Nepotism runs top to bottom in allocation of Kerala govt jobs

Former Information Technology Secretary M Sivasankar and Chief Minister’s IT Fellow Arun Balachandran led an ofcial delegation to the United States in 2018 to promote Kerala as a technology investment destination to the Silicon Valley companies. The mission cost the exchequer Rs 21 lakh. They held business meets with Indian representatives of technology companies in Boston, Seattle and San Francisco. The mission was branded ‘Global Connect’. Companies who had invested in Kerala
sponsored the dinner meetings in the three cities.

It was not known if the expensive jaunts helped bring in any investment to Kerala. The IT Fellows also led missions to London, Frankfurt and Hanover to attract investment. Balachandran ew more often. He represented the Kerala government in the GITEX Expo in Dubai and the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona.

Balachandran and the other IT Fellows took home a pay check of Rs 1.5 lakh every month. The fancy designation and the government seal on their business cards gave them access to the top circles of politics and business.

Though the post had a requirement of a full-time MBA as qualication, Balachandran got himself appointed with an executive MBA offered by the Indian Institute of Management-Kozhikode through its off-campus centres.

He seems to have made connections with inuential persons and celebrities in Kerala during the time he published a fashion magazine in Kochi. Curiously, his Facebook prole vanished as soon as the row over the gold smuggling in Thiruvananthapuram broke out.

The redundant workers

One of the main jobs of the Finance Department is to ag projects and proposals that may load additional burden on the government. The department, it seems, has a different yardstick when it comes to managing its own affairs. About 80 people have been recruited on a temporary basis as data entry operators. This is the rst time that the Finance Department has bent rules so agrantly to dole out jobs to the bigwigs’ favourites.

The same pattern is visible in the departments designed to manage the government employees’ salaries and participatory pensions. All these sections are lled with contract employees. Of the 50-odd employees of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), 30 are contract employees, who take home a salary between Rs 40,000 and Rs 2 lakh.

Sources in the government try to defend this practice with a claim that contract employees get the job done well. They also say that temporary projects are best executed with temporary workers. The arguments fall at when you have a look at a report of the Kerala Public Expenditure Committee in 2012-13. The committee found that 33,061 temporary employees in the government service are without any real jobs to do. The projects for which they had been recruited have long gone. Yet they
remain on the payrolls, drawing a salary without any job to do.

That was the last time the government bothered to take stock of its workforce. It was clear that such exercises in rationalisation would lead to the retrenchment of many people liked at the top.

About 1,000 people have been appointed to the Local Self-Government Department as technical assistants for data collection. Though the norms stipulate that any job with a validity of more than six months should be referred to the Kerala Public Service Commission for recruitment, the department has relied on temporary workers since 2013. None of these posts have been reported to the public recruiter. They were supposed to be paid a monthly salary of Rs 21,850, but the amount was raised to Rs 30,3385 through a government order recently.

Dealing with RTI

The Right to Information Act could be a thorn in the esh for the government and government agencies. What if an activist keeps pestering a public ofce with queries under the Act. A municipality in the Ernakulam district was so irritated with the questions that the authorities found a disingenuous way to deal with the problem.

The activist has been actively exposing the irregularities in the municipality on social media until his wife was offered a job with the municipality as a data entry operator through the Kudumbasree. Needless to say, the activist now thinks everything in the municipality is in order.

And the list gets longer

We have picked more names from the list of the people who have found good postings with the government in an out-of-turn way. Not surprisingly, most of them have undeniable connections to ministers, top bureaucrats or senior party leaders.

The chief executive ofcer of the Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Council under the Kerala Tourism Department is the younger brother of the Chief Minister’s additional private secretary. The plan is to make the post permanent before the government’s term ends. It is only a matter of
procedure. The Tourism Minister heads the executive committee that has the authority to make the decision.

When the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) was merged into the Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA) to form the Sarva Siksha Kerala (SSK) under the Kerala Education Department, the logical course was a rationalisation of workforce. What happened was exactly the opposite.

The wife of a cameraman in the CPM-owned TV channel was appointed as a peon and then promoted to a clerk. So was the wife of a minister’s staff member.

A former panchayat member representing the CPM has also found employment with the organisation. So did the sister of a councillor in Thiruvananthapuram.

The State Council for Education, Research and Training (SCERT) has about 25 contract employees and about 35 daily-wage employees. Among them are a district president of the DYFI and the wives of several DYFI leaders.

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