NEW DELHI: Close to seven lakh posts were lying vacant in government department and ministries till March 2018, with the highest number of vacancies, about 2.6 lakh, in the railways alone, labour and employment minister Santosh Gangwar told Lok Sabha. While latest figures for the financial year ending March 2019 were not supplied to Parliament, and no reasons cited for the same, Gangwar said filling up vacancies remained the government’s priority, along with generating employment and improving employability. He was responding to a question in the Lok Sabha by Congress MP Deepak Baij and BJP MP Darshana Jardosh. Baij and Jardosh had sought the government’s response on the number of vacancies in government departments and the steps taken to fill them. In response, Gangwar said filling up vacancies was a continuous process. He also said it was the responsibility of states and UTs to ensure that vacancies in their jurisdictions were filled. According to the department of expenditure, 6.84 lakh positions were vacant in government departments and ministries across all levels of jobs as on March 1, 2018. The data showed that against a sanctioned strength of 38.03 lakh posts, only 31.19 lakh posts were filled. The government’s largest employer, the railways, had a sanctioned strength of 15.08 lakh. However, 2.59 lakh positions cutting across gazetted and non-gazetted categories were lying vacant. The next in terms vacancies was the defence civilian department (civilian personnel working in the defence ministry), where only 3.98 lakh positions were filled against a sanctioned strength of 5.85 lakh positions, leaving 1.87 lakh positions vacant. Another government department generating high employment, home affairs, which oversees appointments in the paramilitary forces and Delhi Police, had 72,365 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 10.21 lakh positions, with only 9.48 lakh positions filled.