Contrary to expectations, Thursday’s cabinet meeting — the first after NCP leader Ajit Pawar’s exit as deputy chief minister — went off smoothly.
Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ministers did not fight each other, but joined hands to get the state administration back on track by filling the 1 lakh staff vacancies.
Sources said Congress ministers were taken by surprise when NCP colleagues avoided talking about the white paper on irrigation or any other matter related to Pawar’s exit.
Rural development minister Jayant Patil, who now also heads finance and planning, demanded to know why the state did not recruit adequate number of state service officers and lower-rung staffers.
“I don’t see too many officers attending important meetings in the rural and semi-urban areas because there aren’t as many officers at the state’s disposal. We need to start a major recruitment drive if we want public welfare,” Patil reportedly told the Cabinet, referring to vacancies in Marathwada and Vidarbha.
Congressman and industry minister Narayan Rane said this was the case in Konkan too. Subsequently, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan asked chief secretary JK Banthia to come up with a an action plan by the next Cabinet meeting.
Sources in NCP said that it was decided that cabinet's focus should be on governance and every week, issues affecting the administration would be highlighted. In this case, a tacit blame lies with the general administration department, led by the CM, for sitting on transfer, promotion and requisition for staff demands.
According to GD Kulthe, general secretary of the State Gazetted Officers’ Federation, the state had about 19 lakh employees (including those with local-self governments). “The administration has decided to recruit only 3% employees every year, in accordance with the number of employees retiring every year. But this is inadequate because the quantum of work has increased manifold.”
Kulthe said the vacancies affected health care and education most. “But what is worrying is that the state is not providing additional staff to the money-making giants like sales tax, state excise, revenue (stamp and registration) and zilla parishads that do most of the developmental work at the grass root level.”