Former Mysuru DC Rohini Sindhuri speaks to SOM
By B.C. Thimmaiah
SOM: You seemed emotional yesterday when you said Mysureans have treated you like ‘Mane Magalu’ (daughter of the house)…
Rohini Sindhuri: I have never sought this kind of publicity. All the information regarding my work was going out from the Information Department. But the kind of support I got from Mysureans after the announcement of my transfer moved me, so I wanted to mention it.
SOM: You spoke of Kergalli Lake yesterday. Can you elaborate?
Rohini Sindhuri: We wanted to give a new lease of life to 61-acre Kergalli Lake in Jayapura Hobli and Ayyajayyanahundi Lake near Dattagalli. A proposal was sent to the Government to build Housing Board houses in the Lake lands. I got it cancelled.
Because I realised what they have been doing in many of these lakes was filling earth, industrial waste and construction debris into the water body and levelling it off. Then after killing the lakes, they create layouts.
Regarding Lingambudhi Lake we learnt that there were many encroachments and they are killing Kergalli Lake and Ayyajayyanahundi Lake. We corrected the RTC and I personally visited Kergalli Lake and Ayyajayyanahundi Lake in February this year and the lakes were assigned to Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) and Mysuru City Corporation (MCC) for rejuvenation in two months — including desilting, shifting drainage and fencing.
One or two local MLAs told me not to rejuvenate the lakes and I told them that preservation of lakes is paramount and it had to be done. As Mysuru grows, lakes will play an important part in urban planning. In fact, for better management I even wanted to give the management of Kukkarahalli Lake either to the Lake Development Authority or the Forest Department from the University of Mysore.
There were complaints of encroachment of Gomala land under Survey Number 123 near Dattagalli village, Mysuru Kasaba Hobli. There are about 2,991 small and big lakes in Mysuru and my idea was to save all of them. Regarding Lingambudhi Lake we learnt that there were many encroachments up to 2 acres and also 1.39 acres and they are killing Kergalli Lake and Ayyajayyanahundi Lake.
You will write in paper and it will be forgotten. But you will remember this episode soon one day when the grazing lands in Kurubarahalli are gone, open spaces around the city have disappeared and lakes have vanished, replaced by layouts and huge apartment complexes, structures that have absolutely no right to exist there.
SOM: What is the status of Kurubarahalli Survey Number 4, the area around Chamundi Hill?
Rohini Sindhuri: When I came to Mysuru there was already a High Court order which was against the Government and the Court had ruled that all the land — 1,560 acres — at the foot of Chamundi Hill belonged to private parties, including the Lalitha Mahal Palace. So this Court order had to be challenged.
There is a procedural thing that we had to go through before filing an appeal in the Supreme Court. First, we had to take the permission from the Government to go on appeal, then there was a certain delay in that. During this time, some private parties filed a Contempt of Court petition and the issue had come up before the Chief Justice (CJ) twice. I promptly informed the CJ that the land involves Lakes like Tavarekatte and others.
Because of the delay in our appeal I risked contempt and in fact on March 8, 2021, International Women’s Day, I was called for personal appearance in the High Court. My advocate told me that I was going to jail. I told him if on Women’s Day the Court wants me to go to jail because of protecting Government land, so be it. We have to go for appeal within the appealable time of 90 days and I requested the same.
After that we hired top-notch advocate Harish Salve with great effort, as initially we could not get him.
Then there was the finance issue. Harish Salve is an expensive lawyer and the Government asked me who is going to pay his fee. I told the Government that the value of the land is in hundreds and thousands of crores and paying lawyer fees is nothing and MUDA can pay as it is a stakeholder. The case got heard twice in Supreme Court. Now the Court is on vacation. It will eventually come up for hearing.
SOM: Audios are being released where there is a conversation between you and District Drugs Controller on the oxygen requirement of Chamarajanagar purportedly before the oxygen tragedy.
