Catalysing reforms in the recruitment process

Himanshu Rai | Updated on September 10, 2020 Published on September 10, 2020

The rush to take the exam for a govt job   -  PTI

The proposal of a National Recruitment Agency to conduct a Common Eligibility Test for govt posts can be a game-changer

Employment opportunities for the youth in various state-owned and other private organisations play an important role in the development of a nation. They ensure that the energy and talent of the deserving youth are channelled productively, improving their quality of life, while the employers get a valuable talent pool.

Reforms in the present system of recruitment are overdue. There’s need for an optimal and transparent system that can ensure the right talent gets deployed through a fair process, and the gaps and potential malpractices in the system are diagnosed and treated early.

As a first step towards this, the Central government, during the Budget announcement, discussed the setting up of an independent professional organisation, the National Recruitment Agency (NRA). On August 19, the Cabinet gave approval to the proposal and committed ₹1,517.57 crore to set up the agency and bring it to its full functioning within three years.

Let’s examine the various aspects of this initiative, its features, advantages, limitations, along with the opportunities and challenges, to help understand it better.

The recruitment roller-coaster

The current system of recruitment followed by various departments of the Central government collectively forms a confusing web of processes, making the aspirants’ journey to the job a topsy-turvy ride.

Multiple examinations are usually conducted by various departments for various posts and cadres, with long multi-level processes spanning throughout the year, with a lack of coordination that sometimes leads to exams clashing with each other.

A costly affair:The prolonged recruitment procedures are taxing for the candidates, particularly those from rural areas, who have to invest effort, time, and money to reach the examination centres, which are few and far between.

Lack of transparency: Many inconsistencies and glitches are experienced in the process, like faulty reporting, miscalculation of actual vacancies, and misinformation/ambiguity regarding the rules, or even malpractices going unnoticed.

Delays: A few examinations take 6-8 months to finish. Many of the candidates who get rejected at advanced levels get demotivated as the time to prepare for the other posts is lost during that process.

The setting up of the NRA can be seen as well-intentioned attempt to introduce positive change, considering especiallu the salient features of the Common Eligibility Test (CET) proposed to be conducted by it.

CET will be a common preliminary exam for non-gazetted (Group B and C) posts for the Railways, public sector banks, and other departmental posts that were being conducted by RRB, IBPS and SSC, respectively, till now.

It would be an MCQ-based test, proposed to be conducted twice a year in 12 languages, which would be extended to all the 22 languages that are mentioned in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. While two re-attempts will be allowed for a year, there is no limit on the number of times the candidate can apply afresh. Also, there will be an upper age limit, and the score will be valid for three years.

There will be different CET exams for 10th, 12th, and graduate-level applicants. And the most prominent decision is to develop test centres in 117 aspirational districts, which will enable aspirants from rural areas to take the exam from a nearby centre, thus reducing the time and the cost of travel.

The potential benefits of CET include reduced costs and efforts for both students and the recruitment agencies, a unified standard process for non-technical posts, opportunity to catalyse infrastructure development in rural areas, simplification and streamlining of the recruitment process, and reduction of issues like undue delays and backlogging of vacancies.

If CET succeeds, the NRA can come up with other specialised and competency-based assessments and cover more departments, more levels, and perhaps be used by States and the private sector too.

Overcoming obstacles

A lot of good ideas fail due to poor implementation, and thus we need a detailed roadmap that embodies the letter and spirit of the NRA. The existing system will need to be modified with resources being reallocated, and the resulting internal inconsistencies and, perhaps, opposition, will need to be handled.

Apart from shuffling existing resources, new infrastructure would have to be created for the development of the aspirational districts. This would require greater coordination with States. According to the Department of Personnel and Training, about 2.5-3 crore candidates will apply for around 15 lakh vacancies. At such a scale, optimising operations would be vital. The proposed introduction of CET by the NRA will be a potential game-changer provided it successfully manages the implementation stage.

The writer is Director, IIM Indore. Views are personal

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Published on September 10, 2020
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