Gujarat, India’s second most populous state, has become the latest state to adopt a meritocracy system to weed out candidates who do not meet certain criteria.
The move is part of a broader effort to weed-out low-quality candidates from a pool of candidates who, if the right conditions were met, would be considered highly qualified to win government jobs.
Highly qualified candidates are those who are willing to take on more risk, who are able to communicate effectively and who are also highly motivated, said S. Rajesh Kumar, who heads the Gujarat State Information Technology Development Corporation (SGITC).
These are the qualities that are needed to compete for a government job, Kumar said.
The move comes after the state government issued a memorandum in January, when it set aside 50 per cent of the seats in the state assembly to be reserved for candidates who have proven their skills and aptitude.
These candidates would also be given an equal share of seats in local bodies, the state cabinet, the executive and the legislative assembly.
Kumar said the quota will be applied to all levels of government, including the chief minister’s office, the Gujarat High Court and other departments and offices.
“There is a lot of meritocracy in Gujarat,” he said.
“It is an opportunity for the state to get rid of a lot [of candidates].”
The quota is meant to boost Gujarat’s state budget by Rs 2,000 crore a year.
But the move is also being seen as an attempt to boost the state’s economy and attract foreign investors.
Gandhi has a per capita GDP of about $10,000 and its labour force is just 3.7 million.
Despite the meritocracy initiative, Kumar’s group has found that a high percentage of its candidates do not have the necessary skills and experience to become ministers.
“We have been seeing this for many years now,” Kumar said, noting that he has received complaints from students and professors at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Ahmedabad and Jaipur about the shortage of good candidates.
“We are very worried about this issue,” Kumar told Al Jazeera.
“What is happening in Gujarat has a lot to do with the way that the government works,” he added.
For years, Gujarat has been trying to diversify its economy and to attract foreign investment.
A decade ago, the government established the Economic Council of India, a government body that helps coordinate the state-level economic policies and set a national target of boosting the state economy by 25 per cent by 2020.
Since then, the centre has worked to attract private capital to help finance infrastructure projects, as well as build up state-owned companies.
As a result, in recent years, the number of private companies operating in Gujarat increased by almost 60 per cent, and a number of companies have been set up to provide jobs in various sectors, including construction, construction services, and manufacturing.
While the number and scale of these firms are growing, they still tend to have a high cost of capital.
In the last five years, many of the state firms have shut down, said Vidyasagar, who is a partner in the Gujarat Institute of International Business.
There is no incentive to open new ones in Gujarat, he added, because the government does not offer subsidies for the new firms to expand and to hire staff.
And since Gujarat’s economy has been doing so well for the last three years, no one wants to see a repeat of the problems that occurred in the past.
Rajesh Kumar has set aside the quota in the assembly for candidates with the right attributes, but the number has been limited.
His group has set up a task force to work on the issue and has also asked officials to provide detailed feedback.
He said the issue was being studied by the Gujarat government, which will also look into the possibility of a quota for non-government employees, like teachers, as an alternative to hiring foreign workers.
This could help to diversifying the economy, he said, but it could also create a bigger bottleneck.