All’s not right

Like many other groups elsewhere, government and public corporation employees are having the time of their life in staging a variety of protests to push demands ranging from the genuine to the outlandish. Non-gazetted judicial employees of the government have started an agitation. Monday’s nationwide action disrupted work in a number of courts, for instance, in Rajbiraj, Butwal, Hetauda and Jhapa. Their action was triggered by Supreme Court registrar Dr Ram Krishna Timalsena’s decision on Friday to transfer three SC employees to the Tarai and Taplejung. According to employees’ representatives, only those were transferred who had pinpointed “irregularities” committed when installing a computer network in the apex court. At the Gorkhapatra Corporation journalists have threatened action if the management does not renew the recently expired contracts of 49 stringers working in different districts. Similarly, employees of the Nepal Drinking Water Corporation (NDWC) have announced fresh protests seeking reinstatement of 300 (daily and contractual) employees, making permanent the services of temporary employees, etc.

In government organisations across the country, employees have become overly sensitive to their rights (even on occasions when this pursuit might encroach on other people’s territory). However, no employees’ union affiliated to any political party has displayed a show of strength to root out corruption or to improve the pathetically poor service delivery of their organisations. While in the above examples, employees’ demands should be considered to decide to what extent they are legitimate, even though they exude a strong political odour, or betray a desire to appropriate more than what is due to them legally and fairly. The civil servants agitated to have the new Civil Service Act passed without delay. The Act provides for automatic promotion of employees up to under-secretary on completion of a certain number of years of service, irrespective of their performance.

These protests might be brushed off as inevitable features of the political transition, but they will not promote a sound work culture. Employees should go where they are posted. It is the duty of the government to provide them with proper incentives, including higher marks for promotion, for working in hardship zones, for doing a good job, etc. An unhealthy trend has also developed in government corporations where employees disrupt work demanding permanence of service for temporary employees, and non-termination of services of even contractual workers. Successive governments have been responsible for acting in a populist manner. With automatic promotion, in effect, a chunk of the Public Service Commission’s job will have been taken over. Where should the taxpayers go to demand that the civil servants and corporate employees do efficient and effective work for the general public without seeking any pecuniary or other favours from them?