Thiruvananthapuram: The Government has removed B Ashok, who checked the Trade Unions’ influence in the Board administration, from the position of the Chairman, Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB).
He has been appointed as the secretary for the Agriculture department. Rajan Khobragade, who was on 2 months' leave following his removal from the post of Health Department principal secretary, has been appointed as the new chairman of the KSEB.
The question, of who would lead the Board if Rajan does not cancel his leave and take charge immediately, is also being raised.
Meanwhile, the Government officially maintains that Ashok has been removed as he has completed one year with the KSEB.
Ashok had earlier initiated disciplinary action against the Union leaders who had protested violating the rules of the Board. Following this, the tussle between Ashok and the Union members was prevailing for months together, rendering a headache for the Government every now and then.
Though the CPM and the CITU leaders had come up with severe allegations against Ashok, K Krishnankutty, the State Electricity Minister had taken a stand favouring the Chairman.
The Chief Minister also supported the same indirectly. The Government did not intervene even when the leaders who had protested were transferred to other places as a disciplinary action.
The dramatic intervention by removing the Chairman comes at a time Ashok was mooting plans to salvage the Board and make it profitable amid a severe financial crisis.
The administrative modernisations implemented in the KSEB a year ago had led to the tussle and an open fight between the Board Chairman and Unions. A protest was held in front of the KSEB Head Quarters for weeks together led by the CPM-backed union organisation – KSEB Officers Association.
The protests further intensified as the action was taken against the protesting employees who had tried to barge into the Chairman’s office.
The Chairman took to the social media and wrote about the Officers’ association leader misusing the official vehicle, and also about the land deals of the Board’s land during the previous LDF government. This had triggered a controversy.
It is being hinted that Ashok has been removed after the CM and the Department Minister budged to the pressure from the CPM leaders who are against the Chairman.
KSEB is currently in loss assessed at Rs 1500 crore, per year. Besides a liability of Rs 11000 crore, the Board has a consolidated loss of Rs 14600 crore.
The situation is such that the consumers are to bear all these burdens. That would be a major challenge for the new Chairman too.
Upset ‘Union rule’
When Ashok crushed the arrogance of the trade unions and prepared to tussle out in open, it was expected that he may be removed from the post anytime.
Ashok had publicly stated that he would initiate action and decently say Irikkeda (sit there), if the members of the KSEB Board of directors were addressed ‘Eda, poda’ in Malayalam, in a disrespectful manner. He had told the employees to keep their ‘feudal arrogance’ and attitude in their pockets and come to work.
When Ashok raised allegations about the KSEB land deals during the first Pinarayi Government, the then Electricity Minister M M Mani also locked horns. Ashok alleged that land was given to many societies and boards for tourism development without the permission of the Government or the Board. Ashok’s allegations that hundreds of acres of land were given on commercial lease by a Chief Executive Officer without the Board or the Government knowing about it had led to a controversy.
His appointment of the State Industrial Security Force (SISF) at Vydhyuthi Bhavan had scaled up the dissension.
State-wide protection for the union members limited to their respective districts.
While transfers are done in the Electricity Board, the union leaders would not get appointments in the places they choose. The protection would only apply to their native district or the district that they currently serve.
The Board’s order regarding the same was issued on July 11.
Meanwhile, the authorities informed that the order was meant to bring more clarity to the existing terms and there was nothing new in it.
The Union leaders reacted that the order is an act of vengeance by the Chairman to prevent the return of the employees, who were transferred as part of disciplinary action, to the places they worked earlier.
M G Suresh Kumar, KSEB Officers Association president, who had faced disciplinary action will not be able to return to Thiruvananthapuram as per the new order. Suresh Kumar said the order is not acceptable.