Road rollers a ‘vellana’, Kerala PWD spent Rs 18.34 crore on idling staff

The gravity of the state’s financial waywardness will be clearer when one finds that only 13 road rollers are in working condition and they were used only for an average of six days a year.

Published: 31st August 2021 06:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st August 2021 09:06 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: The old-model road rollers, which one may have last seen in ‘full swing’ in 1988-released Mohanlal-starrer Vellanakalude Nadu, are still idling with the Kerala Public Works Department (PWD) and they are costing the exchequer a bomb!

According to the latest audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the PWD has incurred “unfruitful expenditure” of Rs 18.34 crore for five years — from 2014-15 to 2018-19 — towards the salary of the staff of 86 road rollers idling in eight department divisions in the state. 

The gravity of the state’s financial waywardness will be clearer when one finds that only 13 road rollers are in working condition and they were used only for an average of six days a year. Here are the details of the staff. As of October 2019, the department had 26 roller drivers and 57 roller cleaners, who are “idling in their posts”, the CAG said.  In November 2003, the state government identified 140 posts of roller drivers and 110 posts of roller cleaners as surplus and abolished 80 posts of drivers and 60 posts of cleaners. However, they were retained as supernumeraries, the report said. 

The condition of the road rollers is also on expected lines — unusable. Of the 86 road rollers, 73 had been idling for periods ranging from eight months to 27 years (March 2019). Of these 73 rollers, 47 are beyond repair, while nine were sold for Rs 13.21 lakh.

“The average use of the 13 rollers in operation was around six days a year. Though most of the 73 road rollers are unserviceable, the department retained them. Failure to take timely action to dispose them of would result in a reduction in their value when they are put to auction,” the report said. The CAG findings on the PWD come at a time when the state government is neck-deep in debt, with most of its revenues going to pay the salaries and pension of the employees.

Why idling road roller crew not redeployed, asks CAG

For instance, in 2018-19, Kerala spent 55.69% of total revenue for salary and pension whereas Karnataka spent only 28.43% for this purpose. The budgeted expenditure for salary and pension in 2021-22 is Rs 39,845.75 crore and Rs 23,105.98 crore, respectively, totalling Rs 62,951.73 crore. 

No wonder, the CAG has pulled up the government for not exploring the possibility of re-deploying the idling crew whose basic qualification was ITI (diesel mechanic), to other departments such as technical education, industrial training, motor vehicles, groundwater etc, in posts requiring similar qualification. 

“The government may adopt a system for re-deployment of personnel who became supernumerary due to abolishing of posts or restructuring of departments to avoid unfruitful expenditure on idle staff retained as a supernumerary,” said the CAG.


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