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Crank up this frozen search engine

delhi Updated: Jul 17, 2009 02:40 IST
Kuchi Venkat Lakshmana

Lokesh Kumar works with the Life Insurance Corporation in Gurgaon, the land of glittering malls on the outskirts of the National Capital Region.

Part of 28-year-old’s job as a development officer is trying to find fresh recruits. And he hates it.

You see, Kumar belongs to one of the few government undertakings still using government employment exchanges — others just advertise in the papers. It’s not easy finding people at the employment exchange, though it should be.

All it needs is a national database of the young and jobless — and those retired and seeking a new career.

But there are no computers at about half the country’s 968 exchanges. Not even automated search systems such as local bookstores now have.

Instead, each large, gray hall is filled with row upon row of gray metal filing cabinets. And recruiters must spend days manually flipping through little cardboard cards stacked in boxes in the filing cabinets.

There are 30,000 such cards at the exchange where Kumar has just begun his search. And he will most probably grab the first 250 candidates that seem at all suitable and hurry back to the 21st century. Who could blame him? An exhaustive search could take months.

But this is very bad news for the thousands of possible candidates who might have been working for the LIC if there had been a computer on the premises.

It’s also bad news for the ideal candidate registered just next door, at the employment exchange in the neighbouring Mewat district.

And there’s worse news: In most of India’s employment exchanges, private firms aren’t welcome to search at all.

At last count, there were 3.9 crore people registered as unemployed. And only one in every 14 people with a job is in the organised sector and has any social safety net at all. It’s time the government gave them all a real chance.

Here’s what we propose. Computerise all employment exchanges, then link the databases across the country, so a recruiter searching in Gurgaon can find the best candidates in any region he specifies. The database must then be made accessible to all registered private companies.

“Modernising employment exchanges is on the cards,” says Sharada Prasad, director general (Employment & Training), Ministry of Labour & Employment. “We have not yet received a nod from the Cabinet.”

Lalit Sawhney, former president of Computer Society of India, says it is easily doable. “It is a very good idea and it would not cost more than a few hundred crore rupees,” he said. “After all, has been doing much the same thing for years.”

Global staffing services firm Manpower Inc. in its annual talent shortage survey released last month, said 20 per cent of employers in India struggle to fill vacancies — despite the downturn.

“The government must find more effective ways of connecting manpower and jobs,” says Ashok Kumar Srivastav, labour consultant with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Gurgaon has made a start — it is now placing candidates at private companies. “About 3,000 people have been placed with private companies so far,” says Regional Employment Officer Sukhdev Muni.

Thirty thousand still await employment at this exchange alone.