Government’s own ‘gig workers’


While the Agnipath scheme has ignited a debate on the nature of jobs in the government, ‘temporary’ jobs have comprised the vast majority of available government employment for quite some time.

Temporary jobs in public sector:

They may be classified into three categories; permanent, contractual and daily wagers.

Outsourcing and Fixed Term Employment (FTE) have become the dominant mode of working in the government, from highly specialised tasks to the most routine ones.

There are two main methods to induct an ‘employee’ on contract in a government entity; first, directly on the payroll of the entity and, second, through a labour contractor or as part of any other contract entered into, through a tender process.

In both cases, the costs and liabilities of the government entity are significantly reduced compared to a “permanent” position. While the entity may remain the principal employer in both cases, the burden of responsibility is shifted to the contractor in the case of the latter, which is also the predominant mode of engaging contractual workers.

Impact of temporary jobs in public services:

Non Payment of salaries for extended periods, fudging of statutory deductions for the worker’s welfare such as provident fund (PF), employees’ state insurance (ESI), etc. by the labour contractor, and uneven distribution of work vis-à-vis “permanent” employees, are all common features of such contracts.

This has serious repercussions for the quality of public service that is sought to be provided including sanitation, public transport, health, etc.

Shift of responsibility:

For the managers or officers in the government, the shifting of responsibility to the contractor and the possibility of litigation seeking ‘regularisation’ for the workers predisposes them to such labour contracts.

Managers/ officers in the government do not have the capability to draft or even review basic tender documents. Consequently, there is an endless chain of delegating tasks so much so that at any time there are more people to get things done than those who could actually do things.

Contractual recruitment:

It has largely been a missed opportunity to augment the capacity of the government, particularly those wings of the state that cater various services to people, as well as to create a viable avenue of employment for India’s burgeoning working age population.

Due to fiscal constraints and a large workforce, contractual jobs will continue to eclipse ‘permanent’ ones at least in terms of numbers.

Fixed-term employment (FTE):

FTE is an employment contract in which an employer hires an employee for a limited period after which the contract expires.

There were no provisions for labour laws in India concerning fixed-term employment. In March 2018, the Centre notified on FTE. The contract can be renewed or terminated according to the performance of the worker. The notification does not permit conversion of permanent posts into FTE.Therefore, the move, for now, is aimed at turning contract workers into FTE ones.

Advantages of FTE:

Under FTE, workers will be entitled to benefits available to permanent workers. Contract workers, if turned to FTE workers, stand to gain in terms of the statutory benefits.

They can possibly be assured of a greater sense of accountability from the principal employer and a better work environment.

FTEs are particularly useful in executing specific projects, such as in the infrastructure sector. They are prevalent in apparel, footwear and sections of the media. Platform workers are also hired on FTE basis now.

Concerns about FTE:

Industries are reluctant to implement FTE in view of rising costs and obligations. Not having any legal documents about casual employees enabled industries to extract maximum labour out of such employees while denying them their statutory rights.

There is also a concern with wide use of FTEs in public sector as it is seen to come at a cost of permanent jobs with better job security and benefits like EPF, ESI etc. The ‘contractualisation’ of government jobs is therefore being opposed in public sector, especially by PSU/ CPSE employees.

Youth in public employment:

Our critique of public employment, which is largely framed as the presence or absence of the security and benefits of a permanent job, may be disconnected from the predominant modes of recruitment shaping the realities of young people’s lives.

Fixed term contractual stints with the government with safeguards against sheer exploitation can be a major source of employment. However, such modes of recruitment will have to assimilate the principles of affirmative action.

Case study:

Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs’ The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP), which enables city authorities to directly engage a young workforce for a fixed term, is an example of how FTE can be harnessed to tap into the potential of youth in the workforce.

Such independent workers can be a boost to India’s gig economy.

Gig Economy:

Gig economy is economy based on flexible, short-term, or freelance work. Workers of the gig economy are called gig workers, who are frequently employed by businesses on a contractual basis but are not regarded as employees.

Gig workers can be divided into platform and non-platform workers. Platform workers are those whose jobs rely on digital platforms or online software apps like Ola, Uber, Swiggy etc. Non-platform gig workers are full-time or part-time casual wage earners..

Indian Gig Economy: Current status and potential:

According to a report by Boston Consulting Group, India’s gig workforce comprises 15 million workers employed across industries such as software, shared services and professional services.

India is the fifth largest Economy in flexi-staffing globally, after the US, China, Brazil and Japan.

An estimated 56% of new employment in India is being generated by the gig economy companies across both the blue-collar and white-collar workforce.

