Kerala govt employees hit back, 'How can govt restrict creative freedom?'

'This is utter foolishness and absurdity, and an assault on freedom of expression.'
Kerala govt employees hit back, 'How can govt restrict creative freedom?'
Kerala govt employees hit back, 'How can govt restrict creative freedom?'

If the Kerala government had its way,  the creative side of all government employees would have been reined in and allowed to be expressed only with prior permission from the Government. But under pressure, the goverment has reportedly frozen the GO issued on Nov 11 by the Kerala Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department. According to the GO, prior permission was required from the authorities concerned along with submission of an affidavit stating a no-profit motive vis-à-vis any literary or cultural activity undertaken by a government employee in his or her individual capacity. This coupled with Section 48 of the Kerala Government Servants Conduct Rules would thereby reinforce the government policy in the said matter.

Any government employee who wished to publish a book or participate in a TV programme would need prior clearance in writing according to the GO. Any literary work, before being published will need to have the author stating the details of: the publisher, the person penning the preface, the price of the book as well as an affidavit citing absence of anti-national content and anything that goes against government policies and interests. The GO however didi not delineate guidelines for social media use by government employees.

While K Jayakumar, ex- Chief Secretary of Government of Kerala and currently the Vice-Chancellor of Malayalam University refused to comment citing his present official position, noted Malayalam poet Balachandran Chullikadu who retired from Kerala Government Service in 2013 was cryptic in his reaction with a “I am against such an order, that’s it.”

Carnatic exponent and academician, Dr. K Omanakutty Amma, Professor and Head of the Music Department in the University of Kerala reiterated that the GO contradicted the right to freedom of speech. “Forced regulations on writers and artists, whether they hold a government job or not, is against democracy. That can hinder the development of a nation. It should not be allowed and not the right thing to do.”

Literary critic and Head of the Malayalam Department in the Sree Shankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, KS Ravikumar attributes the same to a colonial hangover. “The beginning can be traced to colonial rule, when we had these stringent regulations on artists and writers. This was followed even in the 1960s and 70s. I remember K Surendran, a poet and PK Manthri, a cartoonist whose talents were quashed due to stringent censorship by the government. Earlier, even celebrated poet and lyricist ONV Kurup had to publish his creative works under a pen name due to such laws. Later however, no one bothered about the law and all were free to express their views. Now I don’t understand this. People who protest against intolerance and hinder freedom of expression at the national level have now brought back this foolhardy law. This is utter foolishness and absurdity, and an assault on freedom of expression.”

“This is censorship and I am against it. But I support and quote Jayaprakash Narayan on such issues, wherein I completely disagree with forced regulations and censorship, but artists, writers and critics, whoever they are, should be self-responsible. If you are a government employee and a writer, the responsibility and regulations should come from within, so that nobody need implement draconian regulations.  Censorship will not help development, as freedom to express your talents is the greatest freedom you can ever get!” elucidates Vishnu Narayan Namboodiri, prominent Malayalam poet and English scholar.

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