Why Tamil Nadu suspended this IAS officer
September 08, 2010 11:57 IST
C Umashankar, a 1990 batch Indian Administrative Service officer from
Tamil Nadu, has been acclaimed for his honesty.
This did not always endear the 46-year-old bureaucrat to the powers
that be. Fifteen years ago, he made the news when he pointed out the
cremation shed scandal in Madurai [ Images ].
In 2008 he was the managing director of the Electronics Corporation of
Tamil Nadu when its subsidiary, ETL Infrastructure, worth Rs 700 crore
(Rs 7 billion) went missing! For raising questions over this shocking
episode, he was transferred before he could get to the bottom of that
A year later he was the MD of the government-owned Arasu Cable
Corporation, which was in direct competition with the Sumangali
CableVision, owned by the politically powerful Maran family, when he
alleged that Arasu's cables were being cut by the latter.
He proposed the nationalisation of Sumangali, after which he was
transferred out from his post.
But this time, more action was to follow. On July 21, 2010, he was
suspended by the Tamil Nadu government -- for having submitted a false
community certificate when he joined the IAS 20 years ago.
The civil servant, who was reinstated by the Tamil Nadu government in
the first week of September, spoke at length to Rediff.com's A Ganesh
Nadar in Chennai while still under suspension.
While some people support you as an honest officer being victimised,
others support you because a Dalit officer is being victimised. How do
you see yourself?
Both. The elite and the intellectuals including the Makkal Sakthi
Katchi are supporting me as an honest officer. The poor Dalit people
are supporting me because I am a Dalit. They are agitating
spontaneously on my behalf.
What is the controversy over your caste certificate?
They say I am a Christian and that I have taken a caste certificate as
a Dalit Hindu.
My father Chellakani Sadayandi was a Dalit Hindu and my mother
Suganthi Santhabai Victoria was a Christian.
We are 12 children of whom 11 children are shown as Hindus. My mother
admitted me to the Sarah Tucker School for primary education where the
school authorities made the entry as Christian, judging from my
When my father became aware of this in 1984, before I graduated, he
took me to a Hindu mutt and got me converted. He got it notified this
through the government gazette. This is the laid down procedure in
law. Then he got my community certificate.
We had two native villages, Mettupatti and Sathirakondan. Originally
both came under Sankarankoil taluka but subsequently new talukas were
created and that also brought about a change.
The government attempts to distort it by saying that I have taken a
false nativity certificate. My father and I had three options before
us for obtaining the community certificate: Palayamkottai where I
studied; Sankarankoil (native 1); or Mettupatti (native 2).
My nativity cannot change my caste status. The question they have
raised is on my caste and religion. Dalit Sadayandi Chellakani's son
cannot be a forward caste. There are 10 million Dalit people in Tamil
Nadu who belong to my subcaste (Devandra Vellalar). They are up
against the government due to my suspension.
The message is very clear -- my community considers me a jewel in their crown.
What happened in the Arasu Cable-Sumangali matter that got you in so
They were cutting the optic fibre cables of the Arasu Cable
Corporation. My officials lodged complaints and FIRs (First
Information Reports) with the police but they did not take any action.
Then I sent a series of reports to the government seeking high level
intervention to protect government property, yet no action was taken.
On January 5, 2009, I went to Coimbatore to safeguard the government
company's cables. We went on a night patrol along with the press
people and our cable operators to highlight the problem.
Till then the police had not filed a single FIR. All the complaints
which gave rise to cognisable offences were entered and kept in the
community service register of the respective police stations. After I
went there the Coimbatore commissioner of police registered five FIRs
but not under the Destruction of Public Property Act.
No follow-up action was taken. The culprits were not arrested, nor did
the cable cutting stop. Rather, it worsened, a week after my visit.
Arasu Cable people caught two criminals cutting the optic fibre cables
red-handed and handed them over to the police. They let them go. The
commissioner was helpless.
On January 7, 2009, I sent a proposal to the state government to
nationalise Sumangali Cable Vision, terming it a rowdy company.
What happened as a result of your action?
On January 22, 2009, I informed the cable operators during a meeting
at Vellore at which the press was also present that Sumangali Cable
Vision would be nationalised. The next day I was transferred out at 11
On the subsequent day Arasu Cable Corporation had run into losses as
its optic fibre backbone cables were completely destroyed.
