IAS officer refuses to divert funds, shunted out
The Karnataka government has shunted out an IAS officer who reportedly refused to divert funds from her department for flood relief.
Rohini Sindhuri, secretary of the Karnataka Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board, was shifted without a posting after she apparently ignored orders to contribute a slice of the department’s funds for flood relief.
Chief minister and BJP leader B.S. Yediyurappa had last week held a meeting with heads of several government departments and asked them to contribute to the flood relief by diverting money from their budget allocations.
While Karnataka has put the quantum of losses because of the recent floods at Rs 35,000 crore, the Centre has yet to pay a rupee. The state government cleared Rs 1,500 crore towards flood relief on September 18 after much pressure from the Opposition and farmers.
Such diversions are not uncommon but the 2009 batch officer who took charge of the board in February this year put her foot down, citing the possibility of misuse of the diverted funds.
She is said to have argued against such diversions as there are guidelines on how to spend the allocation for each department. The officer also felt that the relief funds could be misused if the expenditure was not monitored closely.
A government source said Sindhuri was asked to “release at least Rs 1000 crore to pay for essentials such as food packets, medicines, for the flood-affected people”.
The board has over the years accumulated a corpus of about Rs 8,000 crore. With an annual budget of Rs 80 crore, the board has been undertaking welfare measures for construction labourers.
Her transfer order came when Sindhuri was working on her pet project of opening about a hundred crèches for construction workers, mainly from the northern districts and the northern and eastern states. Also in the pipeline were skilling centres for construction workers.
According to a government official, the chief minister had no other way of mopping up funds since the Centre was yet to grant any money nearly two months after the deluge in which around 80 people were killed and lakhs displaced in 22 districts.
When Sindhuri, 35, refused to release funds from her department that carries out welfare programmes for construction workers, the government shunted her out on Friday.
A tough officer who has in the past taken on political bigwigs, Sindhuri could not be reached for comment.
Labour commissioner K.G. Shantaram has been given additional charge of the board that comes under the labour ministry handled by Yediyurappa.
Known for her grit, Sindhuri has a history locking horns with the high and mighty and had most recently taken on former public works minister H.D. Revanna, the eldest son of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
She was posted as Hassan deputy commissioner when the Congress leader P.C. Siddaramiah was chief minister in 2017.
Hassan is the home district of the Gowdas. Revanna, then in the Opposition, had issues with her style of functioning and differed with her in implementing public works projects.
Sindhuri had another run-in with A. Manju, the minister in charge of Hassan, who eventually got her transferred in January 2018. But the Election Commission stalled the transfer, citing the voter verification that was underway.
In the latest controversy, the Congress slammed the BJP government for penalising a civil servant for being forthright.
“An officer cannot be punished for doing her duty. I suspect the Centre doesn’t have money to pay even a BJP-ruled state as they have messed up the economy,” said Arshad, the former spokesman who contested in this year’s Lok Sabha polls.
He agreed that fund diversion within government departments were not rare. “Yes, fund diversions do happen, but only in certain cases where the money can be closely monitored,” he added.