Labour dept pants at half strength

Overworked staff wants vacancies filled

Delhi government's labour department runs on half strength, making it difficult for its staff to carry out its ever-expanding mandate which ranges from settling compensation cases to rehabilitating rescued child workers.

The situation is so grim that a field inspector is burdened with over 1000 compensation cases against the prescribed  500 cases.

“We are overburdened with work almost double our capacity. When there are delays in settling compensation cases, the aggrieved party also drags us to the court. All this because the department is short of staff,” complains a labour inspector. He says despite assurances, nothing has been done to set things right.

The department at present has 282 officials, a mere 50 per cent of the total sanctioned strength of 545. And those officials are crying foul over the burden of work which is mostly of quasi-judicial nature.

The department is charged with  implementation of over 30 labour laws, including those dealing with repatriation and rehabilitation of rescued child workers.  It's responsibilities towards ensuring health, safety and welfare of workers in organised and unorganised sectors are increasing.

Four of the nine posts of deputy labour commissioner are lying vacant.

“Yes, we are dangerously short of staff,” a deputy labour commissioner says. “While people retire every year, none are selected to replace them. Not only this, with various new social welfare schemes and new Acts, the sphere of our work is only increasing.”

“While lawmakers burden us with additional responsibilities, they don't make provisions for enforcement machinery and bigger budget in the law itself,” adds the official.

He cites the example of child labour laws.  While rescuing children and prosecuting their employer was earlier sufficient, the labour department now is also entrusted with the kids' repatriation, rehabilitation and education.

“We even have to monitor the progress of these children once they are back in their home states. We also provide them funds for their education and see that they are actually educating themselves,” the official said.

Among the reasons for the staff shortage, Delhi Chief Secretary P K Tripathi cites `cumbersome' recruitment procedure and the difficulty at times in finding reserved category candidates for vacancies.

“Besides, the Fifth Pay Commission also came with a rider suggesting that the government should cut down 15 per cent of staff in all departments over the next 10 years,” Tripathi told Deccan Herald.

He said Delhi government will now allow all understaffed departments to hire people on contract, pending regular recruitment.

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