Rohini Sindhuri: It is shameful on the part of the people to do what they are doing. You can quote me also. There has been a Court-appointed Committee and it has said what the truth is. But still people are pedalling lies. Yes, there is a single judge enquiry going on, let it come out. And what is the audio even saying? There is nothing in the audio.
As the Head of the District Disaster Management Authority, I have to ask accounts of oxygen supply from an officer and if I can’t, what am I supposed to do? Look at the unfortunate situation, the Court has said that the Chamarajanagar DC is responsible for the tragedy and he is still in office while I have been unjustly kicked out in a conspiracy.
SOM: Would you want to lodge a complaint against Shilpa Nag in the proper channel available to you as an IAS Officer?
Rohini Sindhuri: I will for sure. Her behaviour has been unbecoming of an IAS Officer. Where is the dignity of Office that one has to maintain and protect? She has thrown all that to the wind and acted in total collusion with politicians.
She even had that audacity to go on record and say, “now that the mission is accomplished” she is withdrawing her resignation. For an officer the “mission to be accomplished” should be “COVID-Mukta Mysuru” not a “DC-Mukta Mysuru.” If this is how officers are, how do you run an institution or a district, especially in a disaster time?
SOM: You have been accused of fudging the COVID death numbers…
Rohini Sindhuri: (Laughs). Whatever I say, they put a spin. First and foremost, it is the Mysuru City Corporation (MCC) that is the custodian of births and deaths. There is a District Surveillance Officer (DSO) who is a doctor and he is the one who declares what deaths are COVID deaths and what are not. As a DC I don’t have control of either. I am only a collector of information and I am dependent on the data sent by the DSO and the MCC.
It seems, everything that happens in the district which is ‘RIGHT’ is ‘THEIRS’ and everything happening in the district which is ‘WRONG’, is ‘MINE’. How fair is this? No one talks about Mysuru being the highest vaccinated district in the State and now they might say even the vaccination data is fudged.
SOM: Amidst the critical pandemic work, your family tested positive for the virus.
Rohini Sindhuri: My whole family suffered. My husband was hospitalised and I did not take a day off. This is a time to work and not the time to crib or garner sympathy. We are officers; we should just do our job.
SOM: How did things get so acrimonious?
Rohini Sindhuri: As DC, it is my duty to work. In fact, by going on and on about me they have made me a bigger hero in Mysuru than probably I would have ever been. Yes, DC can be criticised but here the amount of slander, unfair criticism kept on going and I feel that the DC was ‘harassed’ though it is not the right word to use. Despite all of that I just focused on my work, without going to press. At the end whose loss is this?
Why are national-level leaders interfering with the District Administration? You have every right to ask questions but those questions must come through the District Minister, who is the right authority. Why is a leader tweeting asking private people to take oxygen from refilling plants at a time of crisis?
Tell me what business does a former Minister and MLA from Hassan have in Mysuru? Why does K.R. Nagar MLA have to talk on COVID Care Centres in Mysuru city? What is everybody’s interests here? Now, after this incident no DC will take them on. This is the precedent that has been set.
Sure, in a week people will forget about this episode. You will write in paper and it will be forgotten. But you will remember this episode soon one day when the grazing lands in Kurubarahalli are gone, open spaces around the city have disappeared and lakes have vanished, replaced by layouts and huge apartment complexes, structures that have absolutely no right to exist there.
SOM: What about the legality of the swimming pool in the DC’s bungalow?
Rohini Sindhuri: Well, an enquiry is on. Let them give their report. You tell me, can I carry this swimming pool with me wherever I go? Is it some personal item?
SOM: You met Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa just hours after your transfer. Do you think he should have considered your transfer revoking request? Rohini Sindhuri: See, I feel because of COVID, it should have been considered and more so after the ‘mission accomplished’ statement, which proved that the whole drama was with a purpose to get me out. So, yes, I feel it could have been considered.