People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 34

August 22, 2010



Contract Officers to be Absorbed as Regular Cadre


AT present, as many as 5000 odd agriculture related specialist officers of the  State Bank of India (SBI) are in a sad plight. This prime bank of our nation had recruited these officers on contract basis in 2004.


Though these officers were recruited on contract basis initially for two years only, on a consolidated pay, the duties they are performing, indicated the excellent role they have been playing in relation to Indian agriculture.


These duties include account opening under NREGS, door to door survey to ensure 100 per cent financial inclusion, educating farmers about various subsidy schemes of the government of India, and introducing new farming technologies to farmers. These officers also help in increasing the coverage under the minor irrigation schemes, in bringing the barren lands under cultivation, increasing farm mechanisation and strengthening the rural infrastructure. They introduce the personal accident insurance scheme to the farmers, cover crops under the national agricultural insurance schemes, encourage the production of quality seed production, help in securing loans for milch cows, for poultry farms and for the self-help groups.    


As a matter of fact, it was because of the credible role of these officers, among other things, that the agribusiness of the SBI reported increased from 13.50 per cent in 2004 to 18 per cent in 2008. In 2008 alone, these officers helped SBI to recover the non-performing assets (NPAs) worth Rs 505 crore.


In view of their potential, the SBI management trained them for selling the SBI mutual funds and SBI life insurance policies also. However, now that six years have passed from the day of their recruitment, they are still languishing as contract workers, with their future remaining uncertain.


It is true that with an idea of not losing such cadres of potential, the SBI management came out, on and off, with certain ideas of absorbing them as regular officers or prescribing exclusive career paths for them. But none of these ideas was implemented. The contract officers, who have contributed to the growth of the bank, are as a result a disillusioned lot now. As a considerable part of their youth has been spent in works related to agriculture alone, they are in the dark as to how they would survive in case the SBI decides to jettison them.


The serious question that arises is this. Should a huge organisation like the SBI, that too owned by the government, indulge in an unfair labour practice while it ought to have set an example for fair labour practices?


In view of this situation, T K Rangarajan, a CPI(M) member of Rajya Sabha, wrote a letter to Pranab Mukherjee, the union finance minister, on April 2, asking him to recognise the excellent work done by these contract officers and suitably advise the SBI management to absorb them in its regular cadre. This will not only bring cheers to the life of these contract officers, but also redouble their productivity, the beneficiary of which will be the SBI and the nation. On May 7, he personally met the minister to take up this issue and reiterated the demand. Now, it has been learnt that the SBI management has consented to take necessary steps to absorb these contract officers in its regular cadre.