Bangalore: Things are happening in the headquarters of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) at Church Street, which have polluted cordial ties among senior employees. And no, the developments do not concern noise or environmental pollution either.
T Rekha, a Deputy Environmental Officer (DEO) whose rank as Assistant Commissioner is slightly above that of a Tahsildar, is getting to use a high-end Toyota Corolla Altis official car worth Rs 17 lakh: complete with chauffeur, fuel, and maintenance fully paid by the state. Her bosses — forest minister Ramanath Rai; the KSPCB chairman, Vaman Acharya, who enjoys cabinet minister’s rank; and the member secretary, who’s a senior Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer — are all entitled only to entry-level Innovas worth Rs 10 lakh. But Rekha has reportedly been merrily using the car for the past two months.
KSPCB had purchased the high-end car for the minister, and also for use as protocol car to service high-ranking officials visiting from Delhi. Whenever Rai needed the car, he used to ask for it. But after she took charge, even that luxury has been denied to him.
There are nearly 150 officers who rank above Rekha at KSPCB. But none of them have been allotted such a posh car. To make things worse, she is yet to be confirmed in the rank of Assistant Commissioner, having taken charge only in August.
The atmosphere at the KSPCB is getting fouler by the day. Two officials, chief environmental officer Nanda Kumar and senior officer Sadique Ahmed, have recently written letters to the chairman asking him to allot the Corolla Altis to them as they are senior to her. What precipitated the letters was DEO Rekha’s open defiance of the chairman’s written instructions to cancel the allotment.
CAR ALLOTTED IN HURRY
By all accounts, Rekha’s arrival at the KSPCB headquarters had its share of drama. Four days after she took charge on August 4, the board’s IFS member secretary Vijay Kumar issued an order allocating the car (Registration No. KA 03 MM 524) and driver, reserved for the minister’s use, to Rekha. BM has a copy of the order. The funny thing is that Vijay Kumar was not authorised to issue such an order. But nevertheless, it seems Rekha did not waste any time in using the car from that day itself.
No one, including Acharya — a political appointee by the previous BJP government — knew about this arrangement until one by one, her colleagues started seeing her arrival and departure in style. More drama was in store when her file reached the chairman. Acharya studied the file, and wrote that since the officer was a DEO, she could be accommodated in the carpool. He then went on to cancel the allotment, but was generous enough to grant her the rights to order a vehicle for official trips.
SUPPORT FROM BUREAUCRATS
But Rekha cared two hoots for the cancellation, and with support from supposedly powerful allies, she continues to use the car. This is when Nanda Kumar and Sadique shot off letters to the chairman.
“She is so powerful, she has contact with senior bureaucrats at Vidhana Soudha. The member secretary also supports her, and allotted her the vehicle. They have not even bothered to cancel it even after the chairman’s order,” a senior KSPCB official said.
“I really don’t know how she can be given this posh car. This car is meant for the minister and it was bought for that reason only. But she rules this place like a queen and doesn’t care for the rules,” another senior official said.
PERK MORE THAN SALARY
Interestingly, Rekha’s salary is around Rs 35,000 per month and the car’s monthly maintenance charges footed by the state touches Rs 50,000, including driver’s salary and fuel! Corolla Altis cars are used primarily by High Court judges, Ministers, and senior IAS officers.
In her organisation too, half of the around 150 officers senior to her are allotted to the carpool. “This has created differences of opinion between officials and the board. They are openly writing letters, but their concerns are yet to be addressed,” another official said.
When contacted, Rai said, “I am using a Innova car. I do not know anything about the allotment of a Corolla Altis to the officer in question. We will examine the matter and take necessary action. If she is not entitled to such a vehicle, it will be withdrawn.”
Vijay Kumar was a picture of remorse. He told BM, “When she took charge, there was no other vehicle to allot her, and that was why I allotted this vehicle. I know this vehicle was bought for the minister. As it was parked without using, I gave it to her. I have already told our chairman that I will withdraw this vehicle. I really don’t know why you are making this a big issue. I am going to cancel the allotment immediately.”