At the top are those under the Old Pension scheme- who joined the government before 2004, and are eligible to an inflation linked pension which is more or less on the One Rank One Pay pattern. Next come the government employees who were recruited after 2004, and come under the New Pension Scheme which is not inflation proof, but while in service, the Dearness Allowance compensates for any inflationary pressure. In the third category come the contractual workers, who get a fixed amount, often above the minimum wages, which is raised periodically, and they can generally hope for regularisation just before or after the elections – as in the case of Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Of course, after all these regularisations, the government announced that henceforth, there shall be no further recruitment of contract workers. It may also be placed on record that the bulk of teachers under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the ASHA workers under the National Health Mission come under this category. The recent suicide by a guest lecturer in Delhi University when his contract services were not regularised is an extreme case in the point.
At the lowest end of the scale are the casual workers, who are appointed on a purely ad hoc basis, as and when the need arises. They are paid at the lowest of the scale, and often given a break-in-service every fourteen days to prevent them from approaching any court or labour tribunal for the regularisation of services.
If the private sector was to engage in such practises, the political parties would have made a big hue and cry about it. But as political parties across the spectrum – from the BJP in the centre and nine states, Congress in another six, BJD, TMC, DMK, RJD and Shiv Sena as well as the CPM – engage in a similar tactic, there is little to be said about it. Even the trade unions like BMS, INTUC, CITU and AITUC – affiliated to the BJP, Congress and the Communist parties have not mobilised popular opinion on this issue.
To buttress this point empirically, a government report confirms that the number of contract workers employed by CPSEs increased 9.8 per cent to 524,423 in the last FY. However, the total number of regular workers declined by 1.2 per cent to 8,41,094 and casual or daily workers increased 2.4 per cent to 96,690 in FY22. If the trend continues, by the close of this year, the number of contract and casual workers will exceed those in regular employment.
This is indeed a trend which should cause both worry and concern.