Formation of an exclusive recruitment board, with the status and powers being wielded by the Kerala Public Service Commission (PSC), has been mooted for the selection and appointment of the temple and administrative staff of all Devaswoms in the State.
The proposed board, which will function like the PSC, will be nominated by the government. A Cabinet subcommittee with Minister for Devaswom V.S. Sivakumar as convener and comprising Ministers for Revenue, Excise, and Forest, is understood to have submitted the recommendation to the government.
It will conduct written tests and interviews for various posts, publish lists, and issue appointment advice memos against the demand for staff to be placed by the respective Devaswom boards. This is seen as a solution to the charges of nepotism and corruption being raised in the selection process of all Devaswom boards. The recent selection of college lecturers by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has kicked up a row.
The proposal for constituting an exclusive board was initially mooted by the Paripoornan commission which probed the charges of corruption and malpractice in the TDB. The commission report submitted to the High Court on December 19, 2007 recommended the formation of a board with a retired High Court judge as chairman. The previous Left Democratic Front government had approved the report and filed an affidavit before the High Court. The court recorded the proceedings and issued an order.
With the formation of the new board, recruitments to other institutions, including schools and colleges, being managed by the Devaswoms will also come under its purview. The TDB has 1,208 temples, four colleges, and 18 schools, the Cochin Devaswom Board has 720 temples and one college, and the Malabar Devaswom about 2,000 temples. Separate boards exist for managing the Koodal Manickam and Guruvayur temples. The Guruvayur Devaswom has a college also.
Before deciding to constitute the board, the government will have to evolve a consensus after eliciting the views of various community organisations and political parties. Once the Cabinet decides to go ahead, the Devaswom boards will have to abdicate their appointment authority and it will be vested with the new panel. The Cabinet committee is understood to have recommended the promulgation of an ordinance and the go-ahead with the proceedings. This will necessitate an amendment to the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions (TCHRI) Act. The previous government had amended the Act during its tenure and entrusted the recruitment of administrative staff with the PSC.