The High Range Rural Development Society (HRDS) India sacking diplomatic channel gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh on Wednesday has sparked several questions, though the non-profit said in a media statement that it was avoiding her after considering Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's statement in the Assembly as a complaint.
Swapna's expulsion from HRDS, where she had been the director of Women Empowerment - CSR on a year-long contract, gains importance since a political storm has been raging across Kerala after she levelled charges against the chief minister and his family members.
Questions are many: why was she expelled before the expiry of her contract? HRDS had earlier stated that it was hiring Swapna since it came to know that the woman was cash-strapped and in dire need of a job. Still, why was she asked to leave within four months? Is the chief minister behind her ouster?
In conversation with Manorama Online, HRDS founding secretary Aji Krishnan answers the questions:
Why did HRDS expel Swapna Suresh?
The Left government has been haunting Swapna ever since she made the confidential statement (under CrPC 164) to the court. it is beyond tolerable limits. Pinarayi Vijayan and his associates have been making concerted moves using all government machinery to create hurdles for HRDS. Large posses of local and crime branch police personnel have been regularly visiting our office for the past several days, besides officials from other departments, vigilance, and revenue.
The teams of officials were visiting the office one after the other. Once one team leaves, another one arrives. Pinarayi and the CPM are constantly haunting us, affecting the functioning of the office. The officials would summon the entire staff, and interrogate them for hours. The police were well-behaved and decent. But they are helpless. We decided to avoid Swapna since we had no other way before us. We were pushed to the limits. Do not interpret that Swapna was expelled. We avoided her.
What made the government target HRDS?
The Pinarayi government and officials have adopted a wretched and vile attitude towards HRDS to scupper its projects aimed at the betterment of society. A concerted effort is on to paint HRDS in a communal hue and thereby ostracise the organisation. Police have been pursuing a vendetta against the firm. Even revenue officials are regularly visiting the offices of HRDS. They are questioning everyone, from the head of the organisation to housekeeping staff. The only crime we had committed was that we employed Swapna.
The gold smuggling case and its continuing procedures are Swapna's personal issues, and hence the organisation has not intervened in them in any manner. Still, we are being continuously hunted and defamed as part of the planned effort. The ruling front even took out a march to our offices attached to the educational institutions imparting training as part of the central and state governments' skill development programme. We are surrendering to the vengeful acts being carried out using various government machinery -- the police and other departments. We are requesting the government to refrain, at least now, from carrying out such acts.
What was Swapna's reaction when informed of your decision to oust her?
The decision was made in consultation with HRDS senior functionaries. Swapna, too, had expressed a desire to keep away from HRDS. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had stated in the State Assembly that a Sangh Parivar-affiliated organisation was meeting Swapna's expenses. We took his statement as a complaint and decided to cancel her appointment and avoid her from HRDS.
The decision was made on Tuesday last, and Swapna was informed of it through e-mail. She, too, had recently said that she had been fed up and hence leaving the organisation. When informed of the decision, she offered her pro bono services. Considering her request, she was made a member of HRDS's Women Empowerment advisory committee. Those chairing the committees won't be paid salaries.
What could be the CPM's agenda for seeking Swapna's expulsion?
The CPM and the government have been targeting HRDS ever since Swapna was offered a job. CPM launched a vicious attack saying HRDS is a Sangh Parivar organisation. CPM had a clear agenda: Swapna should not speak, she should not meet the media. They put the government machinery to optimum utilisation to implement their agenda. CPM is also apprehensive over Swapna's statement to the court.
Use people for meeting his interests, and throw them out once the target is met -- this has been Pinarayi Vijayan's stand. Why are the people of Kerala still tolerating him? Several people have pointed out his acts, with examples, earlier. Pinarayi and CPM pulled the strings to expel Swapna from HRDS.
Communist ideologue Berlin Kunhanandan Nair had earlier narrated his experience when he accompanied Pinarayi and his family to Tamil Nadu for his daughter Veena Vijayan's admission in a college there. Pinarayi, wife Kamala and daughter Veena had reserved seats in an air-conditioned compartment, while Kunhanandan Nair had to travel in a general compartment. They did not even buy him a ticket. Kerala has never seen such a political leader who uses and throws people out at will. He cannot understand others' difficulties. He is like a monarch who thinks all others in the world are his slaves. He should have been born in a palace, but by mistake, was born in Kannur.
Was there any political pressure behind your decision to oust Swapna?
She was not avoided from HRDS due to political pressure. We were forced to avoid her after we had enough of the constant haunting by bureaucrats. We will appoint another person to replace Swapna. We are receiving hundreds of job applications daily.
Has the woman, who levelled charges against PC George, ever approached you?
No. Who would accept that individual without any quality?
What about Swapna?
Swapna is a very capable woman, whose skills could have been utilised in tribal areas. The projects need foreign funding. We could have used her personal contacts for this purpose. She is close with the administrators of several countries, including the UAE.
How did HRDS benefit by hiring Swapna?
HRDS appointed Swapna as the director of its Women Empowerment - CSR wing for a monthly salary of Rs 43,000 on February 18 this year. The contract also promised her Rs 7,000 as a travel allowance. We also provided her with transport and accommodation. The contract was for one year, on completion of which she could decide whether to continue or not. She was appointed with the good intention that her experience in working with the Space Park under the State government's IT department, and the UAE consulate earlier could be utilised for the betterment of society.
After spending time in prison as part of the case against her, she was in need of a livelihood. She brought it to the notice of the HRDS governing body through one of her friends. That's how she was appointed to the HRDS's administrative office in Palakkad. I don't know if her appointment had tarnished HRDS's image. But I firmly believe that the decision to appoint her was correct.
After her appointment, several people from within the country and outside rang us up and extended their support. Several termed it a daring move. But when she was avoided, many people expressed disappointment. They were worried about how she would live, and who would protect her. CPM is scared of Swapna. Her salary was paid from the HRDS's own funds. HRDS has been providing transport and accommodation for other officials as well for years. HRDS is a voluntary organisation that has been providing exemplary service within and outside the country for the past 27 years.
The government has been paying the salary of Sivashankar?
HRDS fell victim to state-sponsored terror after we employed Swapna four months ago. We assumed that there was nothing wrong in hiring her since the government had reinstated the chief minister's former principal secretary M Sivashankar, a co-accused in the smuggling case, in top position.
Sivashankar has not been acquitted in the case, but he is governing several departments, and drawing a salary from the government. I expect that the government, which haunted HRDS for hiring Swapna, will set an example by dismissing Sivasankar, an accused in the same case, from service. It will also protect Pinarayi from the allegation that the government is funding Sivashankar.