The game show

The confession by officials concerned before the parliamentary State Affairs Committee on Monday that the Nepal Telecom (NT) and the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) have been hiring people as temporary hands at the behest of “politicians and other powerful people” just highlights a practice long rife in all government-run bodies, including public corporations, where provisions for such employment exist. Hiring people temporarily has often resulted in the almost-automatic confirmation of their services in course of time, thus depriving the rest of the job-seeking Nepali citizens of an opportunity to participate in open and fair competitions. As the rationale for this temporary provision is to meet the short-term manpower needs, temporary employees should, by definition, be relieved of their services as soon as the prescribed period, often six months, expires. Under cover of this necessity — on a number of occasions, posts are created just to make room for certain privileged candidates — the provisional periods are extended indefinitely till these employees’ services are confirmed as if by right without having to compete with outsiders.

The prevalence of this highly undesirable practice even after the restoration of democracy through the April uprising can only raise doubts about things improving in the days to come. NT and NEA had advertised, asking for applications a year ago, and there was an enthusiastic response; but no examinations have been held. In the NEA case, 69,000 applied for 900 posts, generating as much as Rs. 10 million in revenue by way of application fees. Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, the state minister for water resources, told the committee that the advertisements were put out just to make temporary employees permanent by fulfilling legal formalities. This entire process is thus nothing but deception.

The temporary-to-permanent transition amounts to the backdoor entry of job aspirants related to politicians, the top bosses of the organisations concerned, and other powerful people. There is no need for temporary staff, as short-term shortage could be handled through daily-wage or contractual employees. NEA chief Arjun Karki’s contention that the confirmation of temporary employees who have put in a long service conforms to the spirit of the civil servants being promoted after sixteen years in service does not stand scrutiny. The very fact that NEA could not confirm them without taking the general public for a ride proves that the entire process is flawed. The question of spirit comes into play only when the letter of the law is silent or unclear, which certainly is not the case here. Doing illegal things for fear thatproblems may arise from the fact that 85 per cent of the temporary employees belong to the trade unions is also downright indefensible. The need to stop using corporations and similar bodies as mere employment mills is long overdue. Towards this end, the creation of a separate service commission for this category of government organisations should be given a serious thought.