Will HC do away with Indian Coffee House’s Cooperation Board?

Offering a glimpse into nostalgia and simpler times, the Indian Coffee House has been a favourite pit stop for coffee and refreshments for those who have grown up in Kerala. The ever familiar menu offering omlettes, cutlets and porottas, never fail to satiate us. This autonomous institution run by a cooperation board faces involvement of a political party for the first time in its history of more than 50 years.

Government decision to dismiss the Indian Coffee Board Corporation that runs the Indian Coffee House was challenged via a plea. The High Court will announce its decision regarding the matter on Monday, 6th March. Allegedly the decision to dismiss the board is a move by CPM (Communist Party of India Marxist) to take over the reins of this institution.

The dismissal order has apparently come after a complaint filed by CITU (Center of India Trade Unions). CITU members allegedly tried to forcefully take over the administration which the Board members tried to prevent. They claim that they hadn’t received any prior notice regarding this decision of dismissing the Board.

According to CD Suresh, a clerk at the Head Office located at Thrissur of the Indian Coffee House and former Secretary of the Indian Coffee Board Thozhilali Sahakaranam, “The Board hasn’t been dismissed. There’s only an order to dismiss it and we are very sure that the High Court decision will be in our favour. For over 55 years, the Cooperation Board has been running things smoothly without involvement of politics and now, a few union members belonging to the CITU have created this problem.”

When asked for the reason of the CITU to move for dismissal of the Board, KF Davis, President of CITU, Thrissur says, “The Board has been functioning in a corrupt manner. They have been taking money from more than 900 people promising them employment. They made it compulsory for prospective employees to deposit close to a lakh at times. And even though there is a provision for the money to be returned, it hasn’t been returned to the employees. This unaccounted money is more than approximately 5 crores. And the best part is, the Thrissur Department of Industries and Commerce isn’t aware of these deposits. Therefore, what has happened as of now is bank accounts related to these funds have been frozen. Currently, S Bindhu has taken over as the administrative head.”

CD Suresh defiantly denies these charges of corruption against the Board. “The Board has been functioning effortlessly so far by maintaining a sense of equality among all their employees. Every clerk, officer or a menial worker employed by the Board hold a share of INR 20,000. This makes everyone equal. There isn’t much difference in their salaries either unless a change in rank might give them the benefit of an increased salary of INR 200-300 a month. We haven’t asked any employee to make any deposits without valid paperwork for the same. Only branch heads who often purchase inventory for their respective branch have to deposit INR 50,000 as a security measure. And though the provision is that the money may be returned after three years, it is usually returned within 18 months,” he says. He also feels that these problems began when CK Rajesh, a union member belonging to the CITU was suspended.

The decision to do away with the Board, political or not, seems to have opened a can of worms. Will administrative process of this historic institution be changed?

Cover image courtesy: By tomislav medak, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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