After Guv ridicules ministers, his letter seeking favours for personal staff emerges

Arif Mohammad Khan | File Photo: J SURESH / Manorama
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. File Photo: J Suresh/Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: With Governor Arif Mohammed Khan taking his pet peeve, the benefits lavished on the personal staff of Kerala ministers, to the national stage, a counter punch was expected any time soon. Now, a letter written by the Governor to the Chief Minister making two sets of appointment requests has been leaked to the media.

One, the Governor wanted 20 Kudumbashree daily wagers serving the Raj Bhavan to be regularized. Two, he requested that a photographer, who had been working in the Raj Bhavan for 22 years on a contract basis, be made permanent. The letter was sent on December 20, 2020.

More than a year later, on February 17, 2022, the General Administration Department issued an order accepting one of the requests: regularising the job of the photographer who had been in the Raj Bhavan for 22 years. There is still no response to the other request, the one related to 20 Kudumbashree workers.

The Governor's request was leaked apparently to unravel his hypocrisy. While being so publicly outraged by the government's nepotism, the argument seemed to be that the Governor himself was trying to find permanent jobs for his favourites.

The problem with this line of argument is that it is hard to find a nepotism angle to the Governor's request. The Governor's recommendation was for 20 Kudumbashree women, a group that the CPM holds dear. Even in the controversial letter that Mayor Arya Rajendran had allegedly written, she had asked the CPM district secretary to provide a list of candidates from Kudumbashree workers.

Moreover, the Governor did not ask for additional posts to be created to accommodate these Kudumbashree workers. In fact, there are 45 casual workers in Kerala Raj Bhavan, engaged on a daily basis. Among these 45, he wanted only 20 women who had served the Raj Bhavan for four to nine years to be regularized.

That too, he wanted these casual workers to be regularised against the sanctioned posts in various categories like waiter, gardener, sweeper, female attendant and telephone operator in the Raj Bhavan. The Governor wrote to the Chief Minister saying he was satisfied with the services rendered by these casual workers.

Further, a source in the Raj Bhavan said that such a regularisation would have been of great help to these poor women during the time of COVID; the letter was sent during the first year of COVID.

Nonetheless, in the case of the photographer, the Governor was virtually asking for a new post to be created.

The photographer, Dhileep Kumar, had been working in the Raj Bhavan for 22 years when the Governor wrote the letter. His letter concedes that the Raj Bhavan does not have a sanctioned post of 'photographer'. So, he suggested Dhileep be appointed as 'cypher assistant', a post left vacant under the Governor's Secretariat Establishment. Khan also wanted that post to be redesignated as 'photographer'.

This wish was granted this February.

On the other hand, the Governor's charge against the ministers is far more severe. He said the personal staff of ministers are entitled to all government benefits once they complete two years of service. This meant the ministers appointed up to 50 personal staff during their five-year tenure.

To put this largesse in perspective, Khan said soldiers fighting for the country in difficult conditions had to slog for 10 years before they could claim such benefits.

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