Mautusi Chaudhuri

Unemployment is a burning issue both in this state as well as in the country as a whole. The unemployment rate in India is quite above the world unemployment rate.  India is facing the worst unemployment scenario in about half a century. The International Labour Organisation released a report "World Employment and Social Outlook Trends-2018" and it is projected in the report that the number of unemployed persons in India is expected to rise from 18.3 million in 2017 to 18.6 million in 2018 and 18.9 million in 2019 (Source: Economics Times).The unemployment rate in the country will stand at 3.5 per cent in 2018 and 2019. The ILO said the unemployment rate at a global level would decline for the first time in three years (Source: Business Standard). In the periodic labour Forced Survey (PLFS) of the National Sample Survey Office(NSSO) showed the unemployment rate in the country in FY18 was at 5.3% in rural India and 7.8% in urban India, resulting in overall unemployment rate of 6.1%(Source: Economic Times, June 1, 2019).

Tripura is such a state where people are traditionally dependent on Government and Government agencies for providing employment. The main reason is that the private sector is yet to develop in the state. So the whole employment scenario of the state revolves around the State Government. This makes the role of the State government very pivotal. Though the state have always suffered from unemployment but of late the situation became too much serious.  Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report in its month wise report in 2019 is consistently showing Tripura in very poor light in case of unemployment rate. On some occasions the report revealed that Tripura tops the list in unemployment. The unemployment rate in Tripura is below the national unemployment rate.

The situation is so grave that recently for some contractual job where the requisite qualification was only Madhyamik pass, many master degree holders, Ph.D. holders, engineers etc. have applied. This itself explains the pathetic state of affairs in the State. In the last one and half year the government recruitment is almost nil, though the post poll commitment was to fill the post lying vacant in almost all government departments. It was promised to recruit 50000 people every year. Making the situation even worse was the people rendered jobless in the last 1.5 years due to shut down of various government projects like JICA, IGDC, TBM, MGNREGA, NRELP etc. Also many people working on temporary basis in government sector lost job due change in policy of the Government. The Government, no matter what it preaches cannot shrug off the responsibility in such a situation.Adding to this already poor state of affairs is the new recruitment pattern that is being followed in several departments. Instead of giving employment to the local people, they are recruiting people from outside the state. In many departments this thing is happening randomly. 

Even government contracts are remodelled in such a way that the local firms are rendered ineligible. In a state like Tripura where the opportunity of employment is so limited, if people from outside are given preference then the situation will become worse day by day. Many small firms run by state entrepreneurs are on the verge of close down due to dearth of work. The people working in those firms are losing jobs. Agencies from outside are given contracts even though they lack expertise and experience of working in the state just because their turn over is more as asked for in the tender. On one side Government is saying that they are encouraging people of the state to become self dependent and on the other side they are letting in outsiders neglecting the locals. The Government should realise that Tripura is a small state and the opportunity of increasing the operation of scale by any private entity is very limited. The local agencies cannot compete with outside agencies on that. So whenever a turn over 50-100cr is mentioned as one of the vital criteria for any firm to bid for any particular tender then the local firms become ineligible.  The quality of work, previous experience, performance should be all that matters. If the local firms are promoted this would not only encourage future entrepreneurs but also many local people will get jobs in those firms. And it can be well assumed that these local firms would be more sincere because they have a reputation to build and maintain since their target market is within this state only as theyhave very limited scope to work outside and they have a reputation to build and maintain whereas outside firms can leave the state at any moment and explore other opportunities outside.

The Job scenario is no different. Even the manpower, that is easily available within the state, are brought from outside. Also Government’s apathy for those who lost their jobs is very apparent. Absolutely no effort is taken to reinstate them. Instead in many cases the whole appointment criteria and mode of recruitment is revamped in such a way that those working earlier becameineligible.People who contributed a good part of their work life in those jobs were so easily got rid of. Government is not realisation the fact that all this is adding to the unemployed force of the state. Whenever some new vacancies, though very few in number, are being advertised those who lost their job are also competing. Infact in last one year out of the very few jobs that were given in government projects/agencies, a good percentage of jobs have been bagged by those who lost their jobs in some way or the other. So, even though data show certain number of job given but the actual benefit in reducing the unemployed force is not that much.

