KASARAGOD: Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan did a Veena George in the Assembly when he said there were no vacancies in government departments in Kasaragod district.
The chief minister's reply comes a day after speaker M B Rajesh pulled up health minister George for giving vague answers to questions posed by members in the Assembly.
On Wednesday, Kanhangad MLA and senior CPI leader E Chandrasekharan sought a solution from the chief minister to the vacancies in government departments.
Chandrasekharan -- who was the revenue minister in Pinarayi Vijayan's first government from 2016 to 2022 -- said there were around 1,500 vacancies in the district, and over 1,000 of them were in the departments of health and education. "I want to submit before the chief minister to fill the vacancies in Kasaragod and find a lasting solution to the problem," he said. He said the government should consider conducting a special recruitment drive in the district so that the vacancies could be filled with natives.
The chief minister, however, said posts were not lying vacant in government departments in Kasaragod. "The member has pointed out a serious problem. Such problems arise in some districts, including Kasaragod, because employees posted there in various departments go on leave after joining," Vijayan said in the Assembly.
This leaves important posts vacant which in turn affects the implementation of projects in the districts, he said.
Considering the hindrance caused to implementing projects, the chief minister said the government had given strict instruction to the department heads to ensure employees posted in Idukki, Wayanad, and Kasaragod districts work in their respective districts for a stipulated period.
"There are no circumstances to leave the posts vacant," he said. All appointing authorities have been given strict directions to report to the Kerala Public Service Commission (PSC) vacancies as and when they arise, the chief minister said.
There were limitations in conducting PSC exams during the pandemic and because of that, rank lists for the posts of clerk, last grade, and lower primary (LP) school teacher were not available, he said.
"Now PSC has published the rank list. Advice has been given for 230 vacancies of LP school teachers. I'm hoping that advice memos for clerks and last grade posts will be given soon," the chief minister said.
When contacted, Chandrasekharan said he "did not agree with the reply" but said there was no provision for a counter-question when ministers were replying to a submission.
"If it was a 'point of order', I could have raised a question. But the point of order is often used to raise matters with statewide implications," he said.
The chief minister did not respond to the suggestion of a special recruitment drive.
Checking the reality of CM's statement
On July 13, in a written reply to Kasaragod MLA N A Nellikkunnu's unstarred questions, minister for education V Sivankutty said there were 976 vacant posts of teachers in government-run lower primary schools, upper primary schools, high schools, and higher secondary schools.
There are 174 vacant posts of teachers in higher secondary schools and 236 in high schools.
Upper primary schools have 250 vacancies and lower primary schools have 316 vacancies.
"The chief minister is right in giving advice memos for teachers' posts in LP schools. But the PSC has given advice memo to only 228 candidates when 316 vacancies were reported," said a school teacher, who tracks government appointments. There is no PSC rank list for the other sections of the schools."
"It will take another four to five months before teachers are appointed to those posts. But the chief minister says there are no vacant posts," he said.
The vacancies reported by Sivankutty do not include the new posts that would be created based on this year's student strength.
"Many schools in Kasaragod have 60 to 65 students in one classroom. Those classes can be split only after the government creates new posts. No new posts have been created in schools for the past three years because of covid," the teacher said.
Village officers' posts are also vacant
Kallar, Kodoth, Bellur, Parappa, Balal and West Eleri villages in Vellarikkundu taluk do not have village officers. That is, six of the 14 villages in the taluk are headless. A village officer has been appointed in Panathady village but he is yet to join, said an officer in the taluk.
Village officers of Kinanur, Karinthalam, and Thayanoor are waiting in the wings with their transfer orders.
"We asked them to stay till their replacement comes because we do not have enough SDOs to hand over charges," said the officer.
Similarly, four of the 23 villages in Kasaragod taluk do not have village officers. Karivedakam, Bandadka, Thalangara, and Chengala villages are headless. Munnad village officers have been posted but they are yet to join.
But the biggest bane in the administration of Kasaragod district is 'group villages'. The district has 119 villages, but 44 of them are attached to other village offices. So one village officer will have to take care of two or three villages.
No specialty treatment
The health sector in Kasaragod is often in the news for the wrong reasons. Though the chief minister said there were no vacancies in Kasaragod, health officials in the district said 14 posts of speciality doctors are lying vacant in the District Hospital, General Hospital, and a few taluk hospitals.
"These posts cannot be filled on an ad hoc basis because we don't get the right candidates. The government will have to fill the posts," said a top health official.
Another 20 posts of assistant surgeons (MBBS) are also vacant. "We have filled 18 posts on a temporary basis now. But these doctors are always a flight risk," he said. In three months, they will leave en masse when they have exams.
"That's when we need them most," the officials said.
These are just primers of vacant posts. The government has built hospital blocks and hospitals in several places and most of them are lying vacant because the government has not appointed adequate staff. None of the taluk hospitals in Kasaragod district admits birth cases because they neither have gynaecologists nor anaesthetists.
Vacancies in other departments
In October 2021, the district administration took stock of the vacancies in Kasaragod and found that 1,643 of the 14,357 posts were lying vacant. Since then many posts might have been filled and at least several others might have fallen vacant.
The police department had 19 posts of sub-inspector and 23 posts of female civil police officers vacant.
There were vacancies in the departments of Animal Husbandry, Water Authority, Fire and Rescue Service, and Cooperation Audit Department.
The Local Self-Government Department said it has filled all its posts.