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Government’s own ‘gig workers’

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Employment

 

Source: The Hindu

Context: Agnipath scheme has highlighted the approach of the government to outsource work to ‘temporary workers’

Direction: Just go through it once. Not so important.

‘Temporary’ jobs have comprised the vast majority of available government employment for quite some time. They may be classified into three categories:

  • Permanent
  • Contractual
  • Daily wagers

Status:

  • Outsourcing has become the dominant mode of working in the government, from highly specialised tasks to the most routine ones. E.g.  Safai karamchari (sanitation worker), a driver/conductor of your city bus service, a junior engineer or a highly paid consultant.
  • As per a survey, The number of contractual workers in central public sector enterprises increased to 4,98,807 in March 2020from 2,67,929 in March 2016.

 

Benefits of contract workers

  • For Government: costs and liabilities of the government entity are significantly reduced compared to a “permanent” position.
    • Burden of responsibility is shifted to the contractor
    • No possibility of litigation seeking ‘regularisation’

Issues: Non-payment of salaries for extended periods, fudging of statutory deductions for the worker’s welfare such as provident fund (PF), employees’ state insurance (ESI), etc. by the labour contractor, and uneven distribution of work vis-à-vis “permanent” employees.

  • Long-term impact: Quality of public service that is sought to be provided including sanitation, public transport, health, etc.

What should be done:

  • Need to augment the capacity of the government, particularly those wings of the state that cater various services to people, as well as to create a viable avenue of employment for India’s burgeoning working-age population.
  • Following Effective procedure: Local bodies, parastatals, special purpose vehicles and other public utilities stand to gain considerably if the modalities of contractual engagement are diligently worked out.
    • g. The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs’ The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP), enables city authorities to directly engage a young workforce for a fixed term.

 

Conclusion

Even though a permanent government job remains highly coveted, it may be important to also recognise that not everyone may aspire to ‘permanence’ due to various reasons.

Fixed-term contractual stints with the government with safeguards against sheer exploitation can be a major source of employment. However, such modes of recruitment will have to assimilate the principles of affirmative action, in line with the vision of social justice enshrined in our Constitution. This is key in order to avoid becoming a mechanism that will skirt provisions for reservation.

Insta Links

Niti Aayog report on India’s Gig worker

Mains Link

Q. Discuss facts and fears about the ‘contractualization’ labour force in government public service. (15M)