Size zero is not healthy. Not even for the caretaker of the world’s largest democracy.
The Indian government’s shed-excess-flab diet regime of 2001 has been abandoned after the blanket freeze on filling vacancies began to hurt.
The Centre had opted for a crash diet after the expenditure reforms commission asked the government to shed at least 10 per cent of its manpower. Only one-third of the vacancies created due to retirements were to be filled.
The staff strength — excluding the Railways and the Central police forces — then was 11 lakh. Today, the Centre has 11.26 lakh employees, a net addition of 26,000 people.
“It’s not that the freeze didn’t work… But as the government gets into new areas and creates new tasks for itself, it needs additional manpower to man those posts,” an official at the department of personnel and training said.
There are several units within the government operating at half their strength compared to 10 years ago. The Press
Information Bureau headquarters in Delhi that handles government’s publicity is a good example.
“Earlier, there used to be one official to look after one important ministry or sector. Today, most officials are overburdened,” a PIB official said.
Last year, the Sixth Pay Commission noted the importance of rightsizing the government but emphasised on flexibility to ensure that administrative delivery structures “do not become hollow or thin in critical areas”.
But the commission had made no new discovery.
Minutes of meetings of a committee of senior bureaucrats on good governance and rationalisation of manpower accessed by HT indicated the government too was veering round to the same point.
An official at the department of administrative reforms said this was inevitable since attempts to cut manpower were not accompanied by any reforms.
Besides, a blanket ban would never make a distinction between areas that need more manpower and the real culprits — departments with excess manpower.
“Central paramilitary forces and organisations like the Intelligence Bureau could not recruit for years at end,” a home ministry official said. The IB got its exemptions only last year.
“Keeping in view the Sixth Pay commission recommendation, the optimization policy has again been reviewed,” the DoPT order said, withdrawing the 2001 policy to cuut manpower.