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A Relook at the Government’s Employment Policy

By H H Mohrmen

The state has witnesses a mad rush of educated youths applying for any available government job and the reason is because it pays well and comes with many allowances. But more importantly, unlike private or contractual work, a government job is secure. The trend now is that for every advertisement of a few government jobs that the MPSC or the different DSCs advertise there are thousands of applicants vying for the few jobs. This is one pertinent issue that the next government that comes power after the 2018 election needs to take as top priority.

The youth wing of KHNAM has flagged one very important issue which is related to the upper age limit of the youths who are applying for certain posts. But this is only related to the state civil service vacancies which were recently advertised by Meghalaya Public Service Commission. No doubt this is an important issue but we need to take this trivial age-limit subject a little bit further. 

The government should re-examine the prescribed age limit for job applicants legible for applying for the various post. In some cases the age bar should be done away with because it is irrelevant. To begin with, it is wrong or rather comical to prescribe 18 as the minimum age for an applicant to apply for a post in which the required minimum educational qualification is a degree.  Even if an applicant passes high school at the age of 14 years (which means that the student was in class 1 at the age of 4), she will only be able to graduate at the age of 19 because it will take her another 2 years to complete the higher secondary course and another 3 years to finish a degree course. The point is even if the candidate graduates from high school at the age of 14 she  will take another five years to get a University degree. 

This is even funnier when the required minimum qualification for the post is technical degrees like BE, B Tech, BSC Agriculture, B Pharm which are four year degree courses, because it is next to impossible for a person to complete a technical degree at the age of 18. The point is prescribing a minimum age for the post in which the required minimum qualification is a degree is irrelevant. The government should do away with minimum age when advertising for a post in which the required minimum qualification is a degree. The same goes for jobs where minimum legible qualification is master’s degree, for the simple reason that it takes 17 years to complete the course.

Then the advertisement becomes more amusing when apart from the fact that the minimum qualification prescribed for the job aspirant is a degree, then it also mentions that preference would be given to candidates with two, three or even five years experience. Can a youth complete a degree and also have two or three years experience at the age of 18? If the government increases or does away with minimum age limit then it can increase the upper age limit to a more practical one.  

The upper age limit also needs to be raised because many public services commission including UPSC has increased the upper age limit of job aspirants. If experience is what the employers need then the upper age limit needs to be relaxed or done away with because experience also comes with age. Perhaps the upper age limit is only relevant for the armed forces recruitment because the job requires some kind of training and physical fitness, but for other posts or clerical jobs there should not be an upper age limit. Office and clerical jobs require only mental and physical competency, hence anybody before retirement age should be legible for the job.

The other issue is contractual employment, and since the introduction of programs and missions like NRHM, MNREGS, NULM, NRLM, IBDLP and SSA which only engage employees on contractual basis, the services rendered by the young staff should also be taken into consideration. The service of these staffs is not only insecure but they are also paid a paltry sum of money. The emoluments paid for staffs with the same qualifications and experiences also varies from one mission or program to another. Pay for Program Associates, F&A officer, field staffs and DEO in one program or mission is different from the other. Therefore it is only fair that the government provide the same pay or remuneration for the same post.

Employees working on contractual basis are all on mission mode and unlike other office staffs, their work is result oriented and they have goals to achieve, yet they are paid very less. The government should give equal pay to its employees and their salaries should be commensurate with the amount of work that they do. Then the case of teachers being paid based on different schemes or missions is another pertinent issue. There are various schemes under which the teachers are paid like SSA, grant in aid and regular government posts. Here too the salary paid varies. Teachers are paid base on the schemes and missions and not on the number of hours they put in.

It is only fair that the yardstick for deciding the salary of all the employees is equal pay for similar or equal work. For example the government is engaging Home Guards personnel as traffic wardens to help the police control traffic, but in spite of putting in the same efforts and working the same numbers of hours, the salaries of policemen is two or three time more than that of the Home Guard. There should be no discrimination based on the schemes or missions or the process of appointment. Staff should be paid based on their work outcomes and efficiency.

If the government treats regular government employees and those under contractual basis equally, there would not be so much competition for government jobs because the pay will be the same irrespective of the post. In his article which was published in the Shillong Times as well as the vernacular paper, Dr Sumarbin Umdor suggested that the government should come up with a minimum wage for all those who are engaged in any form of labour. This is not only a good suggestion but it is also a way forward because if the objective is to have productive employees, it is only fair that there should be equal pay for people engaged in similar work and payment should be based on numbers of hours the employee works and her efficiency.

Payment based on the effort put in by the employee is especially relevant in a society like ours which lacks the industrial culture. We have so many social obligations to attend to like birthdays, weddings, visiting the bereaved families, funerals, domestic and social commitments and even cheering for local football clubs and we are getting paid for attending all these events, because payment is not based on the efforts that we put in. Government should also make all jobs result oriented to ensure that all its staff perform. This can be achieved if we determine wages on an hourly basis.

Recently there was a debate in this paper about compassionate appointment in case of a government employees’ unfortunate demise and in this regard government of Assam has come up with a good idea. The government has decided to continue paying the family the salary (including increment) and all the benefits that deceased employee is entitled to (had she/she been alive) and also continue to pay the family pension when the employee is supposed to retire. This is not only practical but it is also fair and humane because it continues to take care of the employee’s family as well as being fair in giving equal opportunity to all jobs aspirants to apply for the vacant post. 

Therefore the way forward is for the next pay commission to think radically and come up with out of the box ideas. Payment based on efforts and efficiency should be encouraged because it will also make it easy for employees to switch jobs. Employees will not have to stick with the job they have no interest in just because it is lucrative, it pays well and it is secure. Government employees will not leave a government job because the available alternatives are not lucrative enough but if payment is based on hourly basis then it will make no different which post one holds.  

The government needs to do a rethink and reform its employment policy if it really wants to move forward. 

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