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Odisha govt reappoints retired officials as youth cry for jobs

Odisha government records show hundreds of employees getting inexplicable extension despite the state groaning under high unemployment.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2017 23:51 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Two years ago, chief minister Naveen Patnaik told the assembly that 10.95 lakh youth had registered themselves with various employment exchanges seeking jobs.
Two years ago, chief minister Naveen Patnaik told the assembly that 10.95 lakh youth had registered themselves with various employment exchanges seeking jobs.(Arabinda Mahapatra/HT File Photo)

An Odisha government employee, Ashok Kumar Panda, retired for the second time last year. Having retired first in 2009 as a special land acquisition officer, he was reappointed to the same position in 2011 and continued to work there till 2016 when he finally superannuated.

Panda wasn’t the only staff to get an extended tenure.

Government records show hundreds of employees — from senior bureaucrats to drivers and sweepers — getting inexplicable extension despite the state groaning under high unemployment.

“This is simply baffling. I am yet to understand why retired people are being reappointed when hundreds of thousands of educated youth are desperately waiting for jobs,” said Biswajit Mohanty, a former member of the India chapter of Transparency International.

Unemployment, for that matter, has swelled into a gigantic problem in a state where industrialisation is said to be tardy.

Two years ago, the government of chief minister Naveen Patnaik told the assembly that 10.95 lakh youth had registered themselves with various employment exchanges seeking jobs; 10.42 lakh of them were educated.

The government, however, continues to put its faith on superannuated employees. Though there is no comprehensive database on the number of people it hired after their retirement, documents obtained through RTI hint that the number could run into hundreds.

“This government, since the beginning, has been heavily tilted towards bureaucracy and wants to keep them in good humour irrespective of their performance,” said RTI activist Pradip Pradhan, who has been filing applications to get details of post-retirement employment of government servants.

Reappointment of retired IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service officers in various government bodies such as the Odisha Information Commission, Odisha Public Service Commission, Odisha Staff Selection Commission and Odisha Electricity Regulatory Authority has been prevalent for more than two decades despite a resolution by the state general administration department in 1999 that it is in the public interest to induct fresh talent rather than antiquated hands. “Yesterday’s expertise is today’s obsolescence,” the resolution said.

Panchanan Kanungo, former finance minister who had in 2002 ordered against reappointing staff, said the current administration seems to believe that government officers are repositories of all knowledge. “In a government system, no one is indispensable. So why are government employees being reappointed?” he asked

But in reality, the government seemingly believes it cannot do without some employees. In the office of the commissioner of endowments, at least 18 retired persons of the rank of driver, zamadar, sub-inspector, typist and sections officers have been reappointed since 2013. In the forest and environment department, at least 10 retired officials were appointed as consultants to deal with ‘important’ matters.

Read more: Where are the jobs? Being in denial over unemployment woes won’t help Modi govt

In the home department, 19 employees of the rank of section officers and deputy secretaries have been reappointed on contractual basis.

The list goes on. Chief secretary Aditya Padhi, however, said the government was by and large now discouraging reappointment of retired staff.

“Now that we have about adequate number of employees in the secretariat and the state administrative officers are getting recruited regularly, there is no reason for us to keep retired people in job unless it is really necessary,” he said, adding that in the past three years, more than 40,000 people have been given jobs in state government.

But critics say the reappointment of those who retired is nothing short of a scam.

“Reappointing a driver or a sweeper gives it away. Their jobs require no extraordinary skills and their re-employment is nothing short of nepotism,” alleged Bijoy Mohapatra, a BJP leader.