HC order leaves KSRTC's 4,000 daily-wage conductors in the lurch

HC order leaves KSRTC's 4,000 daily-wage conductors in the lurch
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Kochi: Around 4,000 empanelled employees with the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) will be affected by the Thursday’s High Court order to terminate the service of conductors appointed through direct recruitment. As the HC division bench has instructed the KSRTC management to appoint only those who have been advised by the State Public Service Commission (PSC) as reserve conductors, the contractual staff stare at an uncertain future, especially as their 4,000 posts are not deemed permanent.

As per the affidavit submitted by the KSRTC to a single judge earlier, the total number of empanelled conductors in the corporation was 4,275. From among those who have completed 10 years of service, many were made permanent, while efforts to regularise several other posts got entangled in legal process. The remaining 4,000 staff will be hit hard by the order.

Those who figure in the PSC rank-list argue that the empanelled staff have been robbing them of their chance for recruitment. However, the counsel for the KSRTC submitted in the court that empanelled conductors were daily-wagers who were recruited to cover shortage of regular employees and deal with emergency situations. Though the list contains over 4,000 reserve conductors, that many vacancies are not in existence, the counsel informed the court.

The division bench issued the order on an appeal filed by candidates who are advised by the PSC for the posts of reserve conductors. They challenged the single-bench order that persons included in the PSC rank-list had no legal right to seek appointment against vacancies that were non-existent.

Appeal against single-bench order

The notification for reserve conductor vacancies in the KSRTC was issued by the PSC in 2010. A group of candidates subsequently approached the court complaining that though advice memos were issued to them, process of appointment was delayed. After the petition was dismissed by the single bench, a batch of candidates filed an appeal seeking to quash the order.

Lay-offs an option

The KSRTC management would not challenge the division bench order to dispense with the service of about 4,000 empanelled conductors who were appointed during the tenure of the previous UDF government. The order came at a time when the debt-ridden Corporation was weighing all options to bring down the revenue-expenditure gap.

In another order in the past, the court had advised the KSRTC management that it was not obligatory to make fresh appointments if there are no vacant posts. So, it is unlikely to replace contract staff with regular employees for the time being.

The bus-staff ratio which was 9.0 a couple of years ago has been brought down to 6.44. The management has been maintaining that it should be reduced further to 5.

The onus is now on the state government to take a call on the possible termination of over 4,000 contract employees of the public sector transporter.

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