The last three years of Congress rule in Karnataka have been characterised by a near collapse of the administrative machinery, recurring episodes of corruption and, most importantly, the partial breakdown of law and order.
Nothing is more emblematic of the breakdown of law and order as the growing number of incidents of suspicious deaths of senior civil servants, suicides of senior police officers, desperate resignations by senior government officials and shocking attacks on bureaucrats known for their honesty and integrity.
The suicide of Deputy Superintendent of Police MK Ganapathy is the latest episode in a growing list of government servants who were either found dead under suspicious circumstances or were allegedly driven to commit suicide. Others just resigned from their posts, allegedly due to the harassment meted out by the political executive.
The mysterious death of Police Inspector Mallikarjun Bande, the suspicious death of popular IAS Officer DK Ravi (who had taken on the real estate mafia in Bangalore), the brutal attack on IAS officer V. Rashmi (who had unearthed a Rs 100 crore scam in the Administrative Training Institute in the Chief Miniter’s hometown of Mysore), the demotion of IAS officer Thulasi Maddineni for cracking the whip on land mafia linked to a Congress Minister, the suicide of Dy SP Kallappa Handibag (who was humiliated and falsely alleged to have been involved in a kidnapping racket) and the resignation of Dy SP Anupama Shenoy, who was hounded for taking on a Congress minister, all point to a great malaise in the administrative apparatus in the state.
In an interview given to a TV channel hours before taking his life, late Dy SP MK Ganapathy named two senior police officers and former Home Minister and Bangalore Development Minister KJ George as the principal reason for his extreme step. Despite such a clear indictment and the resultant uproar amongst the public, the police appeared to be under explicit orders from the government to not register an FIR against the said minister and two senior police officers.
Though a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court, in the famous Lalitha Kumari case, had made it mandatory for the police to register an FIR upon the receipt of information disclosing a cognisable offence, the Siddaramaiah government did the very opposite by preventing the registration of the FIR, even though three complaints were filed by Ganapathy’s family.
This utter disregard for institutions and processes is also apparent in the way the government has tried to strangle the independent Lokayukta. Arguably one of the most powerful anti-corruption ombudsmen in the country, the Karnataka government has tried to appoint persons of questionable integrity to head it. To further clip the wings of the Lokayukta, the government also established a parallel Anti-Corruption Bureau that directly reports to the Chief Minister and transferred all major investigations, involving Congress politicians, to the new body until an order of the Karnataka High Court stayed the same.
The assault on constitutional institutions does not end there: the State Human Rights Commission has been headless for the past two years. The repeated question paper leaks in the education department is an indication of the rot in that ministry. The sand mafia, allegedly linked to sons of the Chief Minister and other influential ministers, is said to be dictating orders to public servants in the old Mysore region of the state.
The real estate mafia in and around Bangalore, which has been linked to former Bangalore Development Minister KJ George, is said to be able to influence some postings and transfers of revenue department officials in the city. The release and discharge of notorious undertrials, some belonging to the minority community, is said to be part of the minority appeasement plan of the Chief Minister.
The worst affected department appears to be the police—around 50,000 police personnel have threatened to go on leave to protest the wanton harassment they undergo in the present regime.
The Court order of 18 July, directing the police authorities to register an FIR against KJ George, resulting in his resignation from the Cabinet, is only a small step in a long battle to set right the institutional decay that has set in under Siddaramaiah.
If the rot remains unchecked, Karnataka could face the same kind of reputational decline that Bihar did under Lalu Prasad’s “jungle raj.”
(The author is a Member of Parliament representing Bengaluru South in the Lok Sabha. He tweets at @Tejasvi_Surya)
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