Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
As per media reports, DoPT has been asked by PMO to prepare a proposition on lateral entry in civil services that deal with economy and infrastructure sectors where private sector executives will be appointed in ranks of deputy secretary, director and joint secretary. This decision was taken in response to central government staffing policy paper where DoPT had indicated lack of officers at middle level management level.
Composition: Acc. to reports, the selection of private level individuals or social workers would be through a matrix of experience and qualifications. The existing salary of candidate will not be taken into account.
A starting estimate– 40 individuals comprising of successful entrepreneurs, academicians and social workers will be taken.
Selection: A committee headed by Cabinet Secretary will be responsible for final selection.
In the past 30-40 years, there have been few lateral entry situations and the experience has not been bad. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Vijay Kelkar, Montek Singh Ahluwalia are few examples.
With regards to senior people in services in late 1990s, out of 300 secretaries, 150 were from AIS and remaining from outside. So, lateral entry is not new to Indian governance.
The question is- if the present interest is in short of assignment of private sector into government or long term.
Why needed? Bureaucracy has faced lot of flak for its inefficiency. There is a need to change the behavioural and attitudinal part of bureaucracy.
When talked of expertise, sectors such as water, energy, environment are broad spectrum areas. So one person cannot be an expert on the entire sector. Hence, domain expertise can be taken advantage of by bringing in environmentalists into government to frame appropriate policies and take necessary actions.
The absolute peculiarity is lifetime tenure in services. It is not good for discipline, doesn’t motivate people and everybody rises with seniority. Too many secretarial positions destroy the hierarchy and hence there is now no accountability and no reporting.
Lateral entry should be limited to posts where domain experts are not available in the services itself. For example, ff it is not available in foreign services in the area of disarmament, then there should be lateral entry. Hence, there shouldn’t be one size fits all approach but case by case basis. The idea is to draw in people who have domain expertise. Even now on contract basis, outsider specialists are being engaged for advice.
India has a high corrupt system, particularly in states. So to allow private people for short term of 2-3 years where they can leave without responsibility, there cannot be any disciplinary control over them or the actions taken.
The fairness of the selection process- the process of recruitment should not be corrupt. But the way systems work in India, unfortunately, the initial wave of enthusiasm degenerates into nepotism. Chief Secretary’s post has become highly political post. If chief secretary starts selecting experts, there can be huge disasters as seen in telecom sector.
It will be difficult for the country to bring in private players for two years and then entangling in legal matters over the decisions taken by them.
In other countries
There are short term lateral entrants allowed to come and work for government and leave.
There is a culture of trust but beyond it there is a regulatory mechanism and apparatus put in place to ensure there is no misuse of role assumed when in government.
So, with adequate safeguards, lateral entry can be made possible in India.
It has revolving door system. Here, the lawmakers and the lobbyists switch jobs from time to time.
In this system, more the top position, more is the influence in the government and its policies.
The lucrative positions after government stints are arms dealer, media lobbying, pesticides and chemicals etc.
Reforming the civil services
For bureaucracy to change its system, there is a need to first bring in political reforms. Unless the politicians allow the civil servants to do their job properly, they cannot be faulted for not doing their jobs.
There is an incentive to not make any mistake but no incentive to do anything right. So there is a need to change the incentive structure for promotion. Having lateral selection after certain level of seniority within the government will allow sufficient competition in play and get good people. Those who fail to make the cut, shall retire. It is not necessary that everyone who joins the services should retire at secretarial levels. Currently, some people are being compulsorily retired after 50years when the rigorous review is taken place.
Even at state level such steps should be taken. There should be written examinations and interviews at middle level career to weed out incompetent people. Lot of administration is mainly looked at Delhi. But three fourth of the administration is based outside Delhi.
In UP in last two years, there are three changes every year in district magistrates of 4-5 months. Every districts is controlled by mafia. There is no force to settle the political situation. Thus, the focus to bring in reforms should be in a right direction. For this, ground level changes have to be made. For example, District administration is the bedrock of civil service. Instead of big districts, there should be smaller ones which are handed over to junior people. This gives time to senior administration to focus on bigger issues.
More and more departments and portfolios should be combined into one. Less of secretaries and more of experts is the requirement.
A systemic cleansing approach needs to be taken to ensure that there is improvement in bureaucracy. There need to be tenure in secretarial positions as there is a need for continuity. In SR Das report, the average tenure of the district collector is 7 months and is still a reality today. Instead there should be a commissioner in district where he is reported to. Today, nobody reports anybody. The education officer at one time reported to the collector.
UPSC has had an excellent record over years. The careers of the service officers is selected from the best in India. He has seen cross sectoral experience of 10-15 sectors. Thus he has certain advantage. The man at the top has a broad vision rather than having domain expertise. Hence, the top positions in critical areas should be reserved for within the government.
For the sectors that require more of technical and domain knowledge, lateral entry can be considered a good option. In principle it is a good idea. But the private sector should be involved only when there is a required gap to be filled. Along with recruitment, they should be also made accountable for the actions and decisions taken in capacity of a government officer. Accountability will ensure no personal gains once the position is left. Hence, Broadly, lateral entry should be favoured only if it is to stay for long term.
Lastly, political reforms are the key to system change in governance in country. They should be slowly induced with time to make bureaucracy more efficient.
Connecting the dots:
“The Committee of Secretaries have favoured lateral entry into services.” Explain in detail the meaning, impact, rational and challenges of lateral entry into civil services.
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