Lateral Entry into the Bureaucracy: The Pros & Cons




The Indian government has accelerated the lateral intake at a substantial rate. Since the decision of lateral entry, 40 professionals have been inducted through the lateral entry process, appointing 9 of them into various departments and ministries of economic affairs, financial services, commerce, cooperation & farmers welfare, etc. Earlier this month, The Union Service Public Commission (UPSC) invited fresh applications for professionals with profound talents and zeal towards nation-building. The fresh applications are for three posts of Joint Secretary and other central government departments.


What is lateral entry into the government?


In 2017, the NITI Aayog in its three-action plan submitted a draft proposal to introduce new members at the middle and senior level through lateral entry. The Sectoral group of secretaries submitted that these lateral entries would be a part of the central secretariats which consists of the bureaucrats who earlier had bureaucrats from the All-India Services.

The decision for lateral entry at the joint-secretary level is based on the recommendations of the sectoral group of secretaries (SGoS). As quoted by a senior member at the secretariat level, "it is introduced to for bringing in new ideas, new approaches to governance, and to augment the availability of the personnel at JS level and not because of any conclusion that the Indian bureaucracy is inefficient’’.


What is the reason behind introducing the lateral entry?


There are claims from the opposition that the lateral entry is a move to infuse Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) personnel into the government, but the profound reason behind the idea was to accelerate and dispense valuable talent into the government office. India has a plethora of talents and the capability to transmute the country’s developmental structure. Recruiting individuals from various spheres help in having people with judicious knowledge about the fields.


According to a survey, approximately 20% of the certified positions for the Indian Administrative Service officers have been vacant. The report by Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranks bureaucracies across Asia, where India was ranked worst. The list also included countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.


Is government consistent in making lateral entry appointments?


Recently, The Union Public Service Commission rolled out an advertisement to recruit fresh individuals for joint-secretary and director-level officers. By far, the government has recruited a minimum of nine people for the post of joint-secretary and intends to appoint 30 more like directors and joint-secretaries as of now. But the process has been counterbalanced as there is a shortage of 22.48% or 1510 officers for the IAS cadre, according to a verified source. The IAS and Indian Police Service (IPS) has a combined shortage of more than 2000 officers.


The 9 appointments made by the government in the latest recruitment include;


  1. Amber Dubey (head of aerospace and defence at KPMG), to join civil aviation.

  2. Sujit Kumar Bajpayee (working with state-run NHPC), will join the environmental ministry.

  3. Dinesh Dayanand Jagdale (CEO of Panama Renewable Energy Group), appointed to the new and renewable energy ministry.

  4. Kakoli Ghosh (Agriculture)

  5. Saurabh Mishra (Financial Services)

  6. Rajeev Saxsena (Economic Affairs)

  7. Arun Goel (Commerce)

  8. Suman Prasad Singh (Road transport), and

  9. Bhushan Kumar (Shipping)


What are the drawbacks of lateral entry?


There is a significant potency in form of professionalism in the modern bureaucracy. The substantial deterioration has reduced the professional competence of the Indian Bureaucracy. The IAS worker spends most of their vital time in policy decisions which require extensive sectoral knowledge. The cut-throat competition to grab consequential slots has resulted in deprivation of the profound character of the IAS personnel. Today, politicians are given more preferences, and this has resulted in the loss of the sanctity of the IAS significance.


The recruitment of 10 professionals is not sufficient to ameliorate the condition of the Civil Service arena. The government should promote the internal specialization by the manifesto of stable tenure in the states so that there is a choice with IAS to hone skills and expertise in their chosen sector.


The cardinal criticism of the lateral entry process is that it has not reserved the posts for the SC, STs and OBCs. There is no reservation for their appointments, and this has bought severe backlash from the political front by the politicians like Akhilesh Yadav and Tejaswi Yadav.


Renowned economists Lakshmi Iyer and Anandi Mani, after extensively analyzing the link between the bureaucrats and politicians noted in Travelling Agents: Political Change and Bureaucrat Turnover in India (The Review of Economics and Statistics, 2012); that a change in the state’s chief minister likely results in the bureaucratic reassignments to spike. The report mentioned that officers with requisite skills are less likely to be recruited to the prescribed posts than those who are less capable, but politically prosperous. Also, matching the caste identity with Chief Minster increased the chances of assignment to a significant post.


What is the relevance of Lateral Entry in other countries?


Several countries like the United States, UK, Australia and New Zealand have been optimistic advocates of the Lateral Entry system in their governance system. In the United States, it is known as the “Spoils System”, wherein the winning political parties appoint their friends and family members to principal governmental posts without any merit. Until, in 1883 after the Pendleton Act, there was civil services reformation in all governmental bodies and officials were appointed on the basis of merit. Though there is a civil reformation in the governance system, Donald Trump appointed many personal peers to important posts in the government. From Ivanka Trump (“advisor”) to Rudy Giuliani (“Legal Advisor”), Trump secured his personal character via cronyism and nepotism.


In countries like the United Kingdom and Ireland, the selection of officers is on the criteria of work experience in the civil as well as the private sector. Though there is a formalized examination in the UK, the appointment is done on a wider spectrum. The jobs in the sector are decentralized and advertised as and when there are vacancies.


Conclusion


The lateral system holds significant relevance in the Indian Governmental system as it provides incentives to IITs and IIMs graduates to be a part of the decision-making system. The move enhances the criterion selection but tends to overshadow the toil of the UPSC pursuers. It re-evaluates the idea of preparing for an exam that consumes your years towards a singular goal with no guaranteed success whereas the lateral entry helps in identifying the profound talent existing in the society.


As quoted from George Allen, Sr.: “Success is what you do with your ability. It’s how you use your talent”.



About the author: A first-year student pursuing a B.A.LL.B (Hons.) at the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Devarshi Trivedi has a keen interest in Public Policy, International Trade laws and Indian politics.