TAMIL NADU

Govt. claims improved attendance

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 15. The strike called by Government employees and teachers entered the 10th day today, with the State Government claiming that the percentage of attendance had gone up to 25 per cent.

The enforcement of the KESMA continued in several parts of the State, with 11 officials being arrested under the act and several others being arrested under various provisions of the Indian penal code.

However, the use of the KESMA appeared to be selective with the heat being put only on those classified as essential service. The arrests and suspensions were mainly in the Commercial Taxes and Local Administration Departments.

The Government suspended the Perumbavoor municipal secretary, P. M. Devarajan. According to an official news release, the official had been suspended from service because his unauthorised absence had led to the stalling of several important issues relating to public service.

The Kothamangalam municipal secretary has been given the additional charge of Perumbavoor.

The State Government has urged all MPs and MLAs to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Dr. C. Rangarajan as the Governor of Kerala in the absence of the incumbent, S. S. Kang.

Various service organisations continued their barrage of statements against the negative stand of the Government. The Lok Ayukta's directive to the Government to convene negotiations and to the organisations to put off their strike for 10 days had little impact, it appears.

Service organisations said that the order was not applicable to them as they were not the petitioners in the case. Moreover, the directive was to the Government which was steadfast in its resolve not to convene negotiations.

The State Government was yet to take an official view on the Lok Ayukta directive. But an unofficial view, which emerged in the discussions among Ministers and UDF leaders, was that the Lok Ayukta had no powers to give such a directive.

The general consensus was to stick to its original position that the Government would take a sympathetic view after the strike was withdrawn.

Nevertheless, it was a moot point whether the Government would be able to ignore the spirit behind the directive of a quasi-judicial body like the Lok Ayukta even though it might have differences on the technical details.

Significantly, the State Government cannot ignore the fact that the Lok Ayukta's order puts the focus on a political point -- the demand from several quarters, including senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, for convening negotiations.

In a way the directive has lit a light at the end of the tunnel as it were. The possibilities of a platform for negotiations latest by Monday has brightened. The UDF and the Cabinet are scheduled to meet on that day and it is hoped that mediators would work out a face-saving formula by then.

The service organisations went to the extent of asking the Government to convene dialogues taking the directive of the quasi-judicial body at its face-value.

Organisations owing allegiance to the Opposition and ruling fronts rejected the Government claims that attendance had improved in offices.

Interestingly, the figures released by the State Government and those released by the Intelligence wing of the Police Department differed.

While the State Government release claimed 25 per cent attendance, the Intelligence figures showed a fall in attendance from 23.04 per cent on Thursday to 22.63 per cent, with the rider that the figures were arrived at from particulars randomly selected from 10 offices in each of the 17 police districts. What's worse was the Intelligence wing's figures showed that attendance in several districts had come down.

The NGO Association urged the UDF MLAs to take the initiative for settling the strike.

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