After protests from various quarters, the Congress-led Kerala government Monday evening put on hold its order restricting the “literary, creative, academic and cultural activities” of government employees. CM Oommen Chandy has asked the state chief secretary to look into the issue.
As per the November 11 order, state government employees have to obtain prior permission and submit an affidavit stating that there is no profit motive behind their literary or cultural activity. The order said permission would be granted only after looking into the merit of each application.
The restriction, it said, would cover research and literary works of government staff. It also prevented employees from taking part in TV talk shows without prior permission from the authorities concerned.
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The order said as per Section 48 of Kerala Government Servants Conduct Rules, employees already enjoy conditional permission to engage themselves in literary, cultural and related activities. However, it had come to the notice of the government that employees are engaging in literary and cultural activities without obtaining permission. Hence, the new guidelines in this regard became necessary.
CPM-affiliated Kerala Secretariat Employees Association general secretary M S Bijukuttan said: “We would strongly object to any move to curtail the literary and cultural activities of employees.”
Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan said the order showed the “Fascist face” of the state government. Trying to stop the issue from snowballing, state Public Relations Minister K C Joseph said the government does not want to restrict the cultural or literary activity of its employees. “If the present order gives a wrong indication, the government is ready to correct the mistake. They are free to engage in literary activities within the confines of service rules,” he said.
He said the order was issued when an employee sought permission to publish a career guidance book. Similarly, there were other applications for literary work with commercial interest, he said.