch IAS officer, Manivannan had been dealing with issues related to employers not paying workers during the lockdown period over the past week.
He was involved in the Karnataka government's response to the floods in 2019. Manivannan was made the district in-charge secretary of Shivamogga, which was affected by the floods.
Among the controversies during his stint, strife with fellow IAS officer Rohini Sindhuri came to the fore in September 2019. Rohini was transferred out of the Labour Department just six months into her new posting.
He previously held various postings in the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board, Social Welfare Department and BESCOM (Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited).