Monday, December 22, 2008

Political appointees fight to put the lid on job scandals


POLITICAL party nominees on the Kerala University and the State Public Service Commission have gone to court in a desperate bid to put the lid on job scandals that have surfaced in the two institutions.

The State government has helped the members of the University Syndicate and the Public Service Commission to fight their political battle at the taxpayers' expense by remaining a silent spectator instead of taking timely action.

The university matter relates to alleged irregularities in the appointment of grade II assistants.

The appointments were made on the basis of a rank list prepared after a written examination and interviews.

A Syndicate constituted during the previous United Democratic Front regime was in office when the university conducted the written examination.

It entrusted an external agency with the task of evaluating the answer papers.

The interviews were conducted by the present Syndicate formed after the Left Democratic Front came to power in 2006.

Upa-Lokayukta N. Krishnan Nair looked into the matter on a petition by Sujith S. Kurup, a Congress student leader and former university senate member, alleging that there had been nepotism and corruption.

The university could not produce the answer books of the written examination before him.

The Upa-Lokayukta found that liberal award of interview marks had enabled several candidates to push behind those who had obtained high marks in the written examination.

The main beneficiaries were relatives of Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M) leaders or members of the party's youth and student affiliates.

He recommended cancellation of all appointments and scrapping of the rank list. Holding that former Vice-Chancellor MK Ramachandran Nair, Pro-Vice-Chancellor V. Jayaprakash and Syndicate members BS Rajeev, AA Rasheed, MP Russel and KA Andrew had displayed favouritism, nepotism and political patronage, he asked that legal action be taken against them. Education Minister MA Baby, who is Pro-Chancellor of the university, told the media the government would act after studying the Upa-Lokayukta's order.

However, there was no action of any kind.

The CPI-M dominated Syndicate decided to move the High Court against the Upa-Lokayukta's finding.

The university, which was not cited as a party in the proceedings, is bearing the legal expenses of the indicted officers and Syndicate members.

The Public Service Commission matter relates to reservation.

Some unsuccessful backward class candidates, in a petition filed in the High Court, questioned the reservation formula applied by the Commission.

Upholding their contention that the formula worked to the disadvantage of backward class candidates, the court asked that the practice of making appointments in blocks of 20 be done away with.

All vacancies must be divided into merit and reservation seats on 50:50 basis and filled, it said.

The 20-point roster system, introduced on the basis of rules framed by the State government 50 years ago, has apparently helped forward class candidates by restricting the number of backward class candidates who qualify for appointment on merit basis.

However, until now it had not invited any serious objection.

As the rule-making authority, it was for the State government to take action in the light of the High Court verdict.

It could have amended the rules to comply with the court's directive or appealed to the Supreme Court against it.

However, it took no action. Meanwhile the Public Service Commission decided to file an appeal.

The Commission has 18 members, all nominees of different political parties. The ruling front usually divides the membership among its constituents.

A few years ago there were media reports that aspirants were offering money for party nomination.

The Commission's decision to approach the court is questionable since its role is limited to giving effect to the government's decisions in the matter.

If an appeal was called for, it was for the government, which is the rule making authority, to move the court.

The Nair Service Society, which has consistently taken up cudgels on behalf of the forward classes, has also approached the Supreme Court.

The Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam and some Muslim bodies have decided to intervene to protect backward class interests.

The government's initial inaction is generally attributed to its reluctance to displease the forward classes.

After backward class organisations staged a rally outside the Public Service Commission's office to protest against its taking up the forward classes' cause, the government dissociated itself from the Commission's move.

It looks like a case of running with the hare and hunting with the hound.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, December 22, 2008.

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