The ‘permanent’ problem: Why is there a ‘caste system’ in govt employment?

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Source: The post is based on an article “Why is there a caste system in government employment?” published in the Business Standard on 15th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – Govt policies and interventions

Relevance: Types of the government employments

News: Recently, protests were seen against the Agnipath scheme which was launched to cut costs in the armed forces as schemes like one rank-one pension were putting pressure on the public purse.

Therefore, this has raised debate over the nature of employment in government institutions.

Types of government employment?

There is a presence of a caste system: (1) permanent, (2) contractual, and (3) casual employees.

It is noted that the strength of contractual employees has doubled in four years to 2.43 million. And their share in total government employment has soared.

What are the trends in government employment?

(1) The governments have been increasingly hiring contractual, and casual employees instead of permanent employees because the permanent category gets paid much better than the former two. Thus, these employees are cheaper than the permanent employees.

(2) The central and state governments don’t fill vacancies in the departments and agencies.

(3) The government employees don’t get paid, sometimes for months together. For example, a school teacher, a sanitation worker, or a social health (ASHA) worker.

Why governments and associate bodies are moving away from hiring permanent employees?

Cost. The permanent government employees receive guaranteed sum of money as salary, housing rent allowance, full inflation-indexation and job security, medical benefits for life and pension and so on. And at present, the governments are under tremendous fiscal pressures.

Productivity. In the absence of any reward system for work well done, there is no incentive to work. At the same time, statutory provisions make it hard to use the stick.

For example, there have been cases in which the teachers with relatively comfortable salaries sit at home and send surrogates to teach on their behalf in return for part-payment out of the teacher’s salary.

What are the issues in the coming future?

The unfairness of this caste system is bound to remain in the future because one of the new labour codes is poised to encourage hiring on contract.

Way Forward

Five years ago, the pay commission had recommended for a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 per month,

Some years ago, the Supreme Court ordered that there should be no difference between permanent and contractual categories, in pay or benefits.

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