In the questionnaire of an examination conducted by Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (Keltron), a Kerala government undertaking based out of Thiruvananthapuram, there was a question, “Which god lost his relevance after the coming of Jesus Christ?” The options were “Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswaran, Indra”.
Following an expression of outrage by the Hindu community, the candidates who appeared for the exam as well as many ordinary citizens, Keltron blamed a question-setting agency for the loaded question.
The slected candidates would be awarded franchises of the Akshaya Kendra, a body that helps citizens access government services online without visiting the offices physically. These centres handle online applications. Aadhaar card, driving license, domicile certificate, e-filing of tax etc. Now, the government’s excuse does not wash, as it is the Government of Kerala that conducts examinations to recruit candidates to operate the Akshaya Kendras in the state. Further, Keltron conducts the exams on behalf of the state government and the results are published online.
No FIR has been filed yet.
It turns out, moreover, that the kendras are dominated by cadre from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that leads the Left Democratic Front Government of Kerala followed by born-again (converted from Hinduism) Christians. In the past, the kendras have been accused of facilitating contracts to third parties, bypassing the open-bidding rule.
In January this year, when the term of the current Pinarayi Vijayan government was about to end in three months, 296 temporary workers were given permanent appointments at Keltron under pressure from left-leaning labour unions — defying the Supreme Court order against this practice.
The Kerala government ignored the appeals and protests by those who had made it to the PSC rank, with the Vijayan cabinet approving these appointments. Sources say that the thousands appointed in departments across the state are made to donate a month’s salary to the CPM kitty.
The state government says that Keltron is now making profits and that it took “humanitarian considerations” into account while confirming the appointments. When asked whether the extortion of Rs 43 lakh per month as the cumulative of employees’ salaries wouldn’t mean there is actually no profit in the deal, the government said the allegation was “politically motivated”.
Last year, MLA PT Thomas had alleged that the PSC plagiarised Pakistan’s 2001 civil service exam while setting questions for Kerala Administrative Service (KAS) preliminary exams. While PSC chairman MK Sakeer came out with a clarification, terming the charge as “sub-standard”, meant to discredit the PSC, he said also that they were theory-based questions relating to public administration and could figure in similar tests across many countries.
A vigilance probe into the functioning of certain PSC coaching centres allegedly run by government employees in 2020 found the centres allegedly aiding students on their rolls to cheat in PSC examinations. The vigilance investigated also allegations that these government officials influenced various sections of the PSC.
Until recently, these coaching centres in Kerala had been accused of facilitating their students to sit in the same exam hall to make it easy for them to cheat. The state government, furthering the excuse that the traffic to the PSC website was negligible, let the agency alott the candidates not only the same exam centre but also nearby seats. This malpractice ended last year, though, with the candidates now getting their question paper code only on reaching the exam centre.
Keltron was under the scanner earlier when it conducted an examination for Assam’s sub-inspectors. The exams, which were to be held in September 2020, were cancelled as it was found that the question papers had leaked. No one was held responsible for the paper leak.