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Lateral Entry in Civil Services explained

Lateral Entry in Civil Services explained

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  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Administration || Personnel Administration

Why in news?

  • The government selected nine professionals, largely from the private sector, as joint secretaries in various departments, signaling in a major shift in the entry of professionals in shaping policies.

Significance

  • Globalisation has made the business of governance an increasingly complex activity, demanding specialist skills and knowledge like never before.
    • The government’s lateral entry scheme, enabling applicants in the private sector to apply for 10 joint secretary posts in different departments, is a sensible first step towards accessing a wider talent pool.
  • This direct induction of private sector experts into the ranks of the civil service, with specified posts and salary scales and perks can be considered a continuum of sorts of successive governments’ attempts to introduce external expertise in governance.
  • This latest move marks a great leap forward in the institutional outlook of the UPSC.

Challenges

  • Institutional challenges: Inducting private sector experts into line functions involves a host of institutional challenges, however.
  • Chief among them is the quality of people who are hired.
    • External experts have to meet a specified education qualification norm and those shortlisted undergo UPSC interviews before signing on. It is unclear whether this is an optimal way of inducting external experts.
  • The second challenge is how far the government can leverage their expertise.
    • Doing so requires the creation of an enabling environment for these experts to function, an exercise that will demand a high degree of cooperation from the bureaucracy.
    • This is easier said than done, not least because of the inevitable tensions between generalists and specialists.
    • Besides, career bureaucrats anywhere in the world display an instinctive tribalism that raises the bar for outsiders to function with any degree of efficiency.
    • The manner in which the IAS, for example, has pressured the government to appoint one of their own central bank governors is a case in point.
    • Those who sign up as external experts also discover that such basics as access to files and to ministerial meetings can become matters of high politics.
  • Much, therefore, depends on how far the political executive is willing to facilitate the functioning of these external experts.

Way ahead

  • Having broken through the glass ceiling of the civil services, it would also make sense for the government to widen the ambit of its search for regulatory heads.
    • At present, with the exception of the Reserve Bank of India for a brief period, the selection of sectoral regulators or tribunal heads appears to be earmarked for retired bureaucrats and public sector company chiefs.
    • There is no logic for the government to circumscribe itself in this manner.
  • There is a wealth of talent in the Indian private sector and the diaspora that the government could access to improve the quality of policy decision-making.
  • In the larger context, therefore, lateral entries into the civil service would be a good test case.

Additional info

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)

  • The Union Public Service Commission is India’s premier central recruiting agency.
    • It is responsible for appointments to and examinations for All India services and Group A & Group B of Central services.
    • While Department of Personnel and Training is the central personnel agency in India.
  • The commission is mandated by the Constitution for appointments to the services of the Union and All India Services.
    • It is also required to be consulted by the Government in matters relating to the appointment, transfer, promotion and disciplinary matters.
    • The commission reports directly to the President and can advise the Government through him. Although, such advice is not binding on the Government.
    • Being a constitutional authority, UPSC is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country’s higher judiciary and lately the Election Commission.
  • Established on 1 October 1926 as Public Service Commission, it was later reconstituted as Federal Public Service Commission by the Government of India Act, 1935; only to be renamed as today’s Union Public Service Commission after the independence.

Mains question

  • The lateral entry scheme, if implemented properly, may foster more competitive spirit, break the complacency of the higher civil servants and eventually prove to be a pioneering initiative in public interest. Critically analyze.