Search at Secretariat shocks officialdom

December 22, 2016 08:26 am | Updated 08:26 am IST - CHENNAI

: In a day of fast-paced developments, a sense of shock and surprise prevailed at the State Secretariat in Fort St George on Wednesday afternoon when Income Tax sleuths landed at the seat of power to search the office of the Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao. The action was unprecedented.

At around 12.30 p.m., the reporters on duty at the Secretariat in Fort St. George were hoping to get the reaction of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam to the searches by income--tax officials at the residence of Mr. Rao and his relatives in various parts of the city, Bengaluru and Andhra Pradesh.

Jokes were doing the rounds that any corrupt bureaucrat is more likely to keep his wealth in his own office and that the IT officials must actually search the offices at the Secretariat. What was said in jest actually came true at around 2.20 p.m. when three cars, with IT officials guarded by paramilitary men, glided into the Secretariat, shocking cops, bureaucrats and staff in the vicinity.

When the IT officials made their way to the Chief Secretary’s chamber in the first floor, the media was stopped at the entrance. Police officials cordoned off the Chief Secretary’s chamber, not allowing even reporters to stand in the corridor.

“The sanctity of the institution of the Chief Secretary is gone,” said a former Chief Secretary. A non-gazetted official with a service track record of 33 years said that never in his service has the Secretariat been targeted for such an exercise.

‘Office is jinxed’

One of the retired IAS officers said the office of the Chief Secretary in the Tamil Nadu government appears to have become jinxed. Only four months ago, former Chief Secretary K. Gnanadesikan was suspended by the State government, he pointed out. A senior IAS officer felt that the credibility of the service has been damaged terribly in the wake of the search at the Chief Secretary’s chamber. Another officer said it would take sometime for the employees to come out of shock. A retired IAS officer said that “before the search was carried out, the incumbent, P. Rama Mohana Rao, could have been asked to go on leave.”

Another non-gazetted official pointed out that though the Secretariat has not seen any search in these years, it is normal practice on the part of police or investigating authorities to conduct a search at the premises which accommodates the office of the person concerned.

He recalls that about seven years ago, when the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC) had carried out a search at various places related to a senior engineering official of the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage (TWAD) Board, the DVAC did not spare the Board’s headquarters in Chepauk here.

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