Raju Narayanaswami pays price for honesty

via Pioneer News Service | Thiruvananthapuram published on September 26, 2007

The LDF Government on Wednesday decided to transfer Idukki District Collector Raju Narayanaswami, 1991 IAS topper and civil servant with excellent service record, to Pathanamthitta.

Pathanamthitta District Collector Ashok Kumar Sinha would be the new collector in Idukki. The move is being seen as an obvious attempt to pacify LDF partner Kerala Congress (J), whose chairman PJ Joseph is irked over Narayanaswami’s persistent efforts against land-grabbers in the hilly district. The IAS official said he did not want to respond to the Cabinet decision.

Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan told newsmen after a Cabinet meeting that the Ministry decided to shift Narayanaswami out of Idukki as “we felt that Idukki needed a stronger Collector,” but failed to explain what additional strength Sinha had when compared to Narayanaswami.

Raju Narayanaswami had for the past many weeks been acting tough against alleged encroachments by relatives and colleagues of Joseph.

Achuthanandan, who himself had sent Narayanaswami to Idukki with the particular mission of evicting land-grabbers, said, “We felt he is not fit to continue as Collector in Idukki,” but he did not explain what the shortcoming of the IAS official was. The Chief Minister said that there were some allegations against Narayanaswami, but he did not specify what these allegations were.

Achuthanandan told newsmen that there were no controversies, political or otherwise, behind the decision. “You need not give any special interpretation to this. If you have nothing else to write do what you like,” he said.

Observers are convinced that these “allegations” were in fact complaints from the KC(J). The party, which has been continuously criticising
the Collector, had even launched an agitation against him after he had sent reports against TU Kuruvila, former PWD Minister, who had allegedly brokered a real estate deal for his children, Joseph’s brother-in-law and many others.

The Kerala Congress (J) sources welcomed the decision to shift Narayanswami out of Idukki, but its leader Joseph did not seem to be satisfied. “There should be action against him as per service rules. He does not do the Collector’s job. He is just media crazy,” Joseph said.

Sources in the Idukki district collectorate said they had a feeling that Narayanaswami had known that some action like this was coming. He had even talked about taking a long leave from service recently.

With the shifting out of Narayanaswami from Idukki, the entire Mission Munnar team handpicked by the Chief Minister in the face of tough opposition from even his own party has been effectively disbanded. K Suresh Kumar, who had always been known as the Chief Minister’s man, had first opted out though not on his own wishes but due to pressures imposed on him by CPI’s strategies. He is yet to get a new posting.

The Government had then said that Suresh Kumar was immature in his actions and there should be someone more serious and more experienced to handle a sensitive issue like Munnar land-grabs. It was after this decision that Additional Land Revenue Commissioner VM Gopala Menon was made the special officer to head the task force in Munnar, and since the formation of the new team, eviction operations in Munnar had come to a standstill.

Though the much-hyped Mission Munnar anti-encroachment operations had effectively ended with the departure of Suresh Kumar, Raju Narayanswami had somehow been ensuring its continuance through his own actions. It was in this circumstance that people like Kuruvila, Joseph, his kin and his party had become the IAS man’s bitter foes.

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