Graphic: Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint
Graphic: Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint

Union govt has 729,000 vacancies: report

Eight ministries have at least 40% vacancies and 21 others have at least 30%; finance and science and technology ministries are the worst-hit

Central government departments had a 19% manpower shortage as of January 2014, possibly affecting their productivity and efficiency.

The ministry of finance and the ministry of science and technology were the worst hit, with a shortage in excess of 45%.

Together, the 56 ministries and departments had a staff shortage of around 728,870 as of January 2014, according to data from the Seventh Pay Commission’s report. Of the 3,890,112 sanctioned posts, 3,161,242 had been filled, the report shows.

Eight ministries have at least 40% vacancies and 21 others have at least 30%. The ministry of finance has 80,397 positions vacant (46% of the sanctioned strength). The ministry of science and technology has a shortage of 5,823 employees, or 47% of the total posts available.

The ministry of railways has a 15% shortage of manpower, but in absolute numbers, this translates into a staggering 235,527.

The pay commission’s report underlined the primary reason for the steady decline in staff strength of the central government, “other than in the ministry of home affairs/police", are the guidelines issued by the department of personnel and training in May 2001 on optimization of direct recruitment to civilian posts, which were in operation from May 2001 to March 2009.

“As per these guidelines, fresh recruitment was to be restricted to 1% of total civilian staff strength and with 3% of staff retiring each year, the manpower reduced by 2% per annum. The objective was to achieve a reduction of 10% in staff strength in five years," the report said.

Following an observation of the Sixth Pay Commission, the centre did not extend the “optimization scheme" and government recruitment picked up.

Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, president, Northern Railwaymen’s Union, said successive governments have not filled permanent positions in ministries and departments over a decade-and-a-half. Sidhu said although around 3% of central government employees are retiring every year, the recruitment process is not proportionate to the posts vacated by retired employees and argued that this led to the process of contract or temporary staffing in central government departments.

Sidhu, who is also the general secretary of Hind Mazdoor Sabha, a national labour union, said contractualization of the workforce is a big threat in terms of exploitation and low remuneration of temporary staff, and also in terms of accountability.

Rituparna Chakraborty, president of the Indian Staffing Federation, a lobby group of staffing companies, said the huge vacancy in the central ministries is a potential setback for these departments and ministries, and added that temporary staffing is the solution to fill up all these posts. “The Uberization of the labour market is the way forward, and both the government and the private sector are slowly getting to know the benefits of it," she added.

A labour ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the department of employment in the ministry has a significant shortage of employees, affecting its efficiency. The department of employment, which is now revamping the employment market by modernizing employment exchanges and setting up a national career service portal as a one-stop-shop for job seekers, job providers and intermediaries, is managing with less than two dozen people, he added.

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