Thiruvananthapuram: Government job seekers in Kerala have decided to intensify their protests after the state government failed to address their concerns.
Thousands of people have been protesting in front of the State Secretariat in Thiruvanathapuram for more than a week, demanding measures to ensure government jobs to those who qualified examinations and interviews conducted by the Kerala Public Service Commission (KPSC).
But the job seekers - who found a place in the rank lists prepared by the KPSC for various jobs - were left high and dry as the government failed to resolve the crisis in Monday’s special cabinet meeting.
The protesters will now go on an indefinite hunger strike from February 22 to press for their demands.
The cabinet did not take a decision on the regularisation of hundreds of temporary employees, apparently fearing public backlash.
What protesters demand?
The protesters had put forward three major demands. One, expedite the creation of new posts. Two, extend the rank lists by another six months. Three, create most last grade posts by revising the working hours of existing employees. A top source said the Cabinet did not take up any of these issues.
The government stand is that it made appointments to more posts that is usually possible. The chief minister had earlier said there were 5, 28,231 (five lakh twenty eight thousand two hundred and thirty one) government employees in Kerala. “At the most, the government can recruit 25,000 people a year," he said.
But according to him, the LDF government could appoint more than what it could in the last five years. He said 1,57,911 candidates were appointed through the PSC in the last five years, which on an average is more than 31,000 appointments a year.
The CPM state secretary A Vijayaraghavan, too, said the agitators were asking too much of the LDF government. "We can appoint people in existing and possible vacancies. But to ask for jobs in non-existent posts is legally untenable," he said on Monday.
More head to the capital
Meanwhile, more members of the PSC Rank Holders Association and their family members have started arriving at the agitation venue in front of the secretariat to take part in the stir.
The people who figure in the rank list of the last-grade posts have demanded that the rank list should be extended by six months and the duty timings of last-grade services in different departments should be increased to 8 hours for creating more posts.
Meanwhile, a few leaders of the association who took part in a symbolic 'shayana pradikshanam' (circumambulation while rolling) became unconscious during the agitation on Sunday. They were admitted to a local hospital.
Youth Congress state president Shafi Parambil and vice-president K S Sabarinathan sat on an indefinite hunger strike in front of the Secretariat in support of the agitating rank holders.
The increasing participation of people in the agitation has become a cause of concern for the government. Unlike typical protests the ongoing stir has given rise to emotional scenes as even the kin of the job-seekers join in support. A large number of people are visiting the secretariat premises just to witness the spirited agitation being carried out by the rank-holders association.
On Sunday several people took out a procession with their mouths tied with black clothes. Several others rolled on the roads performing 'shayana pradikshanam' to express solidarity with the agitating rank-holders.
The 'shayana pradikshinam protest of last-grade candidates was intercepted by the police in front of the Secretariat. Another group of candidates who had found a place in the rank list of the Civil Police Officer job walked backwards as a mark of protest for the delay in their appointments. Some even staged mock suicide attempts as part of the agitation. A group of agitators were taken ill because of the soaring temperature during the day.
With elections to the state assembly just round the corner, the LDF government is making all efforts to resolve the agitation. On the other hand the rank-holders are exerting maximum pressure on the government to get their demands accepted.
Meanwhile, KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran has urged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to shed his false pride and hold talks with the protesters to find an amicable solution.