Thiruvananthapuram: The gravity of Kerala’s financial crunch has been brought to the fore again, with a revelation that the state electricity board may also find it difficult to pay pensions to its thousands of retired personnel.
The development comes on the heels of statewide protests by retired staff of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) who have not received their pension payouts for months.
Following a series of suicides by KSRTC pensioners whose payments were pending, and at least one pensioner dying this week because he could not afford a heart surgery, the state government was forced to take note of the pensioners’ plight and promise to clear the pension dues within a week.
Signalling that the public sector pension crisis may not be limited to the KSRTC alone, the Kerala State Electricity Board, too, has informed its personnel that a pension crisis is looming in the electricity board.
The chairman and managing director of the board, N.S. Pillai wrote to employees last month that according to the audited figures for 2016-17, the board had a loss of Rs18.77 billion (Dh1 billion), and that the board was finding it challenging to contribute its share to the employees’ master pension and gratuity trust.
The board had been paying pensions in the past by utilising money from its day-to-day revenues, but this practice has been prohibited by the electricity regulatory commission.
Local media reported that the board’s pension dues were Rs124.18 billion in 2013, which swelled further to Rs161.50 billion in 2016.
However, state power minister M.M. Mani denied that there was a pension crisis for the KSEB.
Sadly for government employees in Kerala, not many among the public are empathetic to their needs, perhaps because of the questionable quality of service by public sector service providers.
One commentator wrote on social media, “The trade unions in Kerala killed the goose that laid golden eggs, and now there is neither an egg nor the goose”.
Another suggested that the government discontinue with pensions and introduce a contributory pension system.