Will VRS improve Goa's eco-health ?

| 19 May 2000 17:48 IST

The Voluntary Retirement Scheme, introduced for the first time in the country by Goa, may help in pulling out the tiny tourist state from the financial crisis only if the entire government workforce is later reorganised in a planned manner.

"The prime objective of the scheme is to downsize the government so as to control revenue deficit", says Vijay Madan, the state finance secretary. He has issued a detailed memorandum in this regard on 15 May, as per which the government employees have to opt for it within three months.

Unlike the regular scheme for voluntary retirement after 15 years of service, the recent scheme allows to seek voluntary retirement after 10 years of service. People who would benefit most however would be those who have five years of service left.

The five-year-left employees have been offered 30 per cent of balance salary by calculating average salary of the last 10 months and calculating eight years of service for additional pensionary benefits. Employees left with 25 years of service however would get 480 days plus 12 days' salary per completed year of service.

It is not only the employees working in government departments or the police force but also those working in autonomous state-run corporations and even teachers in the aided schools and colleges are allowed to seek the benefit. "Our first target group is in fact around 300 surplus teachers", discloses one official.

With the government service being still considered a status symbol in the Goan society, the number of government employees is rising every year in spite of imposing a moratorium on fresh recruitment without cabinet approval a decade ago.

In fact, every 30th Goan is today paid by the government in 1.5 million-strong Goa. The state shells out 58 per cent of its revenue expenditure, over Rs 400 crore, towards paying the salaries. In order to appease the guaranteed vote bank, no political party here has even opposed total implementation of the fifth pay commission recommendations.

Manohar Parrikar, the BJP leader, has however now succeeded in pushing the idea of VRS into the mind of chief minister Francisco Sardinha, heading a coalition government. With a plan to abolish 40 per cent posts coming under VRS, he has even proposed 'leaner government younger government' scheme to recruit rest of the 60 per cent.

Before recruitment, the young brigade will have to undergo 18-month course of the Staff Recruitment and Training School learning all aspects of government administration, laws, governance and management as well as computer training while earning Rs 1500 monthly stipend.

"It all depends on the response we get", says Rajib Sen, joint secretary in the finance ministry here, while the state has estimated an expenditure of around Rs 20 crore for 1000 employees. The state is planning to take yet another loan to implement the VRS scheme.

But the government expects to repay the loan in five years, after which it would be an annual saving of at least Rs six crore behind 1000 such employees. "The state would definitely benefit in the long run though the amount of VRS payments will initially outweigh the salary amount", clarifies Sen.

But it all ultimately depends upon the political will since politicians, irrespective of what party they belong to, jump upon any post that falls vacant either to accommodate their unemployed party worker or by looking at it as a source to accumulate wealth.

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