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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Why should retiring officials shamelessly cling to their chairs?

30-60 an ideal solution as public opinion is overwhelmingly against service extensions

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 25: Notwithstanding the government’s policy of not granting extension of service or re-employment to any of the retiring public servants, state bureaucracy had, of late, prepared a proposal of extension in favour of nearly a dozen of its blue-eyed boys. Chief Secretary, S S Kapoor, and General Administration Department (GAD) are understood to have decided to acknowledge off-the-office services of certain retiring officials without Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s knowledge. Chief Minister has summarily turned down the proposal with reasonable application of mind but not taken the trouble of asking his bureaucracy as to what made it push a proposal that runs patently in breach of his government’s policy.

Much like stalling the Bill of increasing the salaries of MLAs and MLCs (including Ministers), lately aborted strike of the government employees is believed to have influenced Chief Minister’s decision of not granting extension of service to a host of the retiring/ retired officials. Highly placed sources in Civil Secretariat insist that individual files were being “re-submitted” to Chief Minister’s Secretariat as a last ditch effort to get necessary approval from head of the government on the eve of a possible administrative reshuffle before Durbar’s passage to the summer capital next week.

Going by the bureaucracy’s recommendation earlier this month would have been unmistakably disastrous. Omar Abdullah’s government has been already at a receiving end of criticism on account of granting rehabilitation to a number of the retired officials whose track record has been meritorious only in the matters of their extra-curricular activity. One of them, who remained posted as MD of J&K Tourism Development Corporation for several years, had put the government in tight spot by way of implementing recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission months before the critical policy decision was adopted by the Cabinet.

Even after retirement from service, darlings of the state bureaucracy have been holding extra-cadre positions of OSDs etcetera. Tourism Minister Rigzin Jora’s proposal of engaging a retired Director General of Tourism as an “Advisor” in his department has accidentally got stalled. Few of the Ministers have re-employed a number of their relatives and favourites who had retired from active service years before.

Sources told Early Times that Government was in possession of reports according to which nearly 30 senior officials, who would be reaching superannuation in 2010 and 2011, had played a key role in making recent strike of the government employees a success. They were reportedly not only encouraging the trade union leaders to take a tough stand on the demand of raising the retirement bar from 58 to 60 years but also persuading their subordinates to ensure complete shutdown of all the offices under their influence. Some reports even suggested the possibility of a number of HODs, including nearly a dozen Chief Engineers and Superintending Engineers and at least three DCs, having sent huge monetary contributions to the trade union leaders.

For each of these retiring officers, extension of two years to service means an extra income of Rs 12 Lakh. Those indulging in corruption could be earning an extra of Rs 30 Lakh to 1.50 Crore. Besides, there is a confluence of the vested interest between these HODs and senior trade union leaders. At least five of the senior most trade union leaders, some of them known for insertions in their own service records, are normally scheduled to retire within the current financial year.

On the other hand, Omar Abdullah’s government has failed to provide the much promised jobs to hundreds of thousands of the unemployed youth. Contrary to NC’s Election Manifesto of 2008 and the much hyped “Vision Document”, Government has even failed to fill up vacancies of trained professionals in Forest and Agriculture departments. Immediately after taking over as Minister incharge Agriculture, Ghulam Hassan Mir had asked 3,000 Agriculture graduates and post-graduates to find other avenues in private sector.

Even as most of the 600-odd Forestry graduates have already reached close to their age bar of 37 years, equal number of posts have been lying vacant in Forest Department, Forest Protection Force, State Forest Corporation due to mysterious slumber of four successive Forest Ministers. This may have benefited individuals (read Ministers and bureaucrats) by way of getting their junior favourites appointed against senior positions but not the Government in place.

Under the circumstances, 60 years of age or 30 years of continuous service, whichever earlier, is widely endorsed as an ideal solution to the employees’ demand of increasing the bar of retirement for state government servants. Even 35-60 could be perceived not only as the Government’s abject surrender before a particular group of trade union leaders and retiring senior officials but also an act of closing the opportunities for thousands of unemployed youth, particularly doctors, engineers, paramedical trainees, Forestry and Agriculture graduates.


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