The fresh wave of advertisements now seen in local dailies on the eve of the forthcoming state Assembly election barely seven months way for filling up job vacancies in several state government departments on contract basis was expected. It follows a familiar pattern from the past many decades in every election year when the governments of the day would suddenly claim to have discovered it had several departments suffering because of acute staff shortage on account of these unfilled vacancies. As a cyclic story grown drearily familiar, there would be few or nobody fooled by the professed claim that these are no more than routine discharge of a necessary obligation of a government. This is especially so because these post advertisements come at a time the government is financially strained, struggling to pay salaries of its existing employees and fighting to keep ban on further cash transactions from its official accounts by the Reserved Bank of India for withdrawing beyond the government’s permitted ceiling. Few or nobody would also not hesitate to believe that these new contractual recruitments do not have job creation in mind and instead are targeted at the election. First and foremost, they are meant as fund raisers for those in power to be used in their election campaigns, given the fact jobs are sold in Manipur and not awarded to the deserving. Second, these jobs will also be used as favours extended to faithful workers as well as to win new ones. Third of course is for the government to claim these are their achievement in jobs creation. The only spoiler being, these are artificially created jobs and definitely not one generated by the internal dynamics and dynamism of the economy. In fact, these hurriedly and artificially created jobs may become yet another set of seeds for more self-invited legal complications with grave implications for the economy and society in the years ahead.
There have been many examples of such complications, causing immense injustice for young job aspirants in the state. Before dealing with what real job creation should look like, an elucidation of one example of such a complication in matters of job recruitment should be helpful. Yes, we refer to the damage caused by the cancelled Manipur Civil Services, MCS, examinations of 2016, conducted by the Manipur Public Services Commission, MPSC, now caught in inconclusive court battles, leaving the future of many bright and sincere candidates in uncertainty, in particular those who had been recruited and then their recruitments cancelled after two years of service. Even if it is established there were a few bad apples allowed into the basket of successful candidates, can there be any justification in discarding the entire basket. Should not it have been the responsibility of those in charge to search and identify those bad apples and do the needful surgical strike of weeding them out without disturbing the rest in the basket. More importantly, should it not have been their duty to also identify how such a falsehood, if at all, have been allowed to play out. Very briefly, we know the case has seen two High Court rulings and will now likely be fought out again in the Supreme Court. The first ruling had said there were no substantive flaws and this was based on an official enquiry report. A second however ruled the exam as well as recruitment made on its basis need to be cancelled altogether as grave foul play was evident, and this too was based on the findings of another enquiry. The government apparently is now set to challenge the second verdict in the Supreme Court.
We are in no position to critique the virtues or justifications of any of these court verdicts, but the fact remains that the only ones made the scapegoats are the candidates, even if it does turn out some of them were not so sincere. But it should be perfectly logical to presume that the flaws, if any, can only of two natures. One, the discrepancies were in the evaluation process. Apparently, there were some errors in totalling, as well as some cases of few marks added to some of the answers in some answer scripts after they had been already marked and assessed. However, I must be noted that in answers requiring subjective assessments, unless the marks added are large, it should be understandable, for sometimes the evaluators need to average out performances of the candidates midway into the evaluation process so that earlier evaluations are brought up to the average standard thus arrived at. In any case, if these become suspect, since the original answer scripts by the candidates are intact, the remedy could have been to have them evaluated again by another set of evaluators. The second scenario could be more serious and sinister. In this, the flaw or flaws, could be in the examination process and regulations itself. As for instance, apparently the examination invigilators did not sign on all the answer scripts. The explanation is, signing on all answer scripts was not mandatory as per MPSC examination rules, and that several earlier examinations by the MPSC had also been conducted under these same norms. But the hypothesis of detractors is, this would have left room for entire answer scripts of corrupt candidates to be replaced by new ones after the examinations in connivance with MPSC officials. This allegation hints at a much larger and sinister plot, requiring the compliance of several layers of examination authorities and perhaps evaluators as well for its execution. The paper replacements could have happened at several points after the answer scripts had been submitted in the examination hall. If this is the suspicion, rather than make scapegoats of the successful candidates indiscriminately, deeper criminal enquiries empowered to examine forensic evidences should have been instituted, and while this is being done, top officials of the MPSC and the responsible ministries suspended till their innocence is established. None of the latter has happened, and the resort has been the former putting the future of many sincere candidates at peril.
This is a very sorry episode. No government hereafter should take job recruitments lightly but seemingly the hard lesson still has not been learnt if the current spurt of advertisements for contractual recruitments are any indication. As many have also noted, Manipur politics or administration have seldom been a source for public confidence not to talk of inspiration. Quite to the contrary, the trend has been for a downward spiral the reputation of the entire establishment in the eyes of the public. There are therefore few who would not believe any allegations of corrupt practices and bribery in the officialdom even when these allegations are based on speculations. Nothing can be more unfortunate for Manipur’s future than this, and the effort of the establishment as a whole, should have been to reverse this trend. It is late not never too late to begin even now.
There is one more distressing point to note. The government as well as the public seem now to have almost completely internalised the false notion that job creation is about government jobs only. This being so, demand for government jobs is ever on the rise while its supply cannot rise reciprocally, hiking bribe price of these jobs in keeping with the economic principle of demand and supply equation. If demand outweighs supply of a commodity, price of commodity rise. Even if the government were able to provide direct employment to one lakh people, this would form only a small percentage of employment seekers in the state. Creating jobs therefore would ultimately have to mean invigorating the economy outside of the government so that the larger market itself begins to generate respectable, well-paid jobs. There can be no argument that one of the foremost mandates of any government is precisely to do this. If jobs outside the government sector become respectable, well-paid and secure, pressure on the government to artificially create jobs would mitigate, and bribe tags on government jobs would also decline and even become redundant. The thing to do then is to stimulate the economy and nudge growth in every sector.
Outside of the government, there are already some sectors which are showing signs of immense promise. The healthcare and school education sectors are some of these. While encouraging them to do more and grow more, the government must also monitor them so that these growths do not turn labour exploitative. Depending on the assessments of their revenues, salaries and working conditions of their employees too must be fixed. In the Indian newspaper industry for instance, decadal wage boards appointed by the Government of India classify newspapers as per their circulations, and then fix salary standards accordingly. Likewise, without even going to the extent of scrutinising certified income tax returns, the revenues of private schools can be broadly assessed from the number of students enrolled and tuition fee standards, and having done this, salary standards of employees, including teachers fixed. In the healthcare sector too, depending on the number of beds and average daily OPD listings, revenue can be broadly assessed and accordingly salaries of employees fixed, in particular those of nurses, a health professional community who have of late complained of being overworked and underpaid in private health institutions. Such monitoring should be for every other enterprise in Manipur’s nascent by burgeoning field of entrepreneurship. Only success in this should define job creation in an economy, and not merely the addition of a few hundred or thousand personnel in the Manipur Rifles or Manipur Police constabularies every election year.
Editor, Imphal Review of Arts and Politics and author