Kerala govt mum over Guv’s query on educational qualification of ministers’ personal staff

Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Thiruvananthapuram: The love-hate relationship between Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and the Kerala government has taken a new turn over the issue of ministers' personal staff.

Khan has publicly opposed the payment of pension to ministers’ personal staff. However, before settling that dispute, Khan’s office sought details of the personal staff, including their strength and educational qualification from the Chief Secretary. Though the state government revealed the number of personal staff, it remained silent on their educational qualification.

The information provided by the Chief Secretary included the names of the personal staff of each minister, Opposition Leader and Chief Whip, along with the salary drawn by them and the orders related to their appointment.

Subsequently, Raj Bhavan – the Governor’s office-cum-residence – wrote to the Chief Secretary again demanding details of the academic record of the personal staff. However, the government is yet to respond.

According to officials at Raj Bhavan, the government was reluctant to reveal the details because many of the personal staff members lacked the required educational qualification.

Besides writing to the state government, the Governor had also communicated with the major political parties over the matter. Khan asked the parties to take suitable steps regarding the pension paid to personal staff as it was an additional burden on the state's exchequer. But, no political party replied to the Governor’s letter. Curiously, even the BJP – which has no legislator in Kerala – chose to ignore Khan’s letter.

Personal staff members of ministers are appointed from among permanent state government employees on deputation and party supporters based on recommendations. While government employees receive their service pension, party supporters become eligible for pension after completing two years as personal staff.

The salary of party activists in personal staff varies from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1,60,000 depending on their posts. Their pension amount is in the range of Rs 3,550 and Rs 83,400. Party activists are also eligible for perks such as dearness allowance (DA), house rent allowance (HRA), medical allowance and accommodation in staff quarters.

These appointments, which are mostly made through political recommendations, are happening as lakhs of unemployed youth are dreaming of a government job through the Public Services Commission in the state.

According to the details provided by the government to the Governor, there are 545 people employed as personal staff and 385 of them receive pension.

The number of personal staff of each minister and those eligible for pension are:

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