Kasaragod: Customising job notifications or fixing PSC job interviews are passé. Or at least cumbersome. A village office in Kasaragod has taken nepotism to the next level by drawing up a chair and table for an official's brother-in-law to work from the office illegally. Just like that.
Sujith Kumar K, the brother-in-law of village assistant Suresh Babu T, illegally worked at Kalnad Village Office in Kasaragod taluk for two years and 10 months, till they were busted.
The vigilance wing of the Department of Revenue also found that in 2022 alone, higher officials from the Collectorate and the Taluk Office had inspected Kalnad Village Office eight times. But all the officials, starting from the village officer kept Sujith Kumar and his role hidden from them.
The North Zone Vigilance Deputy Collector has written to Kasaragod Collector Bhandari Swagat Ranveerchand to take stringent disciplinary action against Kalnad Village Officer Ambika P G, Special Village Officer Sujish B, and Assistant Suresh Babu T for facilitating an outsider to work illegally in the Village Office and hiding this fact from higher officials.
Handled important responsibilities
A team led by the Deputy Collector of Vigilance, North Zone, Department of Revenue, made a surprise visit to Kalnad Village Office on the evening of October 15, 2022.
As soon as the team identified itself, a man sitting in the office but near the main door scooted. In his rush, he even left behind his mobile phone.
Village Officer Ambika P G, Village Field Assistants Seena M M, and Sindhu B, who were present in the office, refused to identify the person who slipped out.
Apart from the three officials, the attendance registrar had two more names: Special Village Officer Sujesh D and Village Assistant Suresh Babu T.
And they walked in from field duty.
Village Assistant Suresh Babu identified the person as his wife's brother Sujith Kumar K of Chamundikadav.
The vigilance team found on Sujith Kumar's table applications and registers related to legal heir certificates and diversion of use of land under the Kerala Paddy Fields and Wetland Protection Rules.
He was sharing the office space with the Village Officer, the Special Village Officer (UD Clerk rank), and the Village Assistant, who said the report was sent to the Collector. Sujith's table was right opposite the desk of Village Assistant Suresh Babu.
The team found that he was working on an application for a legal heir certificate.
The applications on his table did not have the initials of the Village Officer or the Special Village Officer.
"We understand he was acting as an agent in the village office and accepting bribes from the public" for his service, said the report.
When confronted with the circumstantial evidence, Village Officer Ambika said in her statement that Sujith Kumar was working there before she joined.
Village Assistant Suresh Babu said in his statement that he brought in his wife's brother to temporarily help him with the land use registers from the day he joined, that is on January 1, 2020.
From this, it can be assumed that he was working in the office for two years and 10 months, and the other officials facilitated his presence in the office, it said.
"An outsider preparing reports and statements to issue important documents such as legal heir certificate is inappropriate and should be investigated," said the report to the Collector.
The Vigilance Deputy Collector has also recommended to the District Collector to initiate an investigation to find the exact period of Sujith's illegal service and check if files were sabotaged or went missing during the period.
The official also recommended stringent disciplinary action against former officials, who allowed him to work there.
'Officials let off with a warning'
A top revenue official said an internal inquiry found that the person offered his service of cost to the department because of the staff crunch in Kalnad Village Office. It was only for a few days, the official said. "The inquiry found he was used only for data entry. So we let off the three officials with a warning," the official said.