Retirement Age

The coalition government has decided to enhance the retirement age of government employees by two years, from the previous 58 to sixty. The decision has been taken as a damage control measure after the coalition partners were defeated in the recently concluded parliamentary elections.

As a matter of principal, the coalition government should have resigned after being trounced at the hustings, but ethical considerations are not at a premium in this neglected land.  The coalition continues to rule, and so does the mishap called administration and governance.

Official data puts the number of Jammu and Kashmir’s government employees at over five lakh.  Notwithstanding this disproportion (when compared to much larger and more populous states), official machinery rarely rises above being sluggish. A file, or a case, takes years to be processed. Drains and roads are in bad shape, hospitals use spurious and sub-standard drugs, the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) system does not function properly. Half of Srinagar craves for potable water, and the electricity plays hide and seek.

The irony is that employees have even misplaced vital documents pertaining to power projects. The MoUs signed by the state government with the NHPC are also missing.  Teachers have been found guilty of copying during the B Ed examinations. The pass percentage in government schools warrants the dismissal of teachers who take their profession lightly. Doctors have turned their noble profession into a business, becoming, in the process, the most hated class. Corruption has become a way of life.

Is this what ought to be rewarded with such a huge bonus? Normally, extensions are given to people who are indispensible, who are known for their contribution to society. But here an extension (because that is what the retirement age hike really is), has been given to lure five lakh employees to vote for the coalition partner(s) in the forthcoming assembly elections. Employees have failed to deliver, and some of them candidly admit it. There is the BOPE scandal, the JKCA scandal, the examgate, sex scandals …the list is endless.

The government cannot back out of its promise because its employees may boycott the `democratic’ exercise to be held in October-November this year. The government can, however, do the public a favour by ensuring that its employees discharge their duties properly. This cannot be done by framing legislation. Ministers and babus have to come out of their posh chambers to get the rights of lesser mortals enforced.