Karnataka Administrative Officer (KAS) officer K Mathai, known perhaps more famously as a whistleblower, is a rare breed ofsincere and honest public servants. Mathai who joined KAS after taking voluntary retirement from the Indian Air Force (IAF) has created a record in the annals of the Karnataka Civil Service by filing a complaint with Lokayukta against four IAS officersE.V. Ramana Reddy, Ms (Dr) Kalpana Gopalan, Dr T K Anil Kumar and M. Lakshminarayana.
In a brief interview, Mathai explains to Y Maheswara Reddy under what circumstances he was compelled to take this bold and rare initiative.
Do you think there are other KAS officers who are harassed by the IAS officers?
There are many KAS officers who have suffered and continue to suffer due to IAS officers. After my news appeared in the media, an assistant director of agriculture department approached me and told me that he had been harassed for the last 17 years and it continues six years after he retired from the service in a departmental enquiry. The irony is thathe is targeted by the IAS lobby despite his son being an IAS officer.
What made you to come out against these four IAS officers?
I have been maintaining a track record. For example, I had to undergo lot of trouble and face problems when I was posted as a tahsildar of Hassan. My mistake was taking action against the sand mafia. They even made an attempt on my life by setting my official residential quarters ablaze at midnight in 2011. They sprinkled petrol before setting the quarters on fire. Petrol spreadinside through a gap under the door. My shoes were burnt. Nothing happened to me.
What happened after that?
I was posted as Commissioner of Mandya Urban Development Authority (MUDA). Actually, my posting was to Hassan Urban Development Authority but due to the then incumbent being in prison, the government posted me as the Commissioner of MUDA. I submitted a report on the Rs 300 crore loss to the MUDA due to illegal allotment of 1,821 sites. My report was accepted by the state government and later it handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). A charge-sheet was filed against40 people including politicians. Later, I was posted as an Assistant Commissioner (Advertisement) of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
How was it at the BBMP?
While working as an Assistant Commissioner (advertisement) at the BBMP, I found how the civic body has been losing revenue worth crores of rupees. I prepared a report stating that BBMP has lost Rs 2,000 crore revenue in eight years. No one believed me since the BBMP revenue department was able to collect only Rs 18 crore revenue per year. I told the higher authorities that BBMP must get a minimum of Rs 250 crore revenue (advertisement) every year. Everyone started laughing at me since they consider it as a difficult task since only Rs 100 crore is being collected in a city like Mumbai. I told them that I can collect Rs 300 crore in three months provided I am given special powers but within three days I was transferred to Bagalkot.
Did you go to Bagalkot?
No, I did not go to Bagalkot. I applied for leave for four months and tried to meet Chief Minister Siddaramaiah but the officials at the CM’s office did not allow me to meet him. They advised me to meet the then Chief Secretary Arvind Jadhav who tried his best to silence me on one or the other pretext but in vain. Finally, he had to use his discretionary powers to cancelmy transfer to Bagalkot. He posted me as administrative officer-cum-under secretary, DPAR Sakala Mission.
Are you comfortable at Sakala Mission?
Though Sakala Mission is a wonderful place to work, it has lost its vision and mission. All is not well at the Sakala Mission. I found IAS officer Kalpana Gopalan misusing funds for personal use. While reporting for duty, she advised me to remain in cold storage (not to be active) since there are three IAS officers who wanted to ruin my career.
Do all these actions deter you from continuing your fight against corruption?
No, not at all. I have prepared 13 reports and submitted to higher authorities explaining how funds are being misused and how Sakala Mission has lost its glory and how I am being victimized. Now, I am planning to submit my 14th report to the Chief Secretary.
You requested the Chief Secretary for police protection. Do you really foresee any threat to your life since IAS officers in Karnataka are not known for such violent activities?
You can believe anyone in the state except the IAS mafia. They are capable of doing anything and go to any extent for the sake of their career. Mafia is fostered and pampered by IAS officers. If IAS officers do their duty as per law, there will be no sand mafia or other mafia. If police do their duty properly, there will be no rowdies in society. The source of mafia is IAS officers in Karnataka.
What happened to your appeal for police protection?
I am yet to get police protection. I have no clue whether the Chief Secretary directed Bengaluru Commissioner of Police to provide security to me.
You, as a strict officer, are known for inviting trouble from one or the other IAS officers or advertisement mafia. How does your family react to your efforts to expose the corrupt?
There are occasions where my wife told me not to interfere with other officers. However, she was very happy when the CBI charge sheeted around 40 people in the MUDA scam. My wife, a practicing advocate, is a bold woman. I am expecting the Karnataka Lokayukta to take action on my report on the advertisement mafia in the BBMP. I always complain against the corrupt with supporting documents. I will not blame anyone without evidence.
Joining KAS was a choice or compulsion?
I was born and brought up at Dharmasthala in Belthangadi taluk of Dakshina Kannada district. After taking voluntary retirement from the Indian Air Force, I was a practicing advocate at Mangaluru District Court apart from working as a visiting lecturer at Law College in Benglauru. I made an attempt to write KAS exam. I passed the exam in the first attempt itself. Initially, I was not inclined to join the KAS since my wife did not like me to take up a transferable job. The reason was I had to shift family to different locations while working with the IAF.
Are you really worried about your safety?
Not at all. Anyway, I have to die one day. The person who is planning to kill me has to die one day. I am not worried about my safety.
What about the threat of being shifted from Sakala Mission to other department or other location?
It is my 27th posting in nine years. I will not surrender but fight till I get justice.