IAS officers in Kerala are planning to go on mass leave on Monday, placing themselves on a collision course with the state’s Left Front government.
In probably the first incident of its kind in the country, all such officers – with the exception of district collectors – submitted their leave applications to express displeasure over being “victimised” by an official appointed by the government. The immediate reason behind this move was state vigilance director Jacob Thomas’s decision to charge additional chief secretary (industry) Paul Antony in a nepotism case involving former minister EP Jayarajan.
The decision to skip work for the day was taken at a meeting attended by many senior bureaucrats on Saturday night. “We are requesting all our colleagues of the Kerala IAS to avail one-day casual leave on January 9 to express our sadness, frustration and professional dissatisfaction, and show our solidarity with those aggrieved by the government allowing the vigilance director to abuse his powers,” stated a note released by the IAS Officers Association after the event. They plan to meet chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday.
After coming to power last May, the Pinarayi government appointed Thomas – an IPS officer reportedly at loggerheads with many senior bureaucrats – as chief of the state vigilance department. The officers, who are aggrieved about Thomas being authorised to judge the conduct of other civil servants, had complained to the government on earlier occasions too.
The note circulated after the IAS officers’ meeting gave a detailed account of the circumstances leading to the decision. “We are deeply aggrieved that such an officer (the vigilance director), whose integrity is prima facie doubtful and not beyond suspicion, is allowed to sit in judgment as the vigilance director on the conduct of other civil servants,” it said.
The officers also pointed out that Thomas was allegedly involved in corruption while he was the director of ports, and faced a land encroachment case in neighbouring Karnataka.
A senior official told Hindustan Times that Thomas’s antics had affected the morale of IAS officers, posing a major challenge to the functioning of the government machinery. “Unless the political leadership intervenes immediately, matters will rapidly get out of hand,” he cautioned.
The agitators also alleged that the IPS officer’s actions were “motivated, vindictive and vengeful” in nature, and expressed displeasure over the Kerala government giving him a free hand to target them.
Earlier, the vigilance director had ordered a raid on the house of additional chief secretary KM Abraham – an officer known for his integrity – and questioned Tom Jose, another senior officer, in connection with a disproportionate assets case. An upset Abraham threatened to resign, but was later dissuaded by Vijayan.
Neither the chief minister nor the vigilance director was available for comment.