Dozens of employees in a fix as their community claim stands to scrutiny. Disproportionate number of beneficiaries raises doubts and calls for verification, an official says

The retirement benefits of several Scheduled Tribes employees of the Centre have been withheld pending verification of their caste certificates by the Tamil Nadu Government. The promotions of dozens of employees have been stalled for the same reason. The issue pertains to the employees, particularly those who claimed to be belonging to the Kattu Naicker and Malaikuravan communities, official sources told The Hindu on Tuesday.

The Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, has written to the Chief Secretaries of all States/Union Territories stating that instances had come to notice where pensionary benefits of employees working in various offices and organisations under the Central Government in Tamil Nadu were being withheld on the ground that their caste verification was pending from the State Government, the sources said.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC & ST) took a serious view of this, and directed the DoPT to issue necessary guidelines to all concerned for timely verification of the certificates.

Referring to the detailed guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for effective verification so that no person on the basis of a fake certificate may secure employment wrongfully in the Government, the DoPT pointed out that the responsibility of the issue and verification of caste certificate lies with the State/Union Territory Government concerned.

Though the DoPT had issued various guidelines from time to time for streamlining the process of verification and requested the State/Union Territory Governments for timely verification, the appointing authority had taken “an unduly long time in getting the caste status verified by the concerned State authorities which is totally in contravention of the existing instructions”.

Citing various circulars, including one which states that the “verification of caste status at every important upturn of employee’s career is necessary…as an SC candidate loses his SC status if he embraces a religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism”, the DoPT requested all State/Union Territory Governments to ensure completion of verification in a reasonable time and inform the appointing authorities within one month, the sources said.

In the Southern Railway (SR) alone, about 80 cases of ST certificates are pending verification with the State Government. The verification is done by the State Level Scrutiny Committee and District Level Vigilance Committee. Besides sending reminders, the General Manager met the authorities concerned with a request to expedite the process since the career prospects and statutory benefits had been withheld.

All India Railwaymen Federation president N. Kanniah said the union had little role to play since the matter involved the Centre and the State Governments and the due process of law should prevail. The State administration should take up the verification on priority considering the larger interest of the employees and their family members, he said.

According to a senior SR official, a majority of the cases pending verification involved employees who had obtained the ST certificates two or three decades ago when there was no online mechanism. Revenue had no records of that time to verify the claims and had to depend on field visits and local enquiry on the family background of the staff concerned.

While the reservation in employment for Scheduled Tribes is 7.5%, the size of the tribal population in Tamil Nadu is very small comparatively. The disproportionate number of beneficiaries raises doubts and calls for verification, the official said.