Three days after Dr BG Sreedevi was removed from the post of Director of the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC), she has now accused the Kerala government of political vendetta.
In an order issued on Tuesday, Sreedevi was replaced by R Prakash Kumar, who is the Director of Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute for Plant Sciences. While Kumar has been given the additional charge of NATPAC, Sreedevi will continue as a Grade G scientist. Speaking to The News Minute, the former director called her removal unexpected and political.
“I can’t find any other reason. The pressure to remove me might have come from the lower level, from the union affiliated to the Left, not from the government. Employees’ unions affiliated to political parties are strong in autonomous institutions like NATPAC,” she said. Sreedevi believes that she may have been targeted by the union as she refused to fulfil certain demands. She, however, hesitated to reveal what their demands were, while noting that she refused to deviate from the rules.
“I had never acted against rules in matters of promotion or increment. There were demands to go against them from some corners of the office. This happened when the UDF was in power as well. But the Left unions are bolder now that the LDF is ruling the state,” she pointed out. The scientist, however, says she won’t approach anyone in the government over her removal. She said, “The government’s decision was swift and unexpected. I handed over the charge when I received the order. I am a professional, nothing else comes in my way. I don’t have any inhibition to continue working. I am a scientist. It may not be possible for someone else to do the work which I am doing.” NATPAC is functioning under the Science and Technology Department.
Sreedevi was appointed as NATPAC Director on November 15, 2010 for a five year-term. The previous UDF government later granted her an extension until May 31, 2020. While her removal comes three years ahead of her superannuation, there was a move to remove her in 2016, shortly after the LDF came to power. However, on that occasion, the Chief Minister’s office did not approve of the move. Before being appointed as Director, she served as Head, Highway Engineering Division and Laboratory at NATPAC.
NATPAC former Director T Elangovan said that the removal of a director is normally based on an assessment of their performance by an Executive Committee. When a director has completed five years the decision to give an extension is based on the committee report. He observed that the procedure following the completion of a tenure is that the post is advertised and the most eligible candidate selected. “Even the director who has completed the term can reapply when the post is advertised and can get selected if she or he is the most suitable candidate. But in Sreedevi’s case I don’t have any information that the procedures were followed. Whatever happened was not just,” he said.
Both Sreedevi and Elangovan wondered how Kumar, a botanist would be able to handle the Centre’s affairs, which deals with research and consultancy in the field of traffic engineering and transportion planning. However, Dr Suresh Das, ex-officio Principal Secretary Department of Science and Technology explained that Sreedevi was removed as the procedure to assess her performance was not followed when she was given an extension in 2015. “The appointment of Prakash Kumar is temporary. The post will be advertised and the most eligible candidate will be selected,” he added.