The Kerala High Court on December 1 said that there was nothing wrong in giving pension to the personal staff of the ministers in the state, but added that there should be a mechanism to see that there was a limit to the number of personal staff. The court was hearing a petition filed by the Anti-Corruption People’s Movement asking the High Court to see that this practice be discontinued.
Taking a cue from the potshots of Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan about the way pension was being provided to the personal staff of cabinet ministers and those holding similar positions, the petition, however, failed to get the attention of the court, which said there was nothing wrong in it.
The court pointed out that in the best interests there should be a mechanism to see that there was a limit to the number of personal staff for each cabinet holding positions. The court pointed out that the appointment of personal staff was a policy matter of the state government.
Incidentally at the height of the tiff between the Governor and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, it was the former who slammed the policy of appointing personal staff and also giving lifelong pension to such staff members after a minimum service of two years. This statement of Khan won him a lot of applause and traction and this is what probably prompted the Kochi-based outfit to approach the court.
As of now, all the personal staff who are appointed after completing two years in service, are eligible for lifelong pension and other benefits. This leads to a scramble to get into the staff of the Ministers.
“Even a Union Minister does not enjoy such a privilege,” Khan had said some time ago while condemning this practice.
He said that even in the defence to become eligible for lifelong pension, one has to serve a minimum period of more than a decade. But in Kerala, those in the staff of the Ministers need to put in only two years.
Currently, Vijayan leads with 33 personal staff members, followed by his son-in-law P.A. Mohammed Riyas and Abdurehman who both have 28 each and State Transport Minister Antony Raju has the least with 19 members.
Meanwhile, a look into the number of personal staff reveals that the Oommen Chandy government (2011-16) had 61 personal staff members, the first Vijayan government (2016-21) had 448 and the second Vijayan government that assumed office in May 2021 now has 489.
So with the court making things clear now all eyes are on the Governor, who has vowed to take appropriate action.
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