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Maharashtra government must use technology, outsource work for better performance

Maharashtra’s administration was once famous for its discipline and efficiency, which has now become a thing of the past

mumbai Updated: Dec 04, 2017 23:53 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra government,Devendra Fadnavis,BJP
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed his unhappiness over the performance of the administration.(HT File)

The BJP-led government in Maharashtra plans to reduce its workforce of 19 lakh employees by about 30%. It plans to scrap 10% posts that are lying vacant and about 20% posts that will fall vacant in the coming days. As the state’s debt has crossed Rs4 lakh crore and is likely to increase in its pay bill, owing to a hike in staff salaries with the adoption of Seventh Pay Commission, the government is preparing a plan to downsize its huge administration.

Maharashtra is one of the states with heavy staff strength. The government currently spends more than Rs1.08 lakh crore on the salaries and pensions of its employees. Implementing the Seventh Pay Commission would mean payment of Rs15,000 crore towards arrears — since the hike will be given with retrospective effect from January 2016 — and Rs6,000 crore increase in the annual salary bill. The government is likely to go ahead with the plan of downsizing its staff strength before implementing the pay panel report. About 6 lakh posts could be scrapped over the next few years. If this happens, it will be a significant move.

For almost two decades, successive governments have been talking about reducing their workforce drastically so the expenditure on establishment can be slashed. Currently, half of the government budget is spent on its establishment — salaries and pensions of its employees, as well as expenditure needed to maintain government offices, including those of its ministers.

In 1999, while publishing a white paper to declare the government’s financial status, then finance minister Jayant Patil had announced a freeze on recruitment. Since then, a significant number of vacancies were not filled by successive governments. Still, the expenditure on establishment continued to remain high. Now, if the Fadnavis government plans to reduce the workforce, it would mean a step in the right direction.

Expectedly, employees’ unions have opposed the move. They point out that the staff is already overburdened in most government offices and the scrapping of vacant posts would mean that the workload will remain the same or even increase. According to them, there are more than 2 lakh posts lying vacant in the government and reducing the staff by another 4 lakh would affect the administration’s functioning. There are likely to be protests by the unions and it remains to be seen whether Fadnavis goes ahead with the plan or backs out, owing to the pressure.

There is some point to what the unions are saying, but there is definitely a need to reduce the enormous expenditure on the state establishment. This will make more funds available for development projects and welfare schemes.

There is another angle to the issue — the bureaucracy’s performance. The government recently found out that work on several projects announced in last year’s budget is yet to start even as the financial year ends in four months. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed his unhappiness over the performance of the administration. Maharashtra’s administration was once famous for its discipline and efficiency, which has now become a thing of the past. Even citizens who go to government offices often complain about non-cooperative attitude of the staff.

A positive development is that the government is thinking of improving efficiency by using technology and new methods of administration and outsourcing some of its functions to reduce the expenditure.

The government can learn a lot from the private sector. It is often mentioned that government staff’s job security s the main reason for their lethargy. The staff’s performance must be linked to their salaries. The downsizing should begin with ministers. They should reduce at least 30 per cent of their staff.

Ministers, political appointees on state undertakings and several top bureaucrats have multiple staff and more than one official car with drivers. This culture itself needs to change. Will the ruling party show the political will to do so?

First Published: Dec 04, 2017 23:53 IST