D K Ravi was transferred from Kolar last October after he took on the sand mafia (file photo: PTI)
The death of a young, upright IAS officer under mysterious circumstances in Bangalore on Monday has triggered protests in Karnataka, with the opposition BJP demanding a CBI probe and questioning the Congress state government’s commitment to protecting honest officials.
36-year old IAS officer D K Ravi, Additional Commissioner (Enforcement) in the Commercial Taxes Department, was found dead at his ninth floor apartment on Monday evening by his wife and father-in-law. The Bangalore police have called it a case of suspected suicide.
“It is a case of murder not suicide. The government must find out who murdered an honest and upright officer like Ravi. How can a man with the resolve and dedication of Ravi commit suicide? We cannot believe it. The people cannot believe it,” said Jagadish Shettar, leader of the opposition BJP in the legislative assembly.
He questioned Bangalore police commissioner M N Reddi for claiming the death was a suspected suicide even before the post mortem was conducted.
“How can the police commissioner rule it is suicide so early in the investigation. It is a highly irresponsible comment,” Shettar said.
Ravi had earned a reputation of a no nonsense officer during his earlier stint as the deputy commissioner of the Kolar district in southern Karnataka.
According to the Indian Express, the IAS officer was appreciated by locals in Kolar for his work there. He had been involved in several stand-offs with local politicians and even the superintendent of police for confronting the sand mafia in the region.
Ravi was transferred to Bangalore on October 29, 2014 by the Congress government, a move that was protested by locals in Kolar. In the past 4 months at the Commercial Taxes Department, Ravi had collected taxes of over Rs 100 crore and forced several top builders and jewellers in Bangalore to pay their dues.
“We need a free and fair probe to find out who or what lobby is responsible,” Shettar said, pointing out that the IAS officer had earned many enemies in the real estate and other lobbies with his drive to bring tax defaulters to book.
The BJP leader accused the Congress state government of letting down honest officers in Karntaka. He cited as examples the transfer of Ravi from Kolar last year, the transfer of police officer B A Mahesh after exposing a scam in Bangalore corporation, and the transfer of IAS officer Rashmi Mahesh for questioning irregularities at the Administrative Training Institute in Mysore.
“The situation is worsening by the day in the state. At this rate the entire administration will collapse. Don’t you want honest officers in the government? The government must protect honest officers,” Shettar said.
According to Hindustan Times, Ravi’s death has again focussed attention on the widespread illegal practice of mining sand from riverbeds and the threat posed by the sand mafia to upright officials who dare to take them on.
From Uttar Pradesh to Karnataka and Maharashtra to Bihar, the mining of sand continues in violation of environmental laws and Supreme Court directives, largely because of a construction boom across the country.
Sand, which is cheap and plentiful, is mixed with cement at construction sites across the country. The sand mafia is often the main source of the commodity.
In the National Capital Region (NCR) alone, 300 truckloads of sand are collected every day. In Andhra Pradesh, reports suggest that 2,000 truckloads of sand reach Hyderabad every day from the beds of the Krishna and Godavari rivers.
Environmentalists and experts say this illegal mining is responsible for erosion and is changing the flow of rivers. The Yamuna, for instance, has shifted its course by 500 metres and is posing a threat to flood embankments in Noida.
Political patronage is one reason for the success of the sand mafia. Reports suggest that politicians often receive payments to pressure local authorities to look the other way.
“There is a nexus between builders and politicians. Landless and unemployed youngsters often join hands with the sand mafia to make a quick buck,” Dushyant Naagar, convener of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, an NGO that works against illegal mining, told Hindustan Times.
Sadly, Ravi’s death is not without precedent. A young IPS officer, Narendra Kumar, was killed in Madhya Pradesh in March 2012 when people involved in the illegal mining of white stone, whom he had intercepted, ran a tractor-trolley over him.