The Andhra Pradesh government has suspended K Venkatarami Reddy, Municipal Commissioner of Nagari municipality for “making certain adverse comments on the Government and getting involved in political conversation during the Covid-19 crisis”. Disciplinary action is likely to be taken against him and during the period of his suspension, Venkateswara Rao, Sanitary Inspector of Nagari has been given additional charge.
What was Reddy’s fault?
He put out a video in which he criticised the state government for allegedly not providing funds or protective equipment to Nagari Municipality. Pointing out that four positive cases of Corona Virus had been detected in the town till now, he said the accounts were frozen by the government. He also criticised the local politicians and businessmen in the town for acting selfish.
“Our staff and the police are bravely going into the streets. ANMs, doctors and others are bravely going out. We got no masks, PPE, gloves or boots from the government,” he said.
Reddy reserved praise only for Nagari MLA Roja of the ruling YSRCP, saying she offered help for five mandals in the constituency.
Reddy’s suspension comes close on the heels of the suspension of a doctor in Narsipatnam town in Visakhapatnam district after he pointed out that the health workers were not being given protective gear by the government.
While the government is flexing its muscles by suspending Reddy, the fact remains that as a serving officer, he is not expected to go public with his criticism of the government as per service rules. Ideally he should have used his clout and influence to get material for Nagari, asking elected representatives to lobby with the government. Going public only raises doubts if his criticism was politically motivated and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
At the same time, by making a junior officer take charge at this difficult time, also shows that the government wants to show Reddy his place. This is hardly the time to stand on prestige and it seems Nagari local politics has won the day.