Lateral Entry Into Civil Services
09, Aug 2018
Prelims level : Mains level : Paper – II Civil Services
The personnel Ministry had recently announced recruitment of 10 joint secretaries in select government departments through lateral entry mode.
Need for Lateral Entry:
- There is a huge shortfall in a number of recruits, such as 20% shortage of IAS officers in 24 state cadres of India.
- The Baswan Committeehas pointed out the huge deficit of officers. The government has in March 2017, informed that there is a shortage of over 1,400 IAS and 900 IPS officers in the country. While the total strength should be 6,396 Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, however, there are only 4926 officers in the country.
- There is an unwillingness among officers of the state to undertake Centre deputation.
- Outside talent from the private sector is more likely to be target-oriented, which will improve the performance of the government.
- The lack of specialisation across the top tier of Indian bureaucracy is a concern that has remained unaddressed until now.
- IAS officers get recruited at a very early age via the UPSC exams. It is difficult to gauge their administrative judgement and capabilities then. Some may pass with flying colours, while others don’t make the cut even later on in their careers. Allowing for lateral entry of seasoned professionals and experts into the service makes up for this deficiency.
- Career promotions in the IAS move along seamlessly with few impediments along the way. Attempts to introduce ‘meritocracy’ hasn’t quite worked out. Bringing in experts from the professional sphere is expected to shake the IAS out of their comfort zone.
- This isn’t the first time that the government brought in professionals from the private sector or academia into the top tier of government. Take a look at the Finance Ministry, Reserve Bank of India and even the current NITI Aayog, which have hired the likes of Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Subramanian and Arvind Panagriya to name a few.
- The IAS was designed for a time when the State was all-powerful. That reality somewhat changed with liberalisation in 1991, where the state was compelled to cede more space to markets. Therefore, it becomes more critical for the government to ascertain the impact its policy decisions have on various stakeholders such as the private sector, non-profits, and general public, i.e. those who have experienced government from the outside
- Lateral entrants from the private sector and academia may not work well with the bureaucracy. The same pretty much goes for any inter-sector scenario. Differences in work culture, turf wars and systemic inertia often come in the way.
- It’s important to gauge what processes the Centre has put in place to ease the transition and establish authority. Candidates coming from the outside may not know the nuances of the system which can be exploited against them in any number of ways.
- The IAS establishment is likely to baulk at lateral entrants who haven’t made it through probably the hardest open competitive exam in the world, but because of privilege and social networks.
- One of the distinguishing aspects that the current crop of IAS officers can hold up is their experience in the field, serving some of the poorest districts in our hinterlands. Those entering from privileged backgrounds and the private sector may have never seen a village school.
- There are also concerns that the introduction of pro-establishment candidates through lateral entry at the position of joint secretary could stifle good civil servants who are resisting against something inadvisable that the government seeks to do.
- India’s civil services need reform. There is little argument about this. Internal reforms—such as insulation from political pressure and career paths linked to specialization—and external reforms such as lateral entry are complementary.
- Any new system will take time to evolve. So, one can only hope that those at the top see this through till it becomes efficient and transparent and ensure a way to keep the public informed about it objectively.