Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had removed M Sivasankar from the posts of Principal Secretary to the CM and IT Secretary after the IAS officer's name cropped up in the gold smuggling scandal.
A committee led by the chief secretary was assigned to probe the allegations that Swapna Suresh, an accused in the gold smuggling case, was appointed to the Space Park on the basis of fake certificates. When that report flagged lapses, there was no option left but to suspend Sivasankar.
Earlier, the CM continued to repose his faith in Sivasankar, even when his plans about the BevQ app, e-mobility, K-Fon and Sprinklr generated bad press.
However, after the gold smuggling scandal broke out in July, the CM slowly distanced himself from the 57-year-old IAS officer and finally abandoned him.
Initially the CM had trashed the allegations. "The public have a clear understanding about the chief minister’s office. Some people are just trying to link any instance of wrong-doing to the CM's office. Wrong-doers will not be protected. The Customs is probing the case,” he had stated on July 6.
The very next day the CM had to say that it was wrong to let an individual who was close to a controversial woman to remain in office. “...Therefore, Sivasankar has been removed from the posts. But that doesn’t mean he is under the scrutiny of law. The woman was appointed on a contract basis in one of the projects of the IT department. The project management did not make the recruitment directly, but she was appointed via a placement agency. There are no complaints about the job she undertook for the government,” the CM explained.
On July 9 the CM said there was no need for a further probe into the issue. "There is no point in raising fabricated allegations,” he added.
By mid-July Pinarayi realised that the issue is unlikely to settle down and wanted a probe.
"A phone conversation with the controversial woman has been revealed now. Also, reports of links to another accused. The chief secretary-led committee will probe into this. The committee will submit its findings after also checking the Intelligence report.
“There should be factual reasons to suspend one officer. There has been no such reason to do so now. Does not mean there will not be any tomorrow. He (Sivasankar) was once a capable officer. That's why he was appointed. No one knew he had such a side,” Pinarayi reasoned.
"Let there be a probe against anyone. The wrong-doers will suffer if a proper probe is held. The chief secretary and additional secretary are probing the action of a state government official. We will not protect anyone if found to be guilty. Strict action will be taken. Let the report be submitted.”
On July 16, the inevitable happened - the officer was suspended.
"Sivasankar has been suspended based on the probe findings,” the CM announced.
“It is not known if Sivasankar had worked as an agent of the PricewaterhouseCoopers. The actions taken thus far is clear proof that none will be spared if found to be guilty,” the CM said a couple of days later.
It is widely known in the corridors of power that Sivasankar intervened in the activities of other departments, while claiming it was done so on the behest of the CM. Most secretaries and ministers conceded his requests even without verifying the bonafides of the case. Most ministers in the Pinarayi Cabinet refrained from questioning Sivasankar’s actions. Reportedly, only Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan had questioned his move and that too several times.
As per the norms, the respective ministers have to check the file before the department can sanction it. But files from several departments were allegedly directly sent to the CM's office without informing the ministers. A woman secretary, who refused to forward a file to the CM's office without first informing the minister, was reportedly transferred from the department.
Minister Chandrasekharan and his party, the CPI, had strongly opposed a move to amend the Disaster Management Act to hand over details of COVID-19 patients to the IT department and the agencies deployed by the department. The minster had even given a written complaint to the CM.
The CM used to regularly seek the opinion of Sivasankar in almost all official matters.
It has also come to light Sivasankar had even tried to intervene in matters relating to the police force but several IPS officers were wary of reacting to this.
Life and Career
* Born on January 24, 1963
* Second rank in the SSLC exam, 1978
* Graduation - BTech (Instrumentation); PG Diploma in Rural Management
* Starts career with the Reserve Bank
* Enters state government service as Deputy Collector
* 2000: Conferred with IAS
Key posts held
* 2001 Civil Supplies Director
* 2002 IT Mission Director
* 2003 Malappuram District Collector
* 2006 General Education Director
* 2008 Tourism Director
* 2011 PWD Secretary
* 2011 Sports Secretary
* 2011 General Education Secretary
* 2012 KSEB Chairman
* 2016 Private Secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (Officer on Special Duty)
* 2016 IT Secretary
* 2018 Life Mission CEO
* 2019 Principal Secretary