Last grade service rank holders have decided to call off their nearly one-and-a-half-month strike in front of the Secretariat after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's nominee, Minister for Culture A K Balan, conceded a part of their demands during talks held in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.
However, candidates in the civil police officer rank list, the other half of the agitators, will continue their strike until the government gives its assurances in writing.
The decision to hold talks with the agitators was a big step backward for the government. Just a week ago, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had ruled out compromise talks with the agitating job aspirants agitators and made it abundantly clear that none of their demands were acceptable.
Nonetheless, the CPM felt that the protests were not just bad optics as the LDF readies for the Assembly polls but would also sully the LDF government's pro-welfare image.
The government has now agreed to shorten the working hours of watchmen so that more candidates from the rank list could be recruited. At the moment, the daily working time of male watchmen is 12 hours. The government has agreed to revise it to eight hours.
Revision of the working hours has been a major demand of the agitators.
It is not as if all their demands have been met. Rank lists, as the chief minister had earlier said, will not be extended. The protesters wanted the last grade servants rank lists to be extended further. The government had extended the last grade lists on February 5 by six months, till August 4. The agitators say the lists already were valid till June 30 and so their validity should be extended at least by six months from June 30.
On Sunday, reiterating what the chief minister had earlier said, Balan said that the extension till August 4 this year was enough, and served the purpose. The representatives of the agitators were told that most of the retirement vacancies happen during the months of March, April and May, and would benefit candidates in 500 rank lists.
Further, the protestors were told that steps had been taken to quicken the process of vacancy reporting. Strong disciplinary action would be taken against department heads who fail to report vacancies on time, they were told. A committee headed by the chief secretary himself will oversee the process.
Further, Balan said steps had also been taken to report vacancies in departments where promotions have not taken place either because of legal disputes or because of the lack of qualified hands.
As for the CPO rank list holders, sources said the government had promised to provide them legal support in their fight for the extension of their list. However, the CPO rank list holders wanted the assurance in writing.
Their representatives reminded the minister that the seven CPO rank lists were dead for most part of its validity period of one year because some SFI workers were caught using illegal means to secure high ranks in these PSC examinations.