Their efficiency is 0.7 percent even as joblessness is growing
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