Thiruvananthapuram: A new row has erupted in the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) after its chairman B Ashok slapped a notice on M G Suresh Kumar, the president of the pro-CPM KSEB Officers' Association, asking him to pay Rs 6.75 lakh for misusing a vehicle belonging the public utility service provider.
The new development came barely a day after Power Minister K Krishnankutty had initiated reconciliatory talks between the KSEB and Officers' Association, in which he asked both the warring parties to bury the hatchet "without malice or prejudice."
The notice was issued after it was found that Kumar had used one of the three vehicles the Board had provided when he was the additional private secretary to the former Power Minister M M Mani.
The notice directed Kumar to pay the penalty within 21 days, failing which the Board would deduct the amount - with 12 per cent interest - from his salary over the next one year. Kumar was also provided 10 days to provide an explanation.
The major allegation against Kumar was that he had used the vehicle to travel to his residence at Kuttiyadi in Kozhikode. It was also pointed out that neither the then minister Mani, nor his private secretary, had assigned Kumar to attend any official meeting in Kuttiyadi or Kozhikode.
The vehicle was with Kumar between August 1, 2017 and June 27, 2020, and he misused it for travelling 48,640 km, the notice said.
Mani defends Kumar
Former minister M M Mani, meanwhile, termed the allegations against Kumar absurd. He said Kumar had used the vehicle for official works and based on his instructions. Mani alleged that such accusations were meant to tarnish the image of an individual holding a protest against the Board.
Denying that he had misused the vehicle, Kumar said it was used only for official purposes based on Mani's instructions. The Board management, meanwhile, said the issue would be settled if either Mani or Kumar submitted the explanation in writing. The management also said the file on issuing the vehicle from the Board has been missing.
Penalty based on vigilance report: Power Minister
Power Minister K Krishnankutty said the penalty on M G Suresh Kumar was slapped based on a vigilance report. He added that the new development was not linked with the ongoing tussle between the Officers' Association and Board.
Justifying the move, Krishnankutty said there was nothing wrong in checking the logbooks of government vehicles. Everyone, including the minister, MLA or chairman, will have to follow the rules.
The minister said issues were not new in the KSEB. Issues have been solved through talks earlier. The present issues, too, could be discussed and sorted out, he said, adding that he had talked to the employees' associations.
An insult to previous govt: Elamaram Kareem
Accusing M G Suresh Kumar of corruption amounted to insulting the previous government and the then power minister, CITU state general secretary Elamaram Kareen said.
The Board chairman's attempts to tarnish Kumar's image in public smacks of arrogance, the CPM leader said, adding that the government should rein in such officials.
M M Mani was the power minister in the first Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet.
Association slams Chairman
The resounding success of the KSEB Officers' Association-sponsored siege of Vyduthi Bhavan has left the chairman disappointed and hence he issued the notice to M G Suresh Kumar, association general secretary B Harikumar said.
He pointed out the notice was issued on April 19, the same day on which the association took out the protest.
Harikumar said the then power minister was the authority to decide whether Kumar had used the vehicle for unofficial purposes. He added that the association would go ahead with its protest plans.