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Getting it right: fair deal for women

Women empanelled Ministries and departments told to include women in panels set up to hire more than 10 people. Soumyajit Pattnaik reports.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2009 00:55 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

A Nirupama Rao or a Kiran Bedi is not going to be enough. There are just not enough women in government service. And that must change.

The ministry of personnel has made it mandatory to have at least one woman on every selection committee set up to recruit more than 10 persons for Union government positions.

The logic is simply this: the women on the board will ensure no woman candidate is discriminated against.
“Even where the vacancies are less than 10, no effort should be spared in including a lady officer in such committees/boards,” said a circular sent out by the ministry of personnel on July 8.

Women constitute a minuscule 9.68 per cent of the people working for the Union government, according to a count done in 2004, but published now. Not a very happy situation clearly.

The ministry of personnel circular advises ministries and departments to also encourage women to join up by aggressively advertising the benefits of working for the government.

According to the last census of Union government employees carried out in 2004, 3.06 lakh of the 31.64 lakh regular employees were women.

The percentage of women working for the Union government has been rising steadily: 9.68 per cent in 2004 against 7.43 per cent in 1995 and 7.53 per cent in 2001. But the government wants to step on it.

Of all the women employed by the Union government, 45.56 per cent were with the Railways, 19.94 with the home minsitry, 8.8 per cent with Communications and IT and 4 per cent with Finance.

The government has been keen for a while now on hiring women. It announced major childcare incentives for its women employees in 2008.

Women employees with minor children were allowed childcare leave of 730 days for their entire service term, over and above their earned leave.

But is putting women on selection panels the solution? A former member of Union Public Service Commission, which recruits for Union government, disagreed.

“It’s correct that there is no equitable representation of women in government jobs,” he said, refusing to be identified. “But there is no gender bias and the government's step is more of showmanship.”