Wednesday, September 22, 2021

National obsession

The national obsession for Government jobs is deeply entrenched in the eco-system of India’s numerous cultures and is the “unity” that binds India’s “diversity”. It is the sole glue that trusses all Indians, underscores our uniqueness and differentiates us from citizens of other countries. Because Government employment is perceived as, even equated to, development, our political and constitutional leaders often say that unemployment, especially in the Government sector, leads to anti-social and anti-national activities, the prime example being insurgency in the Northeast. In the absence of creative thinking, it is understandable why and how this reductionist line of thinking has grabbed the imagination of such worthies ~ considering that the genesis of Naga insurgency, called the mother of all insurgencies in the Northeast, isn’t rooted in Government employment. Be that as it may, the national obsession for Government jobs needs in-depth study and analysis and remedies ~ nay therapies. While one cannot and does not claim any expertise on such a historic subject, perhaps the remedies, antidotes, even therapies, lay with the Government itself because the primary virus appears to be the Government itself ~ whether at the Centre or in the States. Let me try to explain a little ~ there is nothing cushier than Government jobs, irrespective of ranks, what with such munificent pay scales and princely perks and privileges ~ and a lifetime of generous pension, which makes Government jobs extremely viable economic options and future safety nets. While Government employees, who actually work since they are committed, capable, reliable and responsible, and in the absence of a lot who make an appearance, shouldn’t be begrudged of such magnanimity, but the problem is that seeing the state of affairs in the country, especially in the development sector, particularly education, health, food security and infrastructure, the question arises: whether the employer, the Government hence by extension the tax-paying people, are getting our money’s worth in terms of the performance and productivity of most Government employees? Seeing that Government employees can attend office or not but still get paid, even promoted, in the absence of any performance and productivity assessment(s), makes Government employment extremely attractive. How do we explain the Government’s non-interventionist policy towards its employees who avoid places of posting and work throughout the month but breeze in to claim salary? In the first place, most state Governments hire for political exigencies and nepotism, not merit, therefore such employees can cock a snook at their bosses, and the Government and by extension the people, and get away with a lot ~ not least insubordination. Moreover, in a state like Nagaland, a Government employees, even a peon or a driver, is accorded a higher status than a Ph. D holding Lecturer in a private College and her/his word carries more weight in the larger scheme of the clan/village/range, etc., so why wouldn’t this obsession for Government jobs be appealing to people for whom social status is paramount? The tragedy is that Governments hardly ever, or never, inculcate a value-system that prioritizes honesty, hard work, commitment, dedication and merit, which actually reflects the value-system of the Government but it doesn’t realize it. And the problem is that practicing value-systems that require physical, mental, psychological and spiritual discipline and integrity is not the forte of politicians and political parties that make Governments, especially in Northeastern states. Then consider that no Government checks the attendance of its employees, what exactly they do, or don’t, during office hours and the number of files that are kept pending for months on end ~ and/or even its employees prioritizing weddings, church programmes and social events related to family, clan, village, range and unions? Who wouldn’t want a job where the employer is least concerned about its employees’ performance, productivity and merit ~ not to mention commitment, dedication, capabilities, disciple, integrity, reliability and their sense of responsibility? Governments have made themselves vulnerable to employees’ capacities to hold them to ransom but they are not complaining ~ they only complain about youth wanting Government jobs and even rationalize that Governments aren’t obliged to employ everyone, that youths must seek jobs elsewhere and take to entrepreneurship. Worse still, Governments say Government employment has reached saturation point ~ but remain silent on the deadwood in its employment. Governments have created their own Frankensteins and are now at their mercy. Surely, time to relook at the system of governance, and those at its helm, to purge the national obsession for Government jobs?