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Punctuality headmistress apologises

Thiruvananthapuram, June 27: A Kerala headmistress transferred for publicly criticising the state education minister’s delayed arrival at an event at her school met the chief minister today and tendered a written apology.

K.K. Urmila Devi handed over a letter to Oommen Chandy expressing regret at the controversy, after being denied relief by a tribunal she had moved against the transfer. She had earlier alleged she was being victimised as she was a Dalit.

In her letter, Devi said she had only expressed the anguish of the students at Government Cotton Hill School over the loss of class time because of minister P.K. Rabb’s delayed arrival and had not intended to insult him.

The minister is a leader of the Indian Union Muslim League, the second-largest partner in the Congress-led ruling coalition.

Sources said the apology was a precursor to a possible softening of the government’s stance. Faced with protests inside and outside the Assembly against the transfer, Chandy had sent an aide to the teacher last evening to find a way out of the row, the sources said.

That the teacher is due to retire this year may also have weighed on Chandy’s mind.

Devi, transferred to a school over 30km away, reportedly told Chandy today that she wanted to continue at Cotton Hill for health reasons. Her husband is a cancer patient while she herself is undergoing treatment for a brain-related disease.

Rabb, who had arrived 90 minutes late at the June 16 school event, did not react to the teacher’s comments then but later ordered an inquiry at the end of which Devi was issued a memo.

The memo said that Rabb had had to wait outside as the school gates were shut and that Devi came to the dais only after the minister had taken his seat. The memo gave her 15 days to explain her conduct, but the transfer order came before the period was over.

Rabb agreed Devi had not insulted him personally but claimed there was negligence in honouring him.

“If it was a disciplinary action like suspension, she should have been issued a notice and given time to explain. A transfer is a routine thing,’’ he said.