The entry gate of Promotion Adalat in Bhubaneswar. (Express photo by Sampad Patnaik)
Less than a kilometre from the Raj Bhawan in Bhubaneswar, a sprawling government office is decorated with a pale green paper gate that signposts it as the site of the state’s “Promotion Adalat”; Adalat means court. The location is not a courtroom, rather it happens to be the Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell in Bhubaneswar. The only difference is that on this occasion, it is not the members of the public but the employees of the state government pleading their case on a special forum.
Promotion Adalat has been set up by the Odisha government to reexamine cases where government employees feel they have been unjustly overlooked for a promotion. The Adalat is presided over by Odisha Chief Secretary Asit Mishra.
Inside, a small table has been set up for tea and coffee. A group of long-serving government officers are waiting patiently. Some of them are exchanging stories about misplaced “character certificates”, smudged service papers, rules governing government service and various other details that have kept their promotions pending. Another group is already packed into the visitors’ room. Bunch of documents in hand, men and women wait for their turn as they are taken in one by one to plead their case.
Y Srinivas Rao is a senior revenue assistant at the office of the Koraput Collector. While waiting for his turn, Rao shares his grievance — someone junior to him by nearly 10 years was promoted over him, while he has been running from pillar to post.
Rao, who has a hearing aid strapped to his right ear, says he has papers to prove the alleged discrimination. He shares a copy of the “Consolidated Instructions regarding reservation for the persons with disabilities in various posts, services under state governments and public sector undertakings”.
The document states that for persons with disabilities not less than three per cent for direct recruitment into Group A, B, C, D posts shall be reserved for — blindness or low vision, hearing impairment and locomotor disability. Rao’s complaint is that a person who has a locomotor disability has been promoted as per his years of service, while he has not been promoted after putting in more years.
According to an officer from the Chief Minister’s Office, who was present at the Adalat, the forum is the first in the country where the state government is actively trying to boost the morale among its employees by seeking and solving their grievances.
“This is an effort to activate our human resources by removing service-related frustrations that can affect their performance. The state government is trying to remedy promotions pending for mundane reasons- ranging from documentation to the apathy of the local collector”, she says, requesting anonymity.
Bidya Rashmi Sahu has worked for the government for six years. She says she was selected through the Odisha Public Service Commission, after which she worked for four years before shifting to the Revenue Service cadre. She is worried that four years of her service may not count though she has worked continuously for the government.
“Each side gets to present its argument”, Sahu says of the Adalat proceedings in front of the Chief Secretary. “Sometimes (he) issues on-the-spot orders ,” she says.