A Lahore High Court verdict has suspended the recruitment of not-so-lucky newly-hired people in grade one to five in the Pakistan Railways, who secured the prized jobs through a lucky draw regime. Their short-lived career has also clouded the Establishment Division’s step to amend the Civil Servants (Appointment, Promotion and Transfer) Rules, 1973. Also, so many other hiring in other federal ministries done through such rounds of draw will come under scrutiny in the coming days. The Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur benches of the Lahore High Court have suspended the ongoing hiring after Pakistan Railways Employees Union and a body of signals points-men challenged the process. The union dubbed the process as ‘parchi juwa’ (gambling) and against the Constitution and established rules of merit.
The Pakistan Railways began recruiting the staff for low grade positions last month trough secret draws. Though the authorities claim that applicants were allowed to witness the process, the media, however, was deliberately kept away from the venue. The news of hiring through lucky draw was frowned upon by constitutional experts, human resource gurus and employees of the Railways. The earlier defined criteria for hiring process allocates 58 per cent seats for open merit, 20 per cent for the children of Railways employees, 10 per cent for former employees, five per cent for orphans and handicapped and two per cent for disabled persons. The novel idea of luck draw induction was the brainchild of the incumbent government, contrary to the pre-election slogans of upholding rule of law and merit. According to a petitioner, “The concept of balloting is against the constitutionally recognised principle of intelligible differentia required to be observed in public sector recruitments. There is no scope of intelligence when the entire process is to be left at the mercy of balloting. If this practice is allowed, the very concept of merit and fitness for appointments at government offices will be badly affected.”
The final verdict of the court will clear the situation. The best course for the government will be to set certain criteria for every post. Each position requires certain skills, education and physical condition. In the coming days, when the government is to fill 11,000 posts in the Railways and thousands in other departments, it ought to formulate a policy guideline to hire the best among the lot. Our prime minister, whose youth was spent as skipper of the national team, always went for the right man for the right job. He should pass on his cricket experience of team selection to his ministers as well.
Pakistan’s hungry, angry people
The Global Hunger Index 2019 has left food for thought, and actionable intelligence, for the world to fight hunger. The day is marked to remind the world about the importance of food as on this day in 1945, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UNFAO) was founded. According to the UNFAO, “The day seeks to promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all”. Pakistan is one such a country which is full of hungry and angry people. Here operates a world full of disparities: for one stratum, food is not a problem as for them, food is and will be there; for the other, food is a big issue. The strata blessed with access to plentiful food is now concerned with good food and innovative cuisine, regardless of its cost. As Pope Francis says, “Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.” Those who have lots of food need to ponder the fact that its proper use can feed those who struggle with it on a daily basis.
On Lahore’s Guru Mangat Road alone, 20 charities serve meals to the poor every day. Each charity office sees a long queue of people for whom a one-time meal is un-affordable. The 2019 Global Hunger Index, released by the International Food Policy Research Institute, is enough to open the eyes of intentional policymakers. Pakistan is ranked 94th out of 117 countries in the 2019 Global Hunger Index, which puts it among those suffering from serious levels of hunger. This should sound alarm bells for those running the economic affairs of the government. Pakistan’s agriculture sector has done well in terms of technology but it is far from meeting food requirement. Our children are malnourished and stunted because of being underfed.
Before they go to bed tonight, policymakers, government functionaries and politicians should ask themselves: who is responsible for the people who will sleep without a proper meal tonight? We may get a variety of answers: first, those going to the bed unfed are themselves responsible for their hunger. Their large families or lack of education and resources may be contributing factors. The index reminds us that access to food is a basic human right; there can be no quality of life without addressing hunger and without having farmer-friendly, climate-compatible agriculture and food systems. *