As countdown begins to Assembly elections in five States

As the countdown to the Assembly elections in five States — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab — begins, the Union Cabinet, on Wednesday reviewed the results of the special recruitment drive it had launched in 2008 to fill pending vacancies in the SC, ST and OBC categories in the Central government. The exercise comes on the heels of the government decision to reserve 4.5 per cent for OBC minorities within the general OBC quota.

The election code

Sources in the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, which reviewed the backlog last month, when asked whether the Cabinet discussion could be construed as violating the election code as it could lead to a directive to fill the vacancies, said, “The process of appointments and promotions is part of an ongoing process.”

Failure to clear backlog

A Cabinet note, following this review, makes clear that the recruitment drive launched in 2008 has failed to clear the backlog. Out of a total of 76,137 vacancies in various Ministries, departments and public sector enterprises, the government has filled just 26, 472 in an exercise spread over three years involving direct recruitment and promotions, a matter of concern.

The timing of the review is being read in political circles as another attempt by the government to send a political signal to electorally significant social groups, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. These two States have large Dalit populations, while the OBC electorate in Uttar Pradesh is considerable.

But government sources, however, downplayed the discussion, saying the purpose was to apprise the Cabinet of the progress of the recruitment drive launched in 2008 to fill up the backlog in vacancies.

The 2008 drive was the UPA's second effort: its first exercise was in 2004 when it succeeded in filling 60,000 vacancies for SCs and STs — the new drive, includes the OBCs too.

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