The Weekend Leader - Nothing to hide

A glass door in his room is one way of his saying what transparency is all about

D Narasimhamurthy


Vol 3 | Issue 19

For the general populace, to meet an elected representative is a lot easier than meeting a top bureaucrat. At least the politician comes once every five years! But there are few notable exceptions. Meet 39-year-old IAS officer P Manivannan, who is trying to introduce a new transparency into proceedings.

The bureaucracy has its own ways of keeping under wraps things which they believe people should not know.

Manivannan has been transferred 11 times in 12 years, but he refuses to compromise (Photo: Saggere Radhakrishna)

But, Manivannan broke this glorious tradition by installing a CCTV camera in his chamber and linking it to his department’s official website! Now he has gone a step further by replacing his chamber door with a see-through glass door. (The CCTV has since been removed from his chamber.)

“We are public servants and there is nothing to hide from the public. Let people keep a vigil on their servants,” he says.

Known for hard decisions and their equally stern implementation, Manivannan carried the tag of Demolition Man when he served as deputy commissioner, Dharwad, where he brought down huge buildings of influential people to construct a public road.

“The media publicised the demolition, but not the construction that followed,” he rues.

Such was his popularity that there were voluntary protests when he was transferred from Dharwad.

During the 2008 Karnataka assembly elections, Manivannan, a 1998 batch IAS officer, was Mysore DC and district electoral officer.

Candidates trying to lure voters through illegal means, like distributing money and material, were rounded up. He had set up 12 control rooms and 130 mobile police stations with a 20,000-strong staff.

He seized illegal money and filed cases against those who violated the Model Code of Conduct. In the process, he earned the ire of political heavy weights like former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and ex-chief minister BS Yeddyurappa.

Presently managing director of Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM), Manivannan is in office before the others arrive and sometimes works late - not the kind of routine a lazy staff will be able to keep up with.

To Manivannan goes the credit for introducing secret voting by his concerned staff before arriving at a decision. “Junior officers may hesitate to differ with their bosses. So, we have a secret vote. Anybody opposing a decision can do so by pressing a particular button in the electronic voting machine, without their identity being revealed. Only the pro or anti votes will be displayed. We go ahead with the majority opinion,” he explains. Pretty smooth!

A team man to the core, Manivannan attributes his achievements to collective efforts. “I don’t say these are achievements. We have done our duty as public servants.’’

He is naturally a man of offbeat ideas. As a Tamil, he decided to work out of his state and got Karnataka.

“I felt that in my parent state, I would not be able to maintain neutrality. Even if we are cautious, our community, religion, caste or relatives influence our work. I felt that I could better serve people whom I did not know.’’

With such `weird’ ideas, it is little surprise that he has got transferred 11 times in his 12- years service! In some cases, he was shifted out after a mere three months. In one instance, he served as DC Uttara Kannada district for a paltry 13 days.

But he remains unfazed. “The government has all rights to post a servant wherever and whenever it feels the need.’’ Strong words indeed, particularly in Karnataka where the institution of civil servants is taking a real beating.

By arrangement with The Sunday Indian

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