Manpower Shortage Hits Key Govt Departments

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Srinagar, Sept 30: Several key departments and institutions in Jammu and Kashmir are facing acute shortage of manpower because of which their performance has been affected adversely and implementation of ambitious schemes has been impeded. The situation has come handy for the authorities to make back-door appointments in violation of relevant service rules and in a majority of cases fix square pegs in round holes.

According to reports, more than 500 positions at various levels are lying vacant at present in the Information and Public Relations, Rural Development and Revenue departments and civic bodies. Admitting 40 posts of block development officers were lying vacant, the minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj said the problem would be solved in a week.

Quoting sources, reports said the Information and Public Relations Department faced an acute shortage of staff with most district and tehsil centres being headless for a long time. The situation is likely to worsen in the next couple of years as 44 officials in gazetted and non-gazetted cadres would reach the end of their tether. Around 300 posts are already lying vacant in the department for several years past.

Sources said the sanctioned strength of assistant information officers in the department stands at 80 against which 55 posts were lying vacant. The Service Selection Board had made selections for 40 such posts early this year. However, they said, the High Court had quashed the selection and directed fresh exercise for fill up the positions under the direct quota. Another 350 positions have been lying vacant for several years past. No effort has been made so far to fill up these openings.

Confirming the vacancies in the department, sources said its performance had been affected adversely. The department is entrusted with dissemination of information about the government’s policies and programs and because of the shortage of staff, it has more often than not been going by default.

During recent years, the situation has deteriorated to the extent that even the divisional office of the department in Kashmir had barely a couple of gazetted officers against the sanctioned strength of half a dozen. Sources in the department said most officials were reluctant to work in its offices because its working had been centralized to an extent that the divisional, district and other subordinate units, particularly in Kashmir, had been rendered irrelevant.

The situation in the Rural Development Department is no different. Sources said 60 posts of block development officers were lying vacant for a long time. In certain cases, each of the incumbent officials has been given the additional charge of two or three blocks, in other cases, officials in junior rungs, including panchayat officers, have been elevated in makeshift arrangement to look after various headless blocks.

Admitting that 40 positions of BDOs were lying vacant, the Rural Development minister, Ali Muhammad Sagar, said the matter had come up for discussion in the cabinet meeting when the chief minister, Omar Abdullah, directed the openings to be filled up early. He said the problem would be solved in a week. He did not elaborate whether the selection process for the vacancies through difference modes, including the recruitment agencies and departmental promotions, had been set in motion.

Sources said the situation in the key Revenue department was no better. More than 400 posts in various categories are understood to be lying vacant.

Meanwhile, sources said, a large number of executive officers posts were lying vacant for several years in the civic bodies in various major and small towns across the state. With a view tackling the problem, several incumbent executive officers have been assigned with several towns. Because of procedural handicaps, efforts to fill up the existing vacancies did not bear fruit, sources said, adding the working of the civic bodies had been hit due to the staff shortage.

Sources said the vacancies in different government departments and institutions came handy to the authorities to resort of back-door appointments. In most such cases, relevant service rules are ignored to shower undue favors to blue-eyed officials regardless of their qualification, suitability and merit. Job requirements are seldom taken into consideration while making such dubious promotions and it is eventually the performance of concerned department which suffers, sources said. (Observer News Service and with inputs from KNS)

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