The name of Saheer Kalady has been doing the rounds ever since K T Jaleel got embroiled in the nepotism row. Saheer was just another applicant for the post of the general manager at the Minorities Development Finance Corporation along with Jaleel's relative K T Adeeb. Just because he applied for a job in a government institution, Saheer subsequently went through several hardships in life. He even lost his job.
Kerala Minister for Higher Education and Minority Welfare K T Jaleel had to step down after the Lok Ayukta held him guilty of nepotism. Saheer opens up about his link to the nepotism row.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is Saheer Kalady's link to the nepotism row?
The mistake I made in my life is that I unknowingly came into a script prepared by the minister for his kin. My life is the perfect example of how people in powerful positions can trample upon the life of a common man, who does not have anyone's support.
What is this 'script'?
All the qualifications for the general manager post were tweaked and kept ready for K T Adeeb. Unaware of all this, I too submitted my application for the post on deputation after coming across the ad on the corporation website in September 2016. I was called for an interview in October 2016. On the day prior to the interview, I called to know the details but I got an unenthusiastic response. I was told that even if the interview was held, the recruitment is unlikely to be made now. I was then the accounts manager at Malcotex, a public sector undertaking, in Kuttipuram. It was a very hectic job. So, I did not attend the interview, thinking why to needlessly take leave. K T Adeeb too did not take part in the interview.
Though an under secretary at the state finance department had also applied, he too did not participate. During that time, Minister E P Jayarajan got embroiled in a nepotism row and he resigned. Following this, the corporation decided not to make the appointment for the time being. Then for two years, there was no particular info on this. E P Jayarajan returned to the cabinet in October 2018. After this, K T Adeeb was appointed to the job after making him give in a special application. Only after Youth League state general secretary P K Firoz raised the allegation in November 2018, I came to know that Adeeb was appointed to the post.
How did you come into this picture?
When the controversy erupted, the details of all the seven applicants were out in the public under the Right to Information Act. The qualifications of each of the seven became a talking point. With this, a note was issued by the Minister's office that the six others were not qualified and hence did not take part in the interview, and Adeeb was given the job. But media published reports on how I was excluded despite being qualified. The Minister had then said that I had not submitted the MBA equivalency certificate and that was why I was excluded. But K T Adeeb too did not have the equivalency certificate for the PGDBA. With this, the minister called for press meets and kept reiterating that I was not qualified. Then I put up a Facebook post, narrating the true events. That is how I came into the picture. Later when the controversy escalated, K T Adeeb resigned. But from then on, my problems began.
What made you different from the other applicants?
The minister suspected that I had brought up the appointment, which was done discreetly, through P K Firoz. He feared that if I directly approach the court as an 'affected party', he could suffer a setback. The CPM too informed the minister that he would have to resign, if there was a setback in court. I had been with the MSF earlier. The minister also feared that I would turn against him if there was political pressure on me. They then tried all tactics to keep me out of the public eye.
Why did you not approach the court?
As I was then an employee with a PSU, there were limitations in coming forth publicly. I feared that I might face issues at my workplace. I tried to stay away from controversies as much as possible. There was also pressure from some CPM centres to stay away from controversies. My relatives and friends also advised me to stay away as I did not have anyone to support me politically.
Then minister's personal staff member Mujeeb Vettan held reconciliation talks. The minister had received legal advice that he would suffer a setback if I, as a person who was directly affected by the appointment, approached the court. The minister was trying to prevent a case at all costs. I was asked to stay away from controversies, not to make public responses and not to approach the court. I stayed away while replying that I would be forced to respond if I was needlessly dragged into controversies and if I continued to be insulted over my qualifications. Due to the circumstances at home, that was the only option before me.
Then what happened?
I continued with my job as the accounts manager at Malcotex. Two months after the nepotism row, I faced trouble at my workplace. If such incidents happen, any action can be taken only if the case is filed within 90 days. The minister's main objective was to prevent me from going for the case till January. There were no major problems till December. Then there were constant problems with the MD.I was needlessly harassed even for trivial issues. I was removed from the various sub-committees such as purchase committee, labour committee, sales committee and expansion committee.
I continued to be completely isolated and neglected in all areas of the office. It was becoming impossible for me to go to work. The minister had intervened in that also. As I constantly faced issues, I applied for a two-year leave without pay. However, this application was turned down. I personally called Minister K T Jaleel and informed him of these problems. I requested that at least the leave should be allowed. But the response was - Will say after looking into the file. But I did not get the leave. I again informed the Minister’s Additional Private sectary about the issues. I also sent an email to K T Jaleel, detailing all the issues. The reply to the email was that my letter has been forwarded to the industries minister. That letter eventually reached the MD. A strange justice. Then I met a top leader of the CPM in Malappuram and sought a solution. Though I was assured that talks will be held with the minister, nothing happened.
During this, I suffered from serious health issues. I took medical leave. During the medical leave, notice was served 17 times. The notice threatened that the medical leave cannot be accepted and that action would be taken if I did not immediately join for work. The MD wrote to the Malappuram District Medical Officer thrice, seeking that my health condition be examined. After this, I had to appear before a five-member medical board. After detailed examination, they reported that I should be allowed medical leave. But during this period, my salary and other benefits were withheld. I had no means for livelihood. With no other option left, I resigned from the job even when I had 20 years of service left. Though my resignation was accepted, benefits such as gratuity were withheld.
Jaleel has resigned, is that chapter closed?
My cases are still continuing. I later approached the High Court, pointing out everything. Only after the HC intervened, I got the benefits, at least partially. That petition is still on. Pointing out the nepotism problem and harassment at work, I gave complaints to the chief minister and chief secretary six times. Though I tried to meet the chief minister personally twice, I did not get the permission. I also got some phone calls, demanding that I do not speak out against the minister. I gave a complaint to the DGP and Malappuram district police chief over this and even gave the numbers. But no probe was held.
Only after the case came up in High Court and P K Abdu Rabb MLA raised the question in the Assembly to the CM, my statements were recorded at the Kadambuzha police station. Those cases are still continuing. I am now working as a secretary at the cooperative hospital in Malappuram.
It is very easy to talk about fighting corruption. But it is not easy for a common man to do that. That battle levies a heavy cost on his life.