New Job Policy: Instrument of Bonded Labour?

There may be number of concerns, that I do not attempt to speculate at all for known inherent limitations of human species, but I am pondering on couple of ramifications that seem certain.
New Job Policy: Instrument of Bonded Labour?
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The BJP-PDP government seems in a great hurry in 'imposing' rather implementing a new job policy. It is a worrisome decision that has far-reaching implications and the resultant apprehensions of the society at large are not entirely ungrounded. It, for all the right reasons, evoked some critical response from many quarters—from Opposition to Columnists, and the issue is of such gravity that it necessitates as many critical deliberations as may the number of the potential victims.

The present government may speculate the benefits of the policy [which Mr. Mufti Syed did not spell at all?], but the cost it asks is too heavy to be paid. There may be number of concerns, that I do not attempt to speculate at all for known inherent limitations of human species, but I am pondering on couple of ramifications that seem certain. 

Contours of Policy

The present state government recently announced a new recruitment policy that aims to "cope with the manpower shortage" in "crucial sectors" like healthcare and education in remote areas of the State. The appointed persons are required to perform "seven years" of "satisfactory" contractual service before being inducted into "regular" services. The appointments are to be made at the district level through a "transparent and merit-based" system and government mulls to ride the "fast-track" selection process to accomplish the filling of some 15,000 vacant posts that are not referred to either Public Service Commission or Services Selection Board.

The target-vacant-posts include Assistant Surgeons, Lecturers and Teachers, and the proposed Ordinance "authorizes Government to exempt certain posts or class of posts from the purview of the J & K Public Service Commission and the Services Selection Board", announced Mr. Naeem Akhter, the Minister for Education (The Greater Kashmir, 20th April, 2015). The procedure of selection would possibly be based on "Objective (type) Examination" of the aspirants and the selected candidates may be rewarded with "half of the gross salary" of the post against which the person works. These few 'clarifications' were made by the Finance Minister, Dr. Haseeb Drabu (The Greater Kashmir, 22nd April, 2015). Interestingly, the two Cabinet (and Party) colleagues contradicted each other over the scope of the policy for the Finance Minister 'clarified' that the new recruitment policy is "not a job policy…it is not going to be the general job policy of the government of Jammu and Kashmir" (ibid). The very next day, the Minister for Education re-clarified that the new job policy would be a "permanent feature" of the recruitment not merely for filling the 15000 posts that the Finance Minister had referred to the previous day (The Greater Kashmir, 23rd April, 2015).  

Ambiguities and immediate Fallouts

There are certain serious departures that the new recruitment policy envisages that can pave way for wide-scale political interference and mass corruption. First and foremost, the proposed Ordinance will authorize the government to make appointments of, for example, Assistant Surgeons, Lecturers (at 10+2 level) and teachers at the district level which hitherto is the prerogative of Public Service Commission and Services Selection Board.

Remember, both are autonomous bodies and have evolved, at least, a very sound basic benchmark for the selection of the candidates to such important posts over the decades. Acknowledging their share of weaknesses, the two bodies have made a significant ground in making the selection process rigorous and somewhat transparent, at least in devising screening scales and conducting tests. The two bodies already exist and it may be desirable that they might be strengthened and made transparent, and thus, accountable.

Why should then this government who is facing a huge financial crunch, as they confess, pool its resources to the District level selection and stretch its administrative units both administratively and financially? Why does it go for a selection processes over and above the established autonomous institutions? Why should it not reform these bodies to a level where people ideally wish these to be at?

Secondly, the smaller units often escape the gaze of media and civil society. In such cases, the political interference and manipulation becomes easier and effective. The parties in power or opposition will find a new battle field to develop and strengthen their socio-political base by influencing the very recruitment process and may reduce the state labour market to political bargaining bazaar.

Thirdly, the proposed policy suffers from serious ambiguities as well. The noteworthy among them are the criterion of Satisfactory Performance as we understand that theorists have not been able to suggest a universally acceptable measurement units of 'satisfaction' and if an employee 'fails' to 'satisfy' his/her bosses (ranging from politicians to administrators), what would be the nature of 'exit-door'?

It must be noted that there are not many exemplary government servants and departments that may be projected as 'ideals and models' which loudly speaks of the culture of public sector functioning in the State. Will the selected candidates, though the very selection process proposed is not flawless, get a free-hand in performing their duties and, more importantly, is there a conducive job culture existing for them to demonstrate their worth?  The already lingering public sector does not suggest that at all.

We are not unaware of the deep rooted corruption, nepotism and other such malpractices. In such a situation, can a person perform to the 'satisfaction' of the bosses and 'excel' enough to be in job permanently, is not an easy question to face! 

"Push-Away", "Pull-up" and "Squeezing Sideways"—the 3D Impact

Drawing on Anthony Giddens' terminology that he uses in different context and for different issue, I surmise that it will impact our youth in three different but correlated ways. The very intent of the proposed policy seems to "push-away" the youth from public to private sector. The private sector, particularly, in Kashmir is in infancy and, therefore, working in Kashmir for the Kashmiri youth will not be the first choice. It will not only push them to private sector, but also "pull-up" them socially (thus, politically) and move away from their land.

Leaving home for work is not bad, but forcing them to do so certainly is. In a globalizing world, people have choices to work anywhere they wish, but the public labour market must not be formulated in a way that it forces the inhabitants to migrate. It has social implications related to identity and dignity. The third dimension of impact is directly related to those who would join public sector under the ambiance of this policy.

Given the working culture with its ailments, meeting the 'satisfactory' level of performance would 'squeeze' them 'sideways' and choke their ribs for want of innovation and excellence. These two powerful attributes are certainly offshoots of inherent nature of human species. Working within the institutional constraints and meeting the behavioural standards of 'pleasing' the system intended by this new job policy would diminish potential of youth who after joining the system will drain their energies for 'satisfying' the bureaucratic machinery. They will become mere conformists rather contributing agents.  

Conclusion

The governments over some time have tried to neutralize the wrongs of economy (unemployment) by promoting the private entrepreneurship, on the one side, and by making public sector jobs unattractive, on the other. Apart from this trend, our State has consistently worked to strengthen her Police force by attracting qualified youth to its ranks.

Consequently, we see huge rush to recruitment drives of police, paramilitary and military forces and to the extent that security forces have now an added responsibility of controlling such crowds from going wild.

This new Job Policy may 'push' youth to "serve-the-state" (as in totalitarian regimes) rather than develop the human resources of the society (which is a true wealth of nations). As the cries for jobs grow louder, the hands go higher and crowds grow thicker; they say. The policy is not devoid of larger objectives and state-agents know them well. Such a path makes it certain that the governments want to gain politically, but sadly is sought at the cost of a fertile human resource—the youth.

The author teaches at Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir. The views expressed are personal and do not represent the Institution where he works at. 

javid1931@gmail.com

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