PSC delays selection, Bengal to hire retirees

PSC delays selection, Bengal to hire retirees

Kolkata: West Bengal intends to hire about 10,000 retired employees and pay them a fraction of regular salaries to save costs.

The state government announced this on 5 February, soon after it rejected a panel of 4,700 people the Public Service Commission (PSC) had selected. There are at least 150,000 vacancies in the state government, official estimates show.

The state’s finance department said the decision is not related to the cash crunch but to the delays by PSC in preparing a panel, according to a secretary in the finance department, who declined to be named.

Amit Mitra, the state’s finance minister, declined to comment.

This isn’t the first time the state government is hiring former employees. Several departments such as food supplies, agriculture and land reforms have done so in the past. This time, too, the move has triggered a controversy. Trade unions opposed to the ruling Trinamool Congress alleged the decision is aimed at creating incentives for employees loyal to the party.

“By dangling this carrot, the government is only trying to buy loyalty among people in service," said Shyamal Mitra, organizing secretary of the Confederation of State Government Employees. The union is backed by the Indian National Trade Union Congress (Intuc), the labour arm of the Congress party, an ally of the Trinamool Congress.

The selection is almost always influenced by the party in power, Mitra said, referring to re-employment of former state employees in agriculture, land reforms and food supplies departments under the Left rule, which ended last year.

The scales are different, said Ananta Bandopadhyay, general secretary of the coordination committee—the union of state government employees backed by the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (Citu)—defending the erstwhile Left Front government.

Only a few top officers, say around 20 at a time, were hired earlier, he said, adding that now it is being extended to the lowest grade employees with a clear intention of encouraging them to be loyal to the ruling party.

Rebutting allegations of the trade unions, Javed Khan, the state’s minister for fire services, said a panel of secretaries is going to select people to be re-employed. His department is contemplating hiring 2,500 retired government employees. The state’s law minister Moloy Ghatak said there was nothing illegal in hiring former employees and there was no alternative because PSC had taken long to select people. S. Mondal, secretary of PSC, declined to comment.