Many whimsical things are happening in the recruitment process. A case in point may be the GRS recruitments where the candidates are not even allowed to take their admit card and question papers with them from the examination hall. Why to keep the admit card from the candidates? Besides this being a contractual job an amount of Rs.200/- was kept from all the candidates. This may be the first time ever that for a contractual job some application fee was kept. A job whose minimal criterion was madhyamik pass, it can be well assumed the huge number of application received and the earnings government had from this. Is not it too inhumane to charge the already unemployed people with such a good amount and that too for a contractual job.  And all these went on when people are already working in the same positions and they had to fight a case in the high court so that they don’t lose their job and the verdict that came is well known to all. So what would be the fate of those already working and those who are fighting for the job?The situation is so confusing and all will entirely depend on the attitude of the Government which is even more confusing. There are many other examples of Governments whimsical behaviours. Few projects were closed down and huge number of people lost jobs. Now the Government intends to start them but they decided to outsource the manpower from agencies. The officers in charge of the projects, very openly and boldly,are saying that the manpower will be outsourced because the government don’t want to take the responsibility of the project staffs. What a fantastic picture of the Government is etched on the mind of the common people and specially those who lost their job in those projects. For some projects firms for outsourcing staffs have already been finalised. The firms engaged to do the recruitment is from outside the state. So it would not be wrong to assume that a big chunk of recruitments would be done from outside. No provision is kept for recruiting the previous staffs or even give them atleast some preference. And to add to the agony such criteria was kept for the jobs that it hardly matches with that of the previous staffs. Most of the previous staffs would not get a chance to even apply for the jobs. So it would not be wrong to say that the Government is all set to deliberately vindicate the people working there previously. Why some altogether different criteria are kept for new recruitments can be well assumed. Now a valid query remains if the departmental staffs and officers having general qualifications and sometimes much less experience can work in one project after another then how come those project employees most of whom have specialised and technical qualifications as well as much more experience suddenly becomes obsolete?

A very common thing is noticed in many advertisement now that such criteria is kept for jobs that majority of the people cannot even apply. In a recent advertisement in Agartala Smart City project LLB along with MBA and that too MBA in finance were sought. Now its a common sense that this combination is so rare. In Tripura High Court for the post of Court Manager the qualifications asked for was B.Tech in Computer Science or Information Technology  and MBA either in HR or Finance and one year Diploma in computer Science accredited by DOEACC with two years experience in managerial capacity. Now who will do a one year diploma after doing engineering?  Same is the case with TSECL. Such experience and qualifications are kept that most of the people did not got a chance to apply. Are not such criteria kept in order to alienate most of the people?The attitude or even the eligibility of the interview panel is not beyond doubt. When technically qualified people are called for interview the panel consists of non technical persons or civil servants who have no technical expertise. The questions are equally whimsical and sometimes the panellists surf the internet right infront of the candidates and ask irrelevant questions. In a recent walk-in interview the panellists came out of their chamber and were asking the candidates not to wait for the interview. They were saying that the jobs consist of menial works and will not suit them. The panellists just failed to understand the urge of the people to get jobs that even after having good qualification they are ready to do any menial work. In many interview the attitude of the organisers are so apparent that they were not expecting people to turn up and reluctant to conduct interview of so many people. Many interviews were postponed simply because administration was not equipped to handle so many people.  There is an apparent realisation for most of the candidates in the interviews that it is not a process of selection but a process of rejection. In many cases interview does not even happen and recruitments are done based on God knows what ground. Recently a firm engaged by Government for some huge consultancy work for a period of more than 5 years, advertised in local daily for some posts. More than 400 people applied. But they have recruited without even calling for either written test or interview. That is the attitude of the outside firms engaged by Government. So how the other firms from outside the state who got contact for outsourcing manpower will work in future can be easily predicted.

