Telangana faces huge underemployment problem, government jobs remain a mirage

Neellu, Nidhulu, Niyaamakaalu (water, funds and job recruitments) – were the three objectives of the last phase of the movement for separate statehood to the region between 2009 and 2014.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi led by K Chandrasekhar Rao, which spearheaded the movement, carried this message strongly to the people during the assembly elections for the new Telangana state in 2014 and came to power with a resounding majority.

In the post-bifurcation period, Telangana could realise the second objective first. Unlike in the past, when there were allegations of the revenues from Telangana region being utilised for the development of Andhra, the new state was able to utilise the revenues generated within the region. Telangana not only became financially stable with a steady increase in its revenues, but also emerged one of the richest states in the country.

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The TRS government could also focus on achieving its first objective – optimum utilisation of water resources for providing irrigation to every acre of parched land. The construction of mighty Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project on Godavari River at a cost of nearly Rs 1 lakh crore and a chain of reservoirs associated with it was one of the biggest achievements of Telangana.

While the Mission Kakatiya project helped restoration of the neglected tank irrigation system, the Telangana government could provide potable piped water to every household under Mission Bhagiratha project.

Though neglected in the initial years, the government is now concentrating on the irrigation projects on Krishna River like Palamuru-Ranga Reddy, Dindi and Kalwakurthy lift scheme, besides envisaging new lift schemes on the river. It is not hesitating to enter into confrontation with neighbouring Andhra Pradesh over Krishna water projects and generation of hydel power on the Telangana side.

Thus, out of the three objectives of the Telangana statehood movement, the TRS government could by and large realise two – Neellu and Nidhulu (water and financial resources).

Where are the jobs?

But the TRS government, for strange reasons, did not pay much attention to fulfilling the third objective – Niyaamakaalu (job recruitment).

During the combined Andhra Pradesh regime, there were allegations that the Telangana unemployed youth were deprived of government jobs, as the people of Andhra were dominating in most of the recruitments. “Jobs for locals” was the major demand of the Telangana youth, who played an instrumental role in the statehood movement.

In the last seven years, there was hardly any attempt to fill up the job vacancies in the government. The Telangana State Public Service Commission filled up hardly a few thousand vacancies, while the number of job aspirants had been growing in lakhs every year.

In fact, there was no proper data in the new government as to how many vacancies are there in the various government departments. During the recent elections to the two MLC seats under the graduates’ quota, Telangana industries and information technology minister K T Rama Rao issued a statement, reeling out statistics saying TRS the government had filled up over 1.32 lakh jobs in various departments since the formation of Telangana.

But the opposition debunked KTR’s claims. “Most of these jobs were only regularisation of existing contract employees. For instance, 22,000-odd employees in TS Genco were regularised, but they were shown as new recruitments, which is quite deceptive,” Congress spokesman Dasoju Sravan said.

It was the first Pay Revision Commission headed by retired IAS officer C R Biswal which, in February this year, disclosed the exact figure of vacancies in various government departments. The commission said there are as many as 1.91 lakh posts lying vacant in the government and till now, the government has been running the administration with outsourced and contract employees by paying them nominal wages.

According to the report, there are 31 departments in the Telangana government with a sanctioned strength of 4,91,304 employees. However, at present, there are only 3,00,178 employees, which means there are a little over 1.91 lakh posts lying vacant in various departments, which is 39 per cent of the total strength.

Out of three lakh-odd employees, 76.88 per cent belong to only five departments – school education, police, health and family welfare, revenue and panchayat raj. The school education department has the highest number of employees, majority of them being teachers. Out of the total sanctioned strength of 1,37,651, there are only 1,13,853 employees in this department, which means there are nearly 24,000 vacancies.

In the police department, which has the second highest number of employee strength, there are 61,212 employees as against the sanctioned strength of 98,394 – so, there are 37,000 vacancies. In medical and health department, there are more than 30,000 vacancies.

Similarly, there are nearly 9,000 vacancies in the revenue department and 13,000 in the panchayat raj and rural development department.

The report said there are around one lakh contract and outsourced employees in various departments working in various capacities starting from drivers, peons, junior office assistants to senior assistants with a monthly salary ranging from Rs 12,000 to Rs 17,500. Besides, nearly 6,000 lecturers in various government junior and degree colleges in the state are working on contract basis.

In December, the chief minister announced that there would be a massive recruitment drive very soon to fill up as many as 50,000 vacant posts. He asked all the departments to furnish the details of the vacancies available which need to be filled up immediately.

However, there was no follow-up on the recruitments. But with the by-elections to Huzurabad assembly seat round the corner, the issue came to the fore again. At the cabinet meeting held at Pragathi Bhavan on Wednesday, KCR instructed the officials to expedite the recruitment process.

Strangely, the authorities presented a list of only 56,979 vacancies in various government departments to be filled up to the cabinet. The home department (police) accounts for the maximum number of 21,507 vacancies, followed by medical and health department with 10,048 vacancies, higher education department with 3,825 vacancies, BC welfare department with 3,538 vacancies etc. The Information Technology department has the least number of only four vacancies.

One wonders why there is such a huge discrepancy between the Biswal Commission report and the official note submitted to the cabinet on the number of vacancies. Either of them must be wrong. And there is none to clarify.

According to an official note from the CMO, the chief minister felt that the official note on the vacancies was not very comprehensive and that he had asked the authorities to come up with updated figures within five days.

Even if the revised list of vacancies is submitted, one wonders when it gets the approval and when the jobs are notified. The job recruitment continues to be a distant dream for the unemployed youth.

A Srinivasa Rao is Senior Journalist based out of Hyderabad covering developments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana . He has over three decades of reporting experience.

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