Un­em­ployed ex­changes

Their ef­fi­ciency is 0.7 per­cent even as job­less­ness is grow­ing

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - Swati Chan­dra

Over six decades ago, in 1954, six friends were walk­ing past Agra’s iconic ho­tel, The Grand Im­pe­rial, when they no­ticed ‘Ro­j­gar ka Daf­tar’ writ­ten in bold let­ters on a build­ing on the op­po­site side of the road. This was then a highly re­garded gov­ern­ment place­ment agency, bustling with hun­dreds of job-seek­ers. All six of them, aged 1719 years and fresh out of school, de­cided to en­ter the build­ing. “It was good to see jobs be­ing of­fered to peo­ple with­out dis­crim­i­na­tion or af­ter seek­ing ref­er­ence. For us, who were born be­fore in­de­pen­dence, this con­cept was new. Any­body could go and reg­is­ter. We did the same. I re­mem­ber re­ceiv­ing a call for an in­ter­view in less than a month,” re­calls 81-year-old Ut­tam Sat­sangi, who was one among the six friends.

Show­ing his faded in­ter­view call let­ter, which he keeps in a file with other im­por­tant doc­u­ments, Sat­sangi nar­rates how he took an ex­am­i­na­tion, ap­peared for a per­sonal in­ter­view, and had his doc­u­ments ver­i­fied – all in a sin­gle day. “They handed me the ap­point­ment let­ter at 11.30 in night,” he says. “My friends got place­ments in the next two or three months.” Sat­sangi was given the job of set­ting up a school in a vil­lage in Raisen district (Then part of the Bhopal state, cre­ated af­ter in­de­pen­dence out of the princely state of Bhopal, it was later merged into the new state of Mad­hya Pradesh.) He later went on to take other jobs, re­tir­ing as a se­nior of­fi­cial with the North East­ern Rail­way.

Cut to 2017. It is a dull but not an un­usual day for 58-year-old Bharat Singh, sit­ting out­side the same re­gional em­ploy­ment ex­change of­fice in Agra. Singh sells ex­am­i­na­tion forms and pam­phlets for var­i­ous gov­ern­ment jobs from his makeshift shop. Sit­ting on a stool be­hind a wooden plat­form, Singh is fan­ning off dust and flies from var­i­ous forms. Since 1970, he has been the only reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to this of­fice, apart from the of­fi­cials work­ing in­side. He in­her­ited the shop from his fa­ther and re­mem­bers that, as a kid, he would help his fa­ther sell re­cruit­ment forms, rev­enue stamps and postal stamps. They had a type­writer on which his fa­ther would type out ap­pli­ca­tions and fill out forms for job-seek­ers. Busi­ness was good then. But over the last week, he has not sold a sin­gle form. “It’s mostly like this now,” he says. “There’s no reg­u­lar re­cruit­ment. Any­way, who gets a job from an em­ploy­ment ex­change nowa­days?”

In­side the main build­ing of the of­fice com­plex, there are seven-eight rooms. To the left of it stands an in­de­pen­dent unit of two class­rooms where SC-ST stu­dents are trained for tak­ing se­lec­tion tests for gov­ern­ment jobs. The main build­ing has a room oc­cu­pied by a re­gional em­ploy­ment of­fi­cer and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment. (Em­ploy­ment ex­changes are run by the state gov­ern­ments, in co­or­di­na­tion with the union min­istry of labour and em­ploy­ment.) In other rooms, there are sta­tis­ti­cal of­fi­cers, em­ploy­ment of­fi­cers, cler­i­cal staff. There are no files, but it’s not that the of­fice has gone fully dig­i­tal. For that mat­ter, there’s only one func­tional com­puter there. Ac­tu­ally, hardly any work is get­ting done.

The dull­ness in­side the premises is at a time when 70,000 job seek­ers (in­clud­ing 8,000 women) have reg­is­tered on its live reg­is­ter, not only from Agra but also from Mathura, Main­puri and Firoz­abad. The live reg­is­ter dis­plays the num­ber of job-seek­ers on a par­tic­u­lar day. In the first six months of this year, jobs have been found only for 111 job-seek­ers. One rea­son is that, un­like ear­lier, there are far fewer gov­ern­ment re­cruit­ments. Lots of gov­ern­ment jobs are be­ing con­tracted, and young men and women are not in­ter­ested in gov­ern­ment jobs that are not per­ma­nent. Un­like ear­lier, em­ploy­ment ex­changes hardly co­or­di­nate with the pri­vate sec­tor to or­gan­ise jobs for the job­less. Be­sides, says re­gional em­ploy­ment of­fi­cer Prat­i­bha Tri­pathi, “We need at least six as­sis­tant em­ploy­ment of­fi­cers, but are man­ag­ing with only one.” Across Ut­tar Pradesh, em­ploy­ment ex­changes are short of some 100 as­sis­tant em­ploy­ment of­fi­cers. Mo­ti­va­tion lev­els are low; a proac­tive ap­proach is lack­ing.

The num­bers speak

There are 978 em­ploy­ment ex­change of­fices across the coun­try. But ev­ery­where, it’s more or less the same story as at the Agra ex­change. In re­ply to an RTI query by Gov­er­nance Now, the union labour min­istry stated that 4.83 crore job-seek­ers are on the live reg­is­ter, of which only 3.39 lakh have been able to find jobs. The place­ment per­cent­age: 0.7 per­cent. Which means ex­ploy­ment ex­changes, as an in­sti­tu­tion, are 99 per­cent in­ef­fi­cient. In his book, The Turn of the Tor­toise, se­nior jour­nal­ist TN Ni­nan picks out em­ploy­ment ex­changes as an egre­gious ex­am­ple of gov­ern­ment in­ef­fi­ciency: “The over­heads per place­ment are five times the an­nual pay that the av­er­age place­ment of­fers. Talk of un­pro­duc­tive ac­tiv­ity!”

The ra­tio of place­ments to reg­is­tra­tions bears out the point he makes: ac­cord­ing to replies re­ceived to RTI queries filed by Gov­er­nance Now, in Delhi state, of the 11.98 lakh job seek­ers en­rolled, only 200 have found jobs; in Tamil Nadu, where the regis­tra­tion is the high­est, with 79.91 lakh job-seek­ers, ap­prox­i­mately 8,800 peo­ple have found place­ment; in Ut­tar Pradesh, with regis­tra­tion of 68.56 lakh job-seek­ers, only 130 got place­ment. Gujarat stands out: out of 73.96 lakh job-seek­ers, 2.9 lakh have found place­ments. That’s only 3.92 per­cent, but it stands out

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