A meagre 2.4 per cent of ex-servicemen who applied for a job could get one as state and central governments have been unable to recruit against the reserved quota.
Public sector utilities (PSUs), ministries and officials of Sainik boards have blamed it on the lack of skill among ex-servicemen. They contend that veterans’ inability to qualify in selection exams and non-recognition of qualifications obtained from the military are reasons why their recruitment has remained significantly low, pushing them toward low-skill jobs.
As protests over the Agnipath scheme rage across the country, the government has announced reservations in job vacancies across sectors for around 34,000 “Agniveers” who will retire after four years of service.
However, data from Director General Resettlement- the nodal body responsible for rehabilitating retired military personnel, shows that states, central public sector units, including defence PSUs, and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have failed to recruit against the vacancies reserved for veterans.
According to a Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) provision, 10 per cent of vacancies in central government jobs in Group C and 20 per cent in Group D are reserved for veterans. For public sector banks, central public sector units and CAPF, the reservation is 14.5 and 24.5 per cent, respectively.
But, as of June last year, ex-servicemen constituted only 1.15 per cent of the Group C strength and 0.3 per cent of the Group D strength in 94 of the 170 CPSUs.
Coal India, a maharatna PSU, blamed the unavailability of requisite certificates among veterans as one of the reasons for the shortfall. It has not filled any 251 posts reserved for former military men. “Recruitment of non-executives is mainly done for statutory posts wherein the prospective candidates hold certain competency certificates issued by the relevant authorities. Possessing statutory certificates issued by the relevant authority is a pre-condition for applying for such posts. However, ex-servicemen usually do not possess such certificates. This is the reason for underutilisation,” a spokesperson for CIL said, noting that there is a need to create awareness among ex-servicemen to acquire such certificates to increase their participation in the recruitment process.
The picture is more dismal if Central ministries are taken into consideration. Between 32 Central ministries, only 1.60 per cent of the 22,168 positions reserved for veterans have been filled. For instance, the Indian Railways, one of the world’s largest employers, could only fill 1.4 per cent (16,264 out of the 1.15 million) positions reserved for retired personnel of the armed forces.
A spokesperson for the Indian Railways said that recruitment for around 24,242 vacancies of ex-servicemen is currently underway. “All eligible ex-servicemen candidates who qualify with the minimum standards per their community are selected against the stipulated quota. In recent times there has also been some contract engagement of ex-servicemen against specific requirements such as gatekeepers in traffic and engineering,” he said.
For the ten defence PSUs, where the Centre has announced a 10 per cent reservation for the Agnipath scheme, veterans comprised only 3.45 per cent and 2.71 per cent of Group C & Group D posts, respectively.
DG Resettlement head Sharad Kapur refused to comment on the low employment rate of ex-servicemen. A senior official said that since the body is not statutory, it doesn’t possess any power to force the ministries to implement the reservation. “The reservation for SC, ST & OBC is statutory in nature and thus implemented by all Central government organisations. On the other hand, the reservation made for ex-servicemen is executive in nature. Without statutory backing, DG Resettlement cannot perform the duties assigned to it diligently,” the official said.
Even the paramilitary forces haven’t shown much interest in hiring veterans. As of June 2021, only 0.62 per cent of positions reserved for veterans have been filled by the five wings of the paramilitary forces – Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Shastra Seema Bal (SSB), and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
While the central government announced that 10 per cent of vacancies in the CAPF would be reserved for Agniveers, senior officials of CAPF have cited organisational hurdles and a job profile different from the military as the main reason for not hiring ex-servicemen.
“Firstly, the role of defence forces who fight against external aggression is very different from that of the CAPFs which are responsible for internal security and must function with a softer touch. So those who come from the military will have to be retrained,” said a senior official of one of the paramilitary forces.
He also pointed out that soldiers from the army have a promotion advantage over direct recruits into the CAPFs as they join the armed forces at a younger age compared to CAPF. “Paramilitary forces have been wary that it will lead to disgruntlement and demoralisation among their personnel and have objected to absorbing soldiers who have served in the army,” he said.
The states have also been unable to find jobs for military returns. For instance, by the end of 2020, Bihar, UP, Punjab and Haryana, which cumulatively account for 80 per cent of the Indian armed forces, have given jobs to only 1.5 per cent out of the 200,000 veterans who had registered for a job. Officials of state Sainik boards say that while most states have reservations under the ex-servicemen quota for all positions, they are reluctant to recognise the graduation certificate issued by the military.
“A soldier or an airman or a sailor joins the armed forces after Class 10. The armed forces provide them with a graduation certificate after 15 years of service. Many states don’t recognise these certificates. Even if they are recognised, the ex- servicemen fail to crack the competitive exams as the papers are of graduation standards,” an official of a state Sainik board said.