The gig economy can serve up to 90 million jobs in the non-farm sectors in India with a potential to add 1.25% to the GDP over the long term.

As India moves towards its stated goal of becoming a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025, the gig economy will help in bridging the income and unemployment gap, and prevent jobless growth.


As we seek to regulate the “gig economy”, it may be time for the government to take some concrete measures for its own “gig workers”.

Working towards animal health


Lumpy skin disease, a serious disease affecting cattle, has spread to 25,000 bovines in Rajasthan. This comes at a time of new revelations about COVID-19 which is shown to be able to infect other animals too.

The blurring boundary in disease transmissibility between humans and animals calls into attention zoonotic diseases and animal health..

Importance of animal husbandry for India:

COVID19 has once again put the spotlight on the pressing need to create greater collaborations and synergies between research on human health and animal health.

India has a livestock population of 1.6 billion, that in turn translates into a scenario where approximately 280 million farmers rely on livestock and related industries for livelihood.

From the perspective of trade, the dairy industry in the country is valued at $160 billion, while the meat industry is valued at $50 billion. In addition, livestock and related activities have significant overlap with wildlife and humans.

Animal husbandry also assumes significance as a source of reliable income to farmers in case of crop failures, pest, diseases wtc.


It refers to those diseases and infections which are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and man. They can be transferred between animals and humans, and vice versa, when the pathogen in question originates in any life form but circumvents the species barrier.

Studies indicate that more than two-thirds of existing and emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic

Increase in zoonotic diseases:

Statistics indicate that globally, we have witnessed around 9,580 instances of disease outbreaks from 2000 to 2010, of which 60% diseases were zoonotic in nature. Likewise, the incidences of disease outbreaks across the globe have been increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6%.  In India, we see that annual outbreak of zoonotic diseases translates into an estimated annual loss of $12 billion to the economy.

Thus, even though these diseases do not affect human health directly, they are responsible for huge consequences to farmers, exports and gross domestic product (GDP) growth nationally.

Multi-disciplinary collaboration:

In this background, close collaboration is the need between veterinary science and human health experts to forge effective tools for pandemic preparedness.

For example, major loophole in the context of pandemic preparedness can be attributed to the fact that it has largely been human centric, leaving a large unaddressed gap for diseases of pandemic potential in animals.

It also calls for the emerging concept of One Health Approach.

One Health Approach:

The approach that acknowledges the interconnectedness of animals, humans, and the environment is referred to as “One Health”. recognizes that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment.

One Health’ vision derives its blueprint from the agreement between the tripartite-plus alliance comprising the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

It’s purpose is to encourage collaborations in research and sharing of knowledge at multiple levels across various disciplines like human health, animal health, plants, soil, environmental and ecosystem health in ways that improve, protect and defend the health of all species.

India’s One Health Framework:

In keeping with the long-term objectives, India established a National Standing Committee on Zoonoses in the 1980s.

Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) has launched several schemes to mitigate the prevalence of animal diseases.

Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases (ASCAD) is provided by the Centre.

A ‘Centre for One Health’ at Nagpur is being set up.

Department of Biotechnology has launched the country’s first One Health consortium.

Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) has also set up a dedicated ‘One Health Unit’ in collaboration with the Gates Foundation. One of the primary focus areas of the unit has been on coming up with an “animal pandemic preparedness” model by creating a mechanism for storage and seamless exchange of data and information on livestock health — this will be implemented through the National Digital Livestock Mission (NDLM).

Disease Surveillance:

Within the framework of the NDLM, so far, substantial progress has also been made by linking all the animal disease diagnostic labs involved in serosurveillance through a single portal, and harmonisation of SOPs used by labs.

This pandemic preparedness initiative would thus enable the linking and comparison of real time information regarding diseases between wildlife and human systems — that would create a reliable mechanism for forecasting disease outbreaks.

The dynamic model under preparation would further result in enhanced disease surveillance so that we are better prepared before the next outbreak hits

Animal healthcare:

Companies can now avail incentives for setting up or expansion of animal vaccine and related infrastructure under the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Fund (AHIF).

Additionally, DAHD in collaboration with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC) has set up an Empowered Committee for Animal Health to streamline the animal health regulatory ecosystem in the country.


A successful animal pandemic preparedness model template would entail seamless coordination with critical ecosystem partners to ensure timely and successful development of animal drugs and vaccines

The ecosystem partners would include entities carrying out pathogen prioritisation and aiding pharma companies in vaccine research, Indian pharma companies, and global organisations like World Organisation for Animal Health, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, etc


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