Calcutta, Sept. 23: The Mamata Banerjee government has started identifying surplus employees in various departments who could be re-deployed in offices where more manpower is needed, an exercise the Left had abandoned because of resistance from a section of the employees.
The state government has set up a committee of the land reforms commissioner, the finance secretary, power secretary and the consumer affairs secretary to review staff positions in different departments and recommend redeployment of surplus employees.
According to data available with the finance department, there are around 3.4 lakh government employees in total on whom the state has to incur a monthly wage bill of over Rs 3,500 crore.
Senior state government officials told The Telegraph that the move to restructure the departments with optimum utilisation of employees was taken at the behest of the chief minister, who wants a report on this by January 2014.
“Several complaints often come up that there are employees in various departments who virtually have no work…. But the government is forced to shoulder a huge financial burden to give them salaries and other benefits. The committee will identify such employees,” a senior Writers’ official said.
Sources said the chief minister believed that the surplus posts were created during the Left Front regime as the then government wanted to fill up the departments with party cadres.
A member of the committee said although a list of surplus employees was yet to be prepared, at least 25,000 to 30,000 staff members would easily be identified as excess.
The committee has been given four specific mandates, which sources said, were aimed at reducing the government’s wage cost (see chart).
In the short-term, attempts will be made to justify the huge expenditure through efficient use of the employees, while later, the effort will be to cut down on it, a source said.
“The committee will also look at the option of engaging contractual staff, which will reduce the outgo on statutory benefits like pension,” the source added.
The attempt is in line with the policy the chief minister has been pursuing since coming to power. Although Mamata has claimed to have created over two lakh jobs, a majority of youths were engaged as green police or home guards, both contractual jobs.
According to officials, once the surplus employees are identified, they will be re-deployed in departments or offices where more manpower is needed. In the future, the state would abolish the posts once the employees retire.
“The process has already started. The disaster management department has already declared eight of its employees surplus before moving to the HRBC Building. The surplus employees will now be posted in other departments and in the future, these posts in the disaster management department will be abolished,” said another senior official.
Whenever such manpower rationalisation exercise is undertaken, either in the government sector on in private companies, redeployment is the first step, after which the employers tend to offer voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to the surplus employees.
VRS, however, is a politically sensitive topic, which the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government learnt the hard way.
The Left Front government had started the exercise with loss-making state-owned corporations with financial support from the Department for International Development (DFID). But opposition to the move from a section of employees and party cadres forced the government to abandon its first-ever manpower rationalising effort.
“The present government has taken the right step, but the question is whether they will take tough decisions,” said an official.