THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At a time when it is alleged that KSEB Limited is pampering its employees, the public utility says that it is too short of funds to pay the salaries and benefits of nearly 8,000 of its 35,000 employees. This is because the Electricity Regulatory Commission has approved the employee cost of only 27,175 of its employees. The power utility has petitioned the ERC to grant it more, saying that the deficit was imposing a huge financial strain.
Nonetheless, power minister M M Mani said the public utility would initiate certain rationalisation measures as outlined in a study by IIM-Kozhikode. The minister but ruled out a freeze on future recruitment. Fact is, the power utility has been constantly asked to curtail its burgeoning employee costs. Way back in 2010, the ERC had directed KSEBL to redeploy employees who had been rendered excess as a consequence of computerisation and the introduction of new technology.
“It was on the basis of this directive that IIM-Kozhikode was asked to do a study on the service quality and organisational efficiency of KSEB,” a top KSEBL official said. The report, which was submitted in 2015, underlined the need to redeploy excess staff. In 2014, the ERC had once again asked KSEBL to control and rationalize its employee cost, especially its increasing dependence on contract labour.
While KSEBL is complaining about the ERC’s stinginess, industrial consumers have criticized the Commission for granting the utility higher operational and maintenance costs, especially employee costs, under the Draft State Electricity Regula-tory Commission (Terms and Conditions for Determination of Tariff) Regulations, 2017. The argument of the HT and EHT Consumers' Association is that the draft regulations have increased employee expenses for 2016-17 and 2017-18 by Rs 752 crore and Rs 773 crore, a swell of 61.6 per cent and 57.8 per cent.
The government, too, had officially objected to KSEBL employee costs. Dr K.M. Abraham, when he was additional chief secretary (finance), had noted in a file that “while it is important to reward employee with a good compensation package, there are components in the package that should have been curtailed to reasonable levels.” What’s more, the additional report submitted by IIM Kozhikode in 2017 has called for the review of the ‘Compassionate Employment Scheme’, which allows employment in the position such as workman, lineman, office attendant, confidential assistants, and fair copy assistant for dependents of former employees.