Burning Issues- Lateral Entry into Civil Services

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Why in News

  • Recently, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) has called for applications to fill 10 joint-secretary level posts in various departments.
  • Lateral Entry (LE) is applicable for both private sector professions and those from state governments, Union Territories, PSUs, Autonomous bodies and others.

About ‘Joint Secretaries’

As per the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT):

    • A Joint Secretary is the head of the wing under the charge of Secretary of the Ministry/ Department and he/she reports to Additional Secretary/ Secretary.
    • Joint Secretaries are at a crucial level of senior management in the Government of India. They lead policymaking as well as the implementation of various programmes and schemes of the Department.

Experiments with LE

Through the 1960s, 1970s, and 80s, much before the age of specialisation and opening up of the economy, professionals from both the private sector and state-owned companies headed departments in several ministries.

Outside advisers and consultants have been appointed at both Central and state level. But these have been at the highest levels like RBI, Niti Aayog, PSUs etc

Given the requirements of technical expertise, lateral entry has traditionally been easier in the economic ministries and in the Departments of Space, Science and Technology, Biotechnology, Electronics, etc.

Support for Civil Service Reforms

  • 1st ARC, 1965
  • Surinder Nath Committee, 2003
  • Hota Committee, 2004
  • 2nd ARC Report, 2005
  • In its 2002 report, the Civil Services Review Committee headed by Alagh, however, recommended lateral entry into other Departments as well, along the lines of countries like the US, where the administration has a mix of permanent civil servants and mid-career professionals.

Challenges / Arguments against LE

Bureaucratic resistance and institutional inertia of the civil services

  • They will not willingly cooperate with the new entrants – adversarial relations
  • They fear that their opportunities for career advancement and promotions will get hit.

Cherry-picking jobs/profile

  • lateral entrants with the right ‘connections’ may join just to enjoy the perks and privileges by cherry-picking the post

No service motive

  • the motive of lateral entrants might be to just enhance their CV

Promote private interest

  • the lateral entrants may join permanently or temporarily to simply promote vested interests of their organization/field

Political will

  • Civil service reforms will curtail the inordinate control that the politcal masters have at present.
  • To succeed, other reforms (besides lateral entry) are needed.

Relevant experience

  • The present system of ‘frequent and arbitrary transfers’ hinder gaining of the relevant experience by incumbent officers. Thus, it is unfair to brand incumbents as ‘generalists’.
  • If given a fair chance, the incumbents too, can emulate private sector expertise.

Need for LE

Inefficient civil service

  • The modern political economy demands a sleek and agile civil service (CS) machinery
  • India’s present CS architecture dates back to the Nehruvian era when the state ruled the roost

Given today’s era of withdrawal of the State, ‘outsiders’ can bring insights of possible impacts of govt policies on diverse stakeholders – the private sector, the non-government sector and the general public 

  • Best decisions can be taken based on this info

Since career IAS have experience of only govt functioning

  • Their solutions/suggestions are less effective in other sectors – the pvt and the non-govt

Erroneous decisions ⇒ litigation

  • Burdening the judiciary and blocking the administration

Flaws in the current IAS recruitment process

‘Type I’ and ‘Type II’ errors

  • Type I error ⇒ recruiting incapable candidates
  • Type II error ⇒ rejecting potential candidates

Lateral entry will give opportunity

  • for promising mid-level professionals to join the elite Service

Bureaucratic inertia

  • LE will inject new ideas, new energy, new competition and new performance standards in the IAS
  • the ‘near-automatic career progression’ will be a thing of the past

Generalists vs. specialists

  • contemporary developmental models mandate special skills for effective delivery of services

Way Forward

Recruitment process for LE

  • An institutionalised system of annual recruitment (43-46 yrs age group) should be there.
  • Paper qualifications should not be too prescriptive.
  • UPSC should handle the entire recruitment process.
  • Allocation of state cadres should be done.
  • Cutting-edge level exposure (village-level) for the first 5 yrs should be mandatory.

‘Regular entry’ IAS officers

  • Must be allowed to work in different sectors outside of the govt to understand the sectors’ needs
  • This will also help them compete on an equal footing with the lateral entrants

Top-heavy bureaucracy

  • Can be avoided by weeding out about 25% of the poorest (regular-entry) performers
  • Transparent performance appraisal (of regular entrants) after 15 yrs of selection

Comprehensive not incremental reforms

  • Are the need of the hour
  • Incremental reforms are doomed to fail

Implement the long-pending recommendations (with respect to internal and external reforms)

  • That are gathering dust in govt archives

Final Word

Do not throw the baby away with the bathwater

Young IAS (regular entry) are indispensable

  • As they bring in youthful spirit, raw enthusiasm, and unspoiled enterprise into administration

yet, LE will bring the best of both youth and experience

  • And take the system closer to the goal of “minimum government, maximum governance”


  • Critically analyze the recent govt proposal of Lateral Entry into the Civil Services.

(Post your answers and doubts in the comments section and we will try to get mentors as well as toppers to check and resolve those respectively)

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5 years ago

One of the best initiative. Plz continue it

rajiv shaw
rajiv shaw
5 years ago

here is my first answer..someone kindly review if possible –
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5 years ago

It’s a good idea to improve the governance and govt should continue. Every govt. system has pros and cons like two phase of a coin therefore we need to have a comprehensive yet effective selection procedure to reduce the cons of later entry as joint secys.
1. Domain based Experienced professional need of the hour.
2. Lateral entrants form pvt. Sector will lead to efficient work.
3. Competitive environment which would activate the lethargic bueraucrats.
4. Inclusion of new ideas and practical approach to different govt schemes .
1. Sometimes Lateral enterants might not take seriously their job due to contractual basis and might join to enhance their CV and to enjoy the service.
2. Non-cooperative attitude from fellow mates lead to in- productivity.
3. Favourtism of officers.
1. To have a transparent , unbaised and non-favouritsm selection of officers , the selection procedure should be handled solely by UPSC.
2. No poltical interference in the procedure should be maintained.
3. The entrants must have experience of 5-10 in their respective domain.
4. Appointment should be based on their domaim.


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