Kerala: Mayor Arya Rajendran sacks cleaning staff over Onam protest, ‘irks’ CPI(M) leadership

Kerala: Mayor Arya Rajendran sacks cleaning staff over Onam protest, ‘irks’ CPI(M) leadership

Young CPI(M) leader and Thiruvananthapuram city mayor Arya Rajendran has cracked the whip on city corporation’s cleaning staff members who had allegedly thrown away Onam sadhya (meal) to protest against denial of opportunity to celebrate the festival.

Rajendran had suspended seven permanent staff members, while terminated four others deployed on temporary basis. The decision of Rajendran, who had hit headlines in 2020 when she was elected as the mayor at the age of 21, has apparently irked the CPI(M) leadership as the workers who faced the action belonged to the party’s trade union CITU.

Taking exception to the mayor’s decision, CPI(M) state secretary MV Govindan Master said the party does not attest the action against the workers on the ground that they had raised protest. “That does not go in tune with the party policy,” he said Friday.

Sources said the workers had started their work early on September 5, in order to join the Onam celebrations. But even after completing their assigned work, they were reportedly given additional duty by an official of the municipal corporation’s health wing. The workers were irked over the action of the official. Returning later in the day, the workers dumped the meal they had paid for from their own pocket in a dustbin.

Taking action against the workers, Rajendran had stated that the cleaning staff protest was a challenge to society. “They had acted in an inhuman manner and have no right to continue in service,” she said.

The mayor’s action had evoked protest on social media mainly on the grounds that the corporation did not have any role in the celebration and the food was arranged by the cleaning staff themselves. CPI(M) trade union wing has demanded that the action against the cleaning staff be revoked.

Before the CPI(M) state secretary denounced the mayor’s action, CPI(M) district secretary Anavoor Nagappan had tried to defend the mayor, saying that the employees should have tried some other way of protest, instead of throwing away the food.

Months ago, Rajendran had courted controversy over the decision to form sports teams of students based on their caste. She had then announced separate teams for ‘general category’ students and those from the SC/ST community.

She was forced to withdraw the decision after it evoked widespread protests. The CPI(M) district leadership had then intervened and urged Rajendran not to form sports teams on the basis of caste.

Last week, she tied the knot with CPI(M) legislator KM Sachin Dev at a simple function held at the state party headquarters. The event was attended by several CPI(M) leaders including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Sachin Dev, who represents Balussery in Kozhikode district, is the state secretary of the SFI, the student wing of the CPI(M), while Arya is a member of its state committee. She is also the state president of Balasangam, the children’s wing of the CPI(M).