'Saas-bahu' puts govt in a spot
As reported by Ananthakrishnan G,TNN, 4 May 2008
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: This 'saas-bahu' saga is for real and has put Kerala’s Left government in a spot, inviting charges of promoting nepotism and also raising questions about CPM’s stand on ethics in public life.
At the centre of the storm is Kerala health minister P K Sreemathi, who has inducted her daughter-in-law Dhanya M Nair into her personal staff. This was revealed by the general administration department on an RTI query seeking details of Sreemathi’s personal staff.
The request was filed by AIADMK state secretary Sreenivasan Venugopal.
In reply, Venugopal got a list of 22 names including Dhanya, who is married to Sreemathi’s son. She had joined the staff as a clerk and was only recently promoted to the post of additional personal assistant. Her salary works out to around Rs 17,000. Dhanya would also be eligible for pension once she completes 2 years in her post.
Venugopal pointed out that Dhanya was not even in the office of personal staff but was conveniently placed in the minister’s bungalow.
Taunting CPM leaders, who a week ago had surprised industry captains by coming down harshly on ‘nokukooli’ — a term for money demanded by labourers attached to the party’s trade union without doing any work, Venugopal wondered if the present controversy did not convey a similar situation.
Sreemathi’s office has, however, defended the appointment and denied any impropriety. "Twenty-seven people can be appointed in the minister’s personal staff — 24 in office and 3 in the house. Unlike the office, those at home need to be more reliable and that is why Dhanya was chosen. In the past too, ministers have done this and there was no impropriety," said the official statement from her office, which also said that this was a "needless controversy".
LDF convener Vaikom Viswan of the CPM also saw no impropriety in it.
But the opposition Congress disagrees. "There is no practice of appointing family members in the personal staff of ministers. It raises questions of ethics and morality in public life. The minister should accept her mistake and take corrective measures instead of defending it," state Congress spokesperson M M Hassan said.
Would this have been known if this powerful tool was not available. I think we need to nurture & nourish it. This is only the tip of an iceberg. Corruption & unethical act has become a way of routine for the powers to be.
T'PURAM: The information obtained from General Administration Department by AIADMK state secretary Srinivasan Venugopal under the Right to Information Act, a copy of which is with this website's newspaper, confirms the presence of Dhanya M Nair, daughter-in-law of Health Minister P K Sreemathi, in her 22-member personal staff.
Her address is given as Aradhanan, Thalap, Kannur. An inquiry at the General Administration Department has revealed that the gross salary drawn by Dhanya per month is around Rs 17,000. In addition, she will be eligible for monthly pension once she completes two years in the personal staff.
The issue of Sreemathi's personal interest in selecting the staff is all set to develop into a major political controversy. The AIADMK state unit sent a petition to Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan on Wednesday asking him to sack Sreemathi from the Cabinet.
In his petition, secretary Venugopal alleged that Sreemathi had violated the oaths of office and secrecy by inducting her daughter-in-law into the personal staff. The Minister's action amounts to misuse of power, corruption and nepotism - the practices loudly decried by the CPM, said the complaint.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The AIADMK state committee has demanded the resignation of Health Minister P K Sreemathi in the wake of the CPM decision to remove her daughter-in-law from the Minister’s personal staff.
"Our allegation that the Minister had violated the oaths of office and secrecy by appointing her daughter-in-law in her personal staff has been attested by the CPM. Now, the Minister has no moral right to continue in the Cabinet," said AIADMK state secretary Sreenivasan Venugopal in a statement.
Sreenivasan also asked the government to recover the salary paid to Sreemathi’s additional PA Dhanya M Nair. The information that Dhanya joined as cook-cum-clerk on the personal staff first and that she was later promoted as additional PA was made public by Sreenivasan Venugopal through his queries under the Right To Information Act.