Prasanna Mishra

The recent decision of the Government of Odisha to raise the upper age eligibility limit for recruitment to government posts to 38 years for 2024 was not a new one.  Similar decisions had been taken in the past three years as well.  The implication of this decision for different categories of job seekers is as follows. While SC, ST, SEBC, and women candidates up to 43 years of age would now be eligible, persons with disability in the general category can be eligible up to 48 years of age and persons with disability belonging to SC/ST/SEBC categories can be eligible up to 53 years of age.  For many years large number of sanctioned posts at the base level have remained vacant impacting quality of service. This situation looks all the more indefensible in the context of the rising unemployment of educated youths of the state. Many years ago, when the state was facing a severe resource crunch, government had to take severe austerity measures which included a freeze on fresh recruitment that had resulted in a large number of base-level posts remaining vacant. Due to many favourable factors including buoyancy in the mining sector, the state’s financial condition has improved. There is little justification for continuing with a huge number of vacancies at the base level. 

As of December 2021, the maximum share of “sanctioned strength” of employees was for the School and Mass Education Department at 40 % followed by the Home Department at 14% and the Health and Family Welfare Department at 11%. The largest number of “manpower in position” is in the School and Mass Education Department (47%) followed by the Home Department (16%) and the Health and Family Welfare Department (8%). Other leading Departments having higher manpower include the Higher Education Department, Revenue & Disaster Management Department, Panchayati Raj & Drinking Water Department, Water Resources Department, and Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment Department. Balance 33 Departments comprise about 13% of the State Government manpower. As of 2021-22, the state government had in position 3,98,577 regular employees in Group A, B, C,D, and Grant-in-Aid sanctioned posts. Up-to-date number of sanctioned posts has not been available. However, it is reported that at the beginning of 2022-23, as many as 87,424 base-level posts were vacant which works out to nearly 20% of the sanctioned posts. 

Despite growing discontent over rising unemployment and notwithstanding public announcements for government drive for recruitment, performance has fallen far short of both requirements and public expectations. Reportedly, the government by the end of December 2022 could fill only about 14,059 posts. While the drastic shortfall in filling sanctioned posts continues, the Government has been taking recourse to unconventional modalities to meet manpower requirements. Retired personnel on pick and choose basis are being engaged and a large number of consultants now work in almost every sector of government. The number of Advisors is on the increase. The government seems to have tilted in favour of the Spoils system and the principle of career public servants is being compromised. 

With 3% of the regular workforce in government retiring every year, one would expect that about 13 to 14 thousand base-level posts would fall vacant. With the vacant posts at over 87 thousand, one would assume an accumulation of at least six years’ vacancy. The government does not seem to have shown the desired urgency in filling up the vacant posts. In this situation, the decision to increase the upper age limit for recruitment appears to be of cosmetic significance. Very few can only benefit from the state government’s largesse. The decision would have little impact on the state of unemployment. The government should fill up at least 50 thousand vacant base-level posts in 2024 to address the widespread concern over unemployment and governance deficit arising out of large-scale vacancies at cutting-edge level.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)