Government at present is saying that many youths became self dependent by taking loans from banks. The figure seems astronomical. Its being said that more than 5 lakh people took loan and become self dependent. If at all the figure is correct even then question arisesis taking loan from banks ensure the success the business? Have not we heard of bad debts or defaulters in banks? Is the Government in the haste of showing achievement leading the state in some big disaster by giving loans without much enquiry? Is Government tracking on progress report of those businesses which is supposed to be set up by those youths who took loans? All these questions come because in a small state like Tripura if so many new enterprises, however small or big, starts functioning then that shouldbecome apparent and known to all. But the market trend does not reflect that. There is an apparent sense of economic Slowdown in the whole state. 
Another system of the Government cannot be left undiscussed. That is the random practice of employing retired people. The previous government started this in a big way and the present government became an able flag bearer. Each and every office each and every department have retired people working either in the name of reappointment or outsource or ad hoc or contact etc etc. But the bottom line remains when the state is suffering from extreme unemployment at the same time retired people who are getting pension is again working and taking a handsome amount of money. And this practice is across all designation.  From Group D to Group A gazetted, in all ranks retired people are working.  On a regular basis we see advertisement in newspapers asking for retired people. This is so heart wrenching that in a state where so many young educated people are running pillar to post without jobs, retired personnel are getting jobs so easily. Now the question is why retired people. There must be some reason for fixing the retirement age to be 60 years. But for this state this rule is not important. The biggest irony is that when this new Government has started the system of performance appraisal of Government employees above the age of 50 years with the assumption that the workability of the people of that age reduces, this same government is giving advertisement for employing people above 60 years. Whereas this initiative of Government of starting performance appraisal is appreciable but on the same side the decision of employing retired people cannot be accepted.  The question is why this practice? Why employing retired people when educated youth are in abundance? A very common and well accepted answer is some people are indispensible and in some work experience is required. But the government system is not like that. Had it been so then there would be no provision of retirement. Government has set a system in place for selection of eligible candidates, training them and forvarious positions some internship period or on job training was there and then the people join their duty. Why this set norm is not followed in this state is very surprising. Any new aspirant can be trained to carry out the required work. Is not the young people would be more interested to learn, will have more zeal to work, will have new ideas etc etc. Why retired people are required? Even for Group D retired people are kept. Now it is like that, some retired persons are so good in carrying files that no young fellow can replace him, or he/she is making so good tea that no one new can do that. Is it really acceptable? Even drivers are given reappointments. What about the safety of the people? Why to take this risk? There is a very common post for which random advertisement is seen for retired people. The post is that of accountant. It is said that government accounting is very tough and a young fresher cannot do that. It is a very common government system that any clerical staff handles the accounts and he gradually learns from his senior in the process, attends accounts training and gradually get promotion and becomes accountant. Though many good qualified persons are also there is the government sector, but, it is known that the basic qualification for clerical job is madhyamik pass. With due respect to all, the hypothesis is that a Madhyamik pass retired person can do something so well that a young M.Com, MBA(Finance), ICWA or CA cannot even learn after training. If at all that is the case a rigorous training can be kept for the fresher and those experienced persons can be engaged as trainers. Anyways for each and every post this phenomenon is in practice.  In Government departments, Agencies, Corporations, Projects, Cooperatives this thing is randomly done. Some appointment are done with proper advertisement and some are done just on the basis of acquaintance and said they are on outsource or ad hoc basis. But all are getting good amount of money. Instead of taking retired people many unemployed youth could have been given job. 

This Government is new and there is absolutely no dearth of good intentions for the betterment of the state. But all these intentions are not getting reflected in action.The whole scenario appears chaotic. In many many cases notifications for jobs are given but got cancelled or months pass but not called for interviews, same happens with interviews where interviews done but result not given. Even in TPSC is doing lots of whimsical things. Sometimes they have to even return the application fees because they have to cancel the process. Corrigendum after Corrigendum is issued correcting the advertisement issued. A case in point may be the advertisement for the post of Personal Assistant. The Government is new but the staffs are not then why these chaos everywhere. Even many retired staffs, officials even senior civil servants are in place everywhere and then also the chaos is happening. 

The Government now should try to make things right. They should take actions in the best interest of the people of the state. The Government should immediately find out the reason of this chaotic scenario. The root cause needs to be reached upon, whether those are actual goof ups or done deliberately needs be investigated. The Government should now start filling the vacant posts as soon as possible as promised before elections. The recruitment process should be made more transparent as well as the criteria for jobs should be made  more logical. The people who have lost their jobs must be treated with full empathy as they have contributed the best part of their life in the jobs they were doing though in any case quality of the manpower should never be compromised. The retired people should be replaced by young ones. The approach of the government to make people self dependent is praiseworthy. More and more people should be encourages to become self employed. But for that the Government should whole heartedly support the local entrepreneurs. Giving only loan will not suffice the purpose. Forward and backward linkages need to be done properly and the total environment should be made conducive for them. The local firms and agencies already in business should be encouraged and should be given preference in Government tenders. The criteria of certain turn over in previous years may be relaxed for them rather they can be judged on the basis of their experience and track record.

Now its high time that Government takes the charge and do something constructive. Enough of planning have been done and precautions taken. Its high time for some constructive action. Government cannot keep a deaf ear to the hue and cry of its people for a long time. This Government, which is trying very passionately and diligently to do a lot of new and innovative things for the betterment of the state should also look into the issue of unemployment of the state with much care and sensitivity.

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