Vacancies in govt offices, mass joblessness outside

Instead of filling up the vacancies, a good number of government departments are managing with contractual staff in the lower rungs and consultants in the senior positions.
Last Updated : 29 February 2024, 20:24 IST

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One of the reasons attributed to the breach in Parliament security in December last year is the large-scale vacancies in the security setup, leading to certain posts functioning with skeletal strength. While this might have been an ongoing issue, the breach brought the deficiency into national focus. Nothing could be more serious than compromising the security of such an important building known as the citadel of democracy.

On the day of the breach, only 175 security personnel were on duty, against the usual 301. The absence of such a large number of personnel is bound to impact the security of the Parliament. The Parliament Security Service (PSS), formerly the Watch and Ward staff, faced a shortage of nearly 50% of its sanctioned strength of 434 personnel, responsible for access control and frisking, alongside Delhi Police. More seriously, the post of security head at the level of Joint Secretary had been vacant since the first week of November, when the last incumbent was repatriated to his home cadre of Uttar Pradesh. It is only after the incident that the Ministry of Home Affairs asked the states to send nominations for filling up the post of Joint Secretary (Security) on deputation. The previous incumbent should not have been relieved until after the relieving officer joined and familiarised himself with the security setup for at least two months. 

Large-scale vacancies in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) have also had an adverse impact on the operational front of these forces. The CAPFs comprise the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Seema Sashatra Bal, and the Assam Rifles. 

Replying to a question, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai stated in the Rajya Sabha in March 2023 that there were vacancies of nearly 85,000 personnel in the CAPFs. Frequent incidents of suicide and fratricides can be attributed to a certain extent to the existing vacancies. Due to a shortage of personnel, the commanders perforce have to deny leave to personnel to maintain operational strength, which leads to suicides and fratricides. 

Burdened with over 1,000 pending cases, the CBI is functioning with just 5,600 personnel against a sanctioned strength of 7,295. This includes 367 technical personnel who play a crucial role in providing scientific evidence to prove crimes committed. The position in the states is no better. In Haryana, Gurugram police have a shortage of 2,180 personnel. The manpower crunch impacts investigations and law enforcement.

Vacancies in the health sector deprive the population of immediate and specialised health care. Overall vacancies in government hospitals and primary health centres are nearly 50 per cent. In rural areas, the vacancies for specialists are as high as 80 per cent. Small wonder that our rural population must trek or drive long distances to visit specialists in the towns.

Over 2.5 lakh posts were vacant in the Indian Railways, according to a statement made by Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in the Rajya Sabha in August 2023. Though the recruitment process has begun, such large vacancies could impact the safety and security of the passengers.

Instead of filling up the vacancies, a good number of government departments are managing with contractual staff in the lower rungs and consultants in the senior positions.

Most consultants are highly experienced retired government servants who get paid reasonably well for their services. This arrangement, no doubt, saves a large amount of the government budget but leaves the young aspirants looking for jobs high and dry. As many as 1,499 consultants are engaged by the government, apart from 1,481 retired government officials, 883 experts, and 20,376 low-paid staff hired through private agencies.

Failure to land a government job leads to frustration among the youth, which is then vented in the way it was done in Parliament in December to draw the government’s attention to their plight.

With over five crore cases pending in various courts and an inadequate strength of judges, it is no wonder that it takes years to settle issues brought to the courts. As it is, the sanctioned strength of judges in various courts is not enough to cope with the colossal number of cases. The vacancy in the sanctioned strength further aggravates the situation. Against a sanctioned strength of 1,114 judges in high courts, there are just 767, while in the district judiciary, there are as many as 5,300 vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 25,081. Fortunately, the present Chief Justice of India has ensured that the full complement of judges is posted in the Supreme Court.

According to the report “State of Judiciary” of the Apex Court, there are 14.2 judges per million, as against the recommendations of the Law Commission in 1987 that for efficient functioning and speedy disposal of cases, there ought to be 50 judges per million. By this yardstick, there is a requirement of 69,600 judges. Though this target may not be achievable in the near future, every effort needs to be made to reduce the vacancies to a minimum while at the same time initiating a case for an increase in the number of judges in a phased manner. 

It is rather ironic that while the youth are clamouring for jobs in the government sector, large-scale vacancies exist in almost all government departments, adversely affecting efficiency. Due to a lack of jobs within the country, the youth are turning in large numbers to work in war-torn Israel, risking their lives. With a view to achieving zero vacancies, the recruitment process needs to be streamlined by taking timely action and filling up all posts soon after vacancies arise.

When existing staff is burdened with additional work due to a shortage of manpower, it would be preposterous to expect top efficiency from them.

(The writer is a retired Inspector General of Police, CRPF)

Published 29 February 2024, 20:24 IST

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