With the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) anticipating a three-fold jump in its expenses to Rs 900 crore, job seekers sitting for the examinations may have to fork out much higher fee. The central recruitment agency plans to take all tests online from 2018-19 and expects a big increase in number of applicants given several new posts have been created. The SSC’s income is roughly a quarter of its expenditure. For the current fiscal, the government will meet three-fourths of the agency’s expenditure of Rs 300 crore. The gap between SSC’s income (mainly from the fees paid by job applicants) and expenditure is expected to rise to around Rs 800 crore next year. According to official sources, the department of expenditure in the finance ministry, which has received a hefty bill from the SSC, has asked it to find ways to enhance its internal resources. Essentially, this would mean a big hike in application and exam fees charged by the body.
The SSC, which recruits the Centre’s non-gazetted staff, is not the sole agency being forced to reduce reliance on allocations from the central budget. Determined to cut the flab and bring in efficiency in hundreds of such autonomous and grantee bodies, the Centre has been asking them to levy user charges, fees, etc, to sustain themselves as the government’s scarce finances would need to be more judiciously used for developmental activities. According to the 2017-18 Budget, outlays to autonomous and grantee bodies were a staggering Rs 72,200 crore, up from Rs 63,975 crore last year.
Currently, the SSC levies application fees of only Rs 100 from the general category male candidates while no fee is charged from female candidates, as well as SC/ST, physically handicapped and ex-servicemen job aspirants.
The SSC has to pay vendors supplying materials for the tests, UIDAI for Aadhaar authentication, hiring of venues, internet services, etc. With the plan to go online, the expenses are bound to multiply given the need to hire infrastructure services. “Besides generating more internal revenues, higher fees would ensure that only serious candidates apply for the jobs on offer,” an official said. About 30-40% applicants don’t show up for tests even though arrangements are made for them, leading to escalation of costs.
Recently, the finance ministry accepted a proposal to waive Rs 10 fee charged on OPD patients at All India Institute of Medical Sciences after it was found that it costs more to collect it. However, it has decided to reduce subsidies on some specific tests. Similarly, the Union Public Service Commission has been asked to augment revenues, including charging market rent on premises let out to banks, etc.
A third of the government-funded autonomous bodies may either be wound up or merged with others while several others may have to stand on their own feet, as the government is embarking on an overhaul of these bodies to cut wasteful spending.