Launching the ‘Rozgar Mela’ to appoint a million youth to government jobs over the next 18 months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over the first set of appointment letters in New Delhi on Saturday, 22 October 2022.
In all, 75,000 appointments letters were issued, of which 20,000 were handed over by as many as 50 union ministers across the country. Among them were Railways Minister Ashvini Vishnav, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
They were at Jaipur, Bhopal, Chandigarh, and Chennai respectively to make sure that the significance of the event was not lost on a wider cross section of the youth all over the country amid the inconsequential din that dominates the public discourse these days.
It is not fortuitous that the fair was launched on Dhanteras, celebrated in some parts of the country to invoke divine blessings for wealth and prosperity, and its culmination coincides with the general elections in early 2024.
Employment -or the lack of it- is an issue that can make or mar electoral fortunes of any ruling political party at the hustings. In the face of mounting criticism by the opposition parties that unemployment was on the rise, it was necessary for the government to deliver on its electoral promise of creating jobs throughout the five-year tenure.
While the recruitment fest will not restrain the fractious opposition parties from disparaging the move as being ‘too little, too late’, the government would surely expect that it takes the wind out of the adversaries’ sails.
Absorption of a million appointees in 38 central departments on posts as varied as sub-inspectors, constables, clerks, stenographers, personal assistants, income tax inspectors, and multitasking staff is significant.
These are Group B (Gazetted and non-Gazetted) and Group C posts which the multitude of the youth aspire for. Some of them are also expected to be appointed to Group A posts, highly prized among the young aspirants in India’s status-conscious society.
With the national unemployment rate at 7.8 per cent in September 2022, the news should bring cheer to the youth and pay political dividends to the ruling party, but one cannot help wondering how did so many vacancies get accumulated.
Just three ministries, discharging crucial sovereign functions, account for more than 60 per cent of the vacancies. The Railways top the list with 2.9 lakh vacant posts, followed closely by the Ministry of Defence with 2.5 lakh, and the Ministry of Home Affairs with 1.2 lakh vacancies.
These numbers call into question the claims that technology has improved efficiency and reduced dependence on manpower on the one hand, but also serious concerns about governance on the other hand.
Considering that as on March 1, 2022, the strength of central government employees, excluding 14 lakh military personnel, was around 34.65 lakh, piling up of 10 lakh indispensable vacancies before the launching the recruitment drive is neither smart politics not good economics. Even the Covid-19 pandemic-induced economic slowdown cannot account for this.
The impact of such an acute shortage of manpower on the functioning of the affected departments is unimaginable, apart from the loss of opportunity for the youth to fulfil their destiny of landing a government job earlier than they now would.
Be that as it may, while opening up of the employment opportunities for the youth cannot be grudged, this drive should not come at the cost of the earlier promises of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ and the need for administrative reforms to ensure that having landed a ‘safe’ job, the government employees serve the people with compassion, as they should in any civilised society.
The author, Amit Cowshish, is ex-Financial Advisor (Acquisition), Ministry of Defence, Government of India