There are two ways of looking at the government decision to retire inefficient staff. The first way is to very readily give it a thumbs-up sign, in the hope that this will weed out incompetence in government service that has been the bane of every government department. The fact that the government has taken such a decision is an admission on its part that there is ineptitude in government service.
The other way is to look at it in a more circumspect manner and analyse whether this will really make a difference to the working of the vast bureaucracy. The prime reason for this is because of the criteria that the government has brought in to check inefficiency. Those under the scanner will be staff who have attained the age of 50 to 55 years or have 30 years of service with pension benefits. Such employees will be retired and given a three-month notice or benefits.
So, is this compulsory retirement going to be a punishment or is it going to be a golden handshake for the employees who have almost come to the end of their long careers? Also, is the government saying that those below the age of 50 or those who have not completed 30 years in service are efficient?
It is interesting to note that at least one netizen saw the need to ask such a question on a social media site. Sanjeev Sardesai stated that from first-hand experience he has found that ‘it is the younger aged batch of employees who can be classified in the criteria of “inefficient” to understanding the basic meaning and understanding of queries by citizens and “doubtful” interpretation under applicable laws’. The post, where he further explained this, drew a large number of responses, most in agreement with what he had posted, an indication that the people are not entirely convinced that the move by the government, appreciable though it is, will bring about much of a change in the working of government employees.
Further, there arises another pertinent question: won’t making the above criteria for weeding out inefficiency in government service make those below the age of 50 and with less than 30 years of service more complacent than they already are? To clear the system of ineptitude, the move by the government should have been across the board, and not just for a selected few who are close to retirement. One reason that government jobs are in demand is because of job security. This further secures the jobs of those who are inefficient until they reach the age of 50 or 55 or complete three decades in service.
Incompetence in government service starts at the very beginning, during the recruitment process, which is not based on the efficiency of the aspiring candidate but often on the connections that the person has with politicians in power or those who can arrange for suitable employment.
Recruitment rules are also so archaic that educational qualifications are more important than ability and experience. Promotion rules are even more outdated as they stress on years of experience rather than performance. Of course, basic educational qualifications cannot be set aside, but has not the corporate world excelled by recruiting persons based on efficiency and not just their educational qualifications? Has not the corporate world also scaled pinnacles through promotions based on an employee’s abilities and performance? Is there are lesson there for the government in the recruitment and promotion processes?
If the state government is really serious about bringing in efficiency in the ineffective service, which has today over 60,000 employees, with more being added even as this is being read, then it has to start from the time it begins the intake of new employees and their subsequent climb up the professional ladder.
The term professional is important to understand and should not be confused with career. A government servant can have a long career but not be necessarily specialised in what he or she is doing. A professional is specialised not just through educational qualifications, but also through experience and performance. Professionalism is what government employees should stand by.
The effort, therefore, should be to bring professionalism into government service by recruiting the best and keeping them focussed on their work by tying promotions to performance. The knowledge that a promotion will come after achieving a set number of years in service does not promote efficiency. That has to change if the output of the government servant has to improve.
Nevertheless, this is a start by the government. But it should not stop there. Changes in criteria for compulsory retirement can still be brought about and efficiency can indeed be brought about in government service. It will also make the rest of the staff sit up, take notice and force them to work harder.