One Family One Job - the scheme that hurts or heals Sikkim's unemployment issues?

One Family One Job - the scheme that hurts or heals Sikkim's unemployment issues?
Photo Credit: News Nation English

Across India, people line up for government jobs whether it be due to familial pressure or the stability that it promises. Due to the allure of job security, over the last decade candidates who are more than qualified applicants put in time and effort for applying to job vacancies when it arrives. Owing to this, in 2015 a PhD candidate applied for the post of a peon in Uttar Pradesh - this is not uncommon to hear especially in the hills. 

In Sikkim, under the One Family One Job (OFOJ) scheme, more than twenty thousand youths were given employment. This was mainly for the economically backward families whose members didn’t hold any kind of government service position. Former Chief Minister of the state Pawan Kumar Chamling led the huge employment drive, making Sikkim the first state in India to do so.

The distribution of appointment letters was conducted during the Rojgar Mela held in Palzor Stadium in 2019. While addressing the gathering, Pawan Kumar Chamling assured that the jobs would get regularized after completion of 5 years of service.

2019 was a historic year in terms of a rapidly changing political scenario with Sikkim at the crux of holding its general election with two major political parties contesting for the prime seat - Sikkim Krantikari Morcha led by Prem Singh Tamang and Sikkim Democratic Front led by Pawan Kumar Chamling. 

With regard to OFOJ beneficiaries, the SDF had promised of regularization after completion of 5 years of service, while on other hand the SKM in their election manifesto had mentioned that after the formation of their government all OFOJ beneficiaries would be regularized within 100 days. 

Once the results of the 2019 general election were out and SKM emerged victorious, they were left with the responsibility to keep their promises. 

But as any governmental scheme would go, implementation was tough while building a new government. The OFOJ plan was multi-dimensional both in problems and execution.

Reportedly, it soon came to light that multiple people from the same family were rewarded with government jobs and further when the SKM government was formed the OFOJ employees had already completed five months of service. On May 31, 2020, the second list of OFOJ beneficiaries was suspended as the government claimed that the job order was distributed during the time period of Code of Conduct. Following this, on June 2020 the OFOJ beneficiaries staged a protest at the Secretariat building where they demanded immediate calculation of the circular which had suspended the second list of the OFOJ beneficiaries and the release of pending salaries.

Prem Singh Golay, Chief Minister of Sikkim addressing the issue said, “The previous government didn’t work systemically, so our government will try to investigate the problems and try to solve it in a systematic manner”.

Echoing this, Jacob Khaling, Political Secretary to Chief Minister P.S Golay also added, “The earlier government did not follow recruitment rules, and there are no proper records of who was appointed and on what basis. There are even instances where five members of the same family were recruited, graduates being appointed as peons and class 10 pass outs being appointed as lower divisional clerks, and B Tech graduates as sweepers”.

However, the department of personnel withdrew the circular which had earlier cancelled the employment of the second list of OFOJ beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, in December 2020, a petition was also filled under the high court of Sikkim by Henna Subba, Sangeeta Sharma and Pavitra Sharma stating that the OFOJ employment had not been done in a constitutional manner and as a result, educated youths were exploited.

Ajay*, a college student in Gangtok states that the entire scheme was foolish as it didn’t encourage the education system at all. “In my village, I saw may youths pursuing their Bachelors dropping out of their college and applying for employment. Now that they have been provided with jobs, it is the due duty of the government to provide them with all the benefits including regularization, so that they could secure their future as they once thought when they applied for the job”. 

Similarly, Yahang Limboo President of the Limboo-Tamang Association said, “As an association, we do not support OFOJ as it is exploiting the young educated youths. If one gets employment due to such schemes then there is no need for education too”.

Limbo further added, “There is no difference between one family one job and other recommendation recruitments, the only difference is that the recommendation recruitments are done behind closed doors and one job one family requirements are done openly organizing job melas”.

The biggest voice to come out of this whole melee is social activist Nawin Kiran’s, who demanded the government to fulfil its promise to regularize all the OFOJ employees. In an interview with SC, on the illegality of the employment, he said, “One Family One Job is a government scheme; the eligibility criteria for the employment was that those family who doesn’t have any government employee.”

“The backdoor employment, on the other hand, can be termed as illegal as it was directly recruited on basis of recommendation. Till now approximately 1600 such employments have been done which evicts Article 16 of the Indian constitution that states equal opportunity in terms of public employment”. 

He also demonstrated protest against the regularization of OFOJ employees by organizing a day-long dharna at the capital.

Yet, one cannot conclude the many faces of this argument without speaking to direct beneficiaries of the scheme. An OFOJ employee shares, “I belong to a backward class family; all my family members including my elderly father and mother are totally dependent on my monthly income. I am thankful to the government for providing me a job”.

Another disagrees. “OFOJ should be regularized since by the day, the salary we are being provided cannot run our homes especially in the future and its also not provided in time despite the heavy workload”. 

By Sherab Palden Bhutia. The author is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at paldenborges015@gmail.com.

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