The latest report by the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) based on ILOSTAT database of International Labour Organization showed that India’s unemployment rate rose sharply to 7.11% in 2020 from 5.27% in 2019. Further, India’s unemployment rate in 2020 is recorded to be the highest since 1991. On one hand, India is in dire need of professionals and generalists, and on the other, unemployment due to lack of jobs is rampant. It is hard to imagine why the government is not making appointments in time and allowing the demographic dividend of the country go waste. How, the unfilled vacancies have created a mess in the system can be seen from the PNB housing case that exposed the lack of regulatory capacity. In spite of the delay, the issue could have been settled early had the Security Appellate Tribunal been adequately manned. The Security Appellate Tribunal is not the only exception. The Supreme Court recently questioned the government on what it intends to do with tribunals.
There are pending vacancies of over 100 technical and judicial members in various tribunals across the country, but the government is reportedly not clearing the names forwarded by the selection committees led by judges. Contrarily, the government got a Bill passed in the current session of Parliament to further reduce the number of tribunals - burdening the High Courts that are already loaded with the pending cases.
Vacancies in judiciary
As per the National Judicial Data Grid, 16.9% of all cases in district and taluka courts are three to five years old; for High Courts, 20.4% of all cases are five to 10 years old and over 17% are 10-20 years old. Besides, over 70,000 cases are pending before the Supreme Court, over 57 lakh cases before various High Courts and over three crore cases are pending before various district and subordinate courts. Justice V.V.S. Rao, a former judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court stated a few years ago that it will take around 320 years to clear the existing backlog of cases. This is mainly because of non-filling up of sanctioned posts of judiciary.
If we take a cursory look of the total sanctioned strength of 1,080 judges of the 25 High Courts, they are functioning with only 661 judges, leaving 419 vacancies as on March 1, 2021. The high courts are the backbone of our judicial system. However, it seems the government has altogether abdicated its responsibility to fill up the vacancies in them and allowed the people to suffer tremendously in the absence of judges. It is not only the nation that suffers, but even the individuals who are in line for promotion. To mitigate the sufferings of the masses, the collegium of the Supreme Court, High Courts and the Union government should work together to fill the vacancies of judges.
Recently, the Supreme Court directed the Union government, states and union territories to take immediate steps to fill up vacancies in national, state and district consumer courts.
Vacancies in the health sector
It is not only the judicial system of the country which suffers badly in the absence of non-filling up of vacancies but the lack of personnel in health sector also has made the life of Indian citizens miserable. Covid-19 has left hospital infrastructure and personnel overburdened, thus impacting non-Covid treatment. There is not only the shortage of doctors and paramedical staff, but there is also a shortage of trained manpower. Total medical personnel estimated by the National Health Workforce Account stands at 5.76 million now. This includes allopathic doctors (1.16 million), nurses/midwives (2.34 million), pharmacists (1.20 million), dentists (0.27 million) and traditional medical practitioners/Ayush (0.79 million).
Actual health workers’ density estimated from doctors and nurses/midwives is 6.1 and 10.6 per 10,000 population, respectively. This has been particularly significant, where doctors are in short supply (with one servicing 1,404 people against the WHO prescribed ratio of 1:1000) and Community Health Workers (CHWs) have led the frontline effort against the pandemic. Overall, India has 3.07 million registered nursing personnel (nurses and midwives, women health visitors and auxiliary nurse midwives). With 1.7 nurses per 1,000 population, this number is 43% lower than the WHO prescription of three per 1,000. The demand-supply gap in health care is huge. We woefully need new hospital beds at the earliest. We have 1.1 beds per 1,000 people, while the global average is 2.7 and the WHO recommends 3.5.
Vacancies in taxation department
In context of the taxation department, inordinate delays in appointing members of the CBDT, the apex body of the department, is puzzling the entire revenue service and tax bureaucracy. It is intriguing that no appointment is being made in the apex body. The last appointment in the CBDT was made in July 2020. Not only this, according to the latest statistics given to the Parliament by the government, there are 4,926 IAS officers as against their total authorized strength of 6,396 - leaving a shortage of over 1,400 IAS officers. The government has increased the annual intake of IAS officers to 180 during the last four years, without analyzing and understanding the reasons for this shortage.
Vacancies in central public sector enterprises
The Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) are also not lagging behind. Of the 217 CPSEs with employment data, 76% recorded a reduction in workforce between financial year 2018 and financial year 2020. BSNL’s staff strength dropped from 1,83,522 employees in financial year 2018 to 69,824 in financial year 2020. MTNL’s staff strength dropped from 25,191 employees in financial year 2018 to 4,182 in financial year 2020 a reduction of over 80%, the highest among all CPSEs.
Position of posts in states
The state governments have also witnessed large scale vacancies. If we take the case of Punjab, in the absence of the Chairman, Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), lakhs of aspirants in Punjab have been left in the lurch who are preparing for their PPSC examinations. At present there is no update as to when the exam would be conducted. As per the PPSC constitution, the commission cannot hold the examination without a chairman. There are a large number of vacant posts at lower levels. Punjab has received over 200 times the number of applications against the advertised posts of Patwaris, which offers a meagre `5,000 stipend during the 18-months training.
Similarly, in Haryana, there is a 29% shortage of personnel in the Haryana Police. There are 20,839 vacancies (29.3%) in the police force against the sanctioned strength of 71,069. The force is short of 35 IPS officers (24.3%) and 61 DSPs (18.5%).
As things stand today, crores of people in far-flung areas have negligible access to our judicial delivery system and medical care. Delays in important appointments send a wrong signal to the nation. A time frame needs to be worked out to announce appointments at least three months in advance. Political considerations need to be pushed to the backseat for a clean and honest administration.