A mutual friend attempted to negotiate between Dayanidhi Maran [
Images ] (whose family owns Sumangali Cable Vision; he is now India's
[ Images ] textiles minister) and me, offering something to me in
return (in return for stopping his pro-active work). I refused.
This happened at Coimbatore airport, just before my departure after
the cable inspection.
Was the story similar at ELCOT?
I was heading the implementation team to promote nine information
technology special economic zones in Tamil Nadu. I was also the chief
architect (technical) for four extremely important e-governance
I was spearheading a campaign to promote free software in government
which has the potential to save Rs 5,000 crores (Rs 50 billion) every
year to India.
ETL Infrastructure Limited was a Rs 700 crore IT SEZ located in
Chennai which was a subsidiary of ELCOT's joint venture company. It
went missing from the records mysteriously.
No one knows how it went out of ELCOT's control or its joint venture
When I was physically searching for the records in the premises of the
joint venture company on July 28, 2008, I heard the news that I was
transferred out from ELCOT.
It was the biggest shock of my life. It took me three full months and
continuous visits to church to recover from it.
I have given details of the people who caused my transfer in my
complaint to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
When were you suspended and why?
I was suspended on July 21, 2010. They have quoted that there was a
problem in my community certificate. I gave my community certificate
to the Union Public Service Commission and not to the state
government. I am an officer of the Government of India and not the
The suspension order has been done in the most malafide manner. It is
like a surgeon trying to do major surgery without even the body of the
Without my community certificate in hand, the Tamil Nadu government
has considered my community certificate as 'fake'. The Tamil Nadu
government is not my employer, but the Government of India.
I was recruited by the UPSC through a common all India service
competitive examination. Only the UPSC and the Government of India
have my records. So, without any records and without any authority the
Tamil Nadu government has resorted to my suspension. Strange indeed!
In 2003 you received an award from the National Democratic Alliance
government. What was that for?
I was the collector of Thiruvarur between 1999 and 2001. I implemented
the first e-district of the country. Based on that experience I wrote
a technical paper on e-governance security. I was awarded for best
paper during the national conference on e-governance in 2003.
There are reports that Chief Minister M Karunanidhi [ Images ] used to like you.
Yes! He liked me in the past. In 1999, at a public meeting, he called
me thambi which means younger brother.
You have also filed a case against the state government in the high court.
In May, the government started a detailed enquiry against me on the
complaint that I had accumulated assets disproportionate to my known
sources of income.
I have always been prompt in declaring all my assets and new
acquisitions, movable and immovable.
I have only two pieces of immovable assets -- a plot of land acquired
through the IAS Association in the far outskirts of Chennai city
during March 1998; the other a 1,000 square feet second hand flat at
Santhome in Chennai during March 2003. There is no further
For both these acquisitions I have taken prior permission from the
government, indicating the sources such as housing loan, GPF (General
Provident Fund), loan, bank loan etc.
My annual property returns for all these years indicate these details.
I came to know that the government was going to illegally raid my
house to tarnish my image because I chose to send proposals to
nationalise Sumangali Cable Vision. I moved the high court challenging
the illegal Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption enquiry on
June 6, 2010. The Madras high court stayed the vigilance probe.
The contention before the high court was that the state has powers to
prosecute an IAS officer under the Prevention of Corruption Act by
filing a proper FIR and not through the manual which enables secret
enquiry, thus enabling the government to tarnish the reputation of
honest officers who refuse to toe the line.
The argument advanced before the high court by my advocate was that
the government should immediately arrest me and interrogate me if it
feels that it has credible evidence on my alleged disproportionate
assets. He also declared that no bail application would be filed in
The state government was not ready to file an FIR against me nor it is
ready to arrest me.
Subsequently, I filed another case before the Madras high court on
July 16, 2010, challenging the DVAC (Directorate of Vigilance and
Anti-Corruption) manual, calling it unconstitutional.
I declared in my affidavit before the high court that the manual was
being used to shield the corrupt and to book innocent officers to
force them to toe the illegal line of the bosses. I was suspended on
July 21, 2010.
Subsequently the stay was vacated. The high court has said the
vigilance enquiry can go on, but the government cannot take action on
it without the court's permission.
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