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Undeterred by an unsuccessful attempt to impose new civil service regulations through ordinance, the government is now working on a Federal Civil Service Bill. If passed, the bill would significantly curtail the rights of the civil servants’ trade unions, infringe on the jurisdiction of provincial and local governments, and reduce civil service entrance quotas for marginalized communities. Parliament’s State Affairs and Good Governance Committee stopped the issuing of the ordinance, directing the government not to bypass the House while bringing in such important legislation. The bill, now being discussed clause-wise in parliament, has met with widespread criticism from civil servants, legal experts and lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about it:

1) The bill allows the government to approve en masse resignations of civil servants.

The provision was incorporated during a clause-wise discussion on the bill at the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee. Supporters say this is a much-needed step to empower the government in withstanding unfair pressure from civil servants’ unions and an end to the common practice of shutting down critical services like health facilities and educational institution. Civil servants, including doctors and teachers, have long used mass resignation as a bargaining tool. In recent months, the government has been struggling to depute civil servants to the local and provincial government, as unions resist and warn of protest: “[Transferring civil servants] is easier said than done. There would be no surgeries if 25 anesthesia doctors resigned at once,” Lekhnath Koirala, chairman of Nepal Civil Servants Organization, warned at a press conference on August 9.

2) There would be only one civil servants’ union.

The bill seeks to end the forming trade unions along party lines. There are currently more than half a dozen trade unions of civil servants. The unions argue that such a provision would be against labour rights, specifically the right to unionize. The bill also seeks to bar gazetted officers (section officer and above) from leading unions. This means that almost all leaders of the civil servants’ unions, including Punya Prasad Dhakal, the chairman of Nepal Civil Service Employees’ Association, an umbrella association of all unions, will have to step down once the bill comes into effect.

3) Quotas for marginalized and backward communities would be reduced.

Once the bill comes into effect, prospective candidates from these communities may benefit from reservations just once during their career in government service, either at the gazetted third class level or any other officer-level position, or in any non-gazetted positions. Under the existing laws, candidates from designated communities are entitled to vie for quotas at all stages of their career.

4) Tharus and Muslims would have their own categories in reservations.

Earlier, candidates from these communities trying to enter the civil service had to compete under quotas allocated for Adiwasi/ Janajatis. The 45 per cent seats reserved for marginalized communities has been re-allocated as follows: 

  • Adiwasi/ Janajati: 24 per cent, down from 27 per cent
  • Madhesi: 20 per cent, down from 22 per cent
  • Dalit: 9 per cent
  • Differently abled: 4 per cent, down from 5 per cent 
  • Backward areas: 4 per cent 
  • Tharu: 4 per cent 
  • Muslim: 3 per cent 
  • The backward districts are Accham, Kalikot, Jajarkot, Jumla, Dolpa, Bajhang, Bajura, Mugu and Manang.
5) 50, rather than 33 per cent of entry level positions could be reserved for women.

This would be broken down as follows:

  • Khas/ Arya: 31 per cent 
  • Adiwasi/ Janajati: 22 per cent
  • Madhesi: 20 per cent 
  • Dalit: 10 per cent
  • Tharu: 5 per cent
  • Differently-abled: 5 per cent 
  • Backward areas: 4 per cent 
  • Tharu: 4 per cent 
  • Muslim: 3 per cent
  • As in the general reserved category, the backward districts are Accham, Kalikot, Jajarkot, Jumla, Dolpa, Bajhang, Bajura, Mugu and Manang.

6) The prime minister could appoint secretaries in provinces.

This provision also allows the central government to carry out inter-government transfer of staff at the province and local government. Critics say such strengthening of the centre is against the spirit of the constitution. Article 285 Clause 3 empowers the provincial cabinet and executives of rural and urban municipalities to form various government services. Under its provisions, staff deputed to the provinces and local levels would not be able to return to the federal service, but would be entitled to automatic promotion, increased perks and pension based on contribution.

7) High officials would no longer be hired through direct competition.

The government currently hires at the undersecretary and joint secretary levels through the internal and external competition, in an attempt to attract experts and skilled manpower through lateral entry into the public service.