SSC, Railways Et Al: Government Jobs Recruitment System Is Broken; Latest Reforms By Centre Only First Step Towards A Solution

SSC, Railways Et Al: Government Jobs Recruitment System Is Broken; Latest Reforms By Centre Only First Step Towards A Solution The SSC must look for a long-term solution before this issue turns into a political football for people to play with. (Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • The government jobs recruitment system is broken thanks to corruption, inefficiency and unpredictability.

    Though late in the day, the announcement of the National Recruitment Agency is a good start towards developing a first world hiring system.

At a time when a section of aspirants of engineering and medical courses were protesting against organising Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, there was one group of students, the government jobs aspirants, which was petitioning the government to conduct their exams as soon as possible.

The latter, primarily preparing for landing jobs advertised by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and the Railways Recruitment Board exams (RRB), have been left frustrated by the inefficient, corrupt and unpredictable system which has gone from bad to worse in the last few years. Not only have sarkari job vacancies have reduced drastically, the whole process of recruitment to these government jobs is now a full blown nightmare.

On 31 January, days before the general election last year, Union Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal had announced that his department will be providing 2.5 lakh fresh jobs. Later, only 1.4 lakh vacancies were notified. Over 2.4 crore people applied for these jobs. The application fees was Rs 500 for unreserved and OBC category male candidates and Rs 250 for the rest. This fetched the government hundreds of crores.

The exam was supposed to be conducted in September last year. But only when lakhs of students started agitating online from 1 September this year, the government woke up.

On 5 September 2020, it declared that Railways will conduct the computer based exam from 15 December. It took Railways one and a half years to give an exam date.

Given that it usually takes about a year to complete the process, the candidates who applied in early 2019 may get a job offer by 2021-end or at the start of 2022.

SSC is even worse. It is entrusted with recruitment to the second rung of bureaucracy, just below the ranks of IAS, IPS, IFS and IRS officers. Section Officers, Lower Division Clerks, Stenographers, Assistants in the various central government ministries are filled via exams conducted by the SSC along with recruitment to prestigious posts of Inspectors of Central Excise, Income-Tax, Preventive Officers and Examiners in Custom Houses, Assistant Enforcement Officers in Directorate of Enforcement, Sub-Inspectors in Central Bureau of Investigation and Central Police Organisations, Divisional Accountants, Auditors and Accountants under the Office of Comptroller and Auditor General of India, etc.

But see the inefficiency of this commission.

The CGL exam that the SSC conducts is regularly in news due to delays and corruption. Earlier, SSC used to take one year to complete the recruitment process, from notification of vacancies to announcing final selected candidates and giving them job postings. Now, it takes years.

Take the SSC CGL 2017 for instance. Registrations were invited in June of 2017. Tier 1 exam was conducted in August. Tier 2 exam concluded in February 2018. But the paper was leaked and it was again conducted in March. Tier 3 exam happened in July. Due to many irregularities, the Supreme Court put a stay on the results in August but the same was vacated in May 2019. Tier 4 exam concluded in July. Final result was announced in November. Joining of all selected candidates hasn’t yet concluded - three and a half years after the process started.

Notification for SSC CGL 2018 exam was out in May 2018 but Tier 1 was conducted more than a year later, in June 2019! Tier 3 exam was concluded in December 2019 but the results of the same haven’t been out yet. Only after the students started agitating online demanding the result, SSC announced on 1 September that the same will be out in October 2020, two and a half years after the process started. Once the result is announced, there will be Tier 4 exam.

No one knows when the final results will be announced and when the students can expect to get their joining letters but in all likelihood, it will not be for another one year which means that selected candidates will be getting a job only in 2021 end or early 2022 for the exam they filled forms for in 2018.

Should it take four years for the Indian state to conclude an important exam which selects top officers for the government machinery?

The corruption (paper leaks), inefficiency and delays that characterised recruitment process at the State level are now rampant at the central level too.

For SSC CGL 2019, only Tier 1 exam has been conducted so far. Tier 2 will likely be completed before end of this year.

For CGL 2020, no notification has been issued so far! SSC may skip this year and go directly for 2021 one.

This certainly doesn’t behoove a nation which harbours aspirations of becoming a Vishwa guru.

The Modi government needs to take the responsibility to initiate reforms in recruitment to government jobs. Though the process was not great before either, the situation has worsened under the current dispensation.

Given that the economy will struggle to revive in a couple of years, this is the time to fill up lakhs of posts lying vacant both at the Centre and in States. This will go a long way in not only boosting the state’s capacity but also help alleviate to an extent the anger that is increasing among the youth due to lack of jobs.

The first step towards fixing the problem is acknowledging that there exists one. It seems the central government is cognisant of it and has rightly decided to kickstart some structural reforms.

Last month, the Union Cabinet announced the setting up of a National Recruitment Agency which will conduct a single preliminary exam, the Common Eligibility Test, for all non-gazetted posts notified by the government. The exam will be held twice a year and the scores will be valid for three years.

This is a big reform. It will not only remove the hassle of appearing in multiple prelims of each government recruitment agency every year and save money in the form of registration fees but also reduce the recruitment cycle time and stress on candidates. The government will also save money on the logistics of conducting exams for lakhs of students by different departments every year.

Though late in the day, the government has made a good start. It should now take the process to its logical conclusion. By 2022, the 75th year of independence, one hopes that India will have in place a first world system of recruitment to government jobs.

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.
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