Critically analyse the recent government proposal of Lateral Entry into the Civil Services. (150 W/ 10 M)

Mentor’s Comment:

The question can be important for mains as the decision has been implemented and may ask for analytical view or criticisms.

The introduction should mention about Government’s decision of lateral entry in general way that is in both sectors public and private.

Further, the question demands pros and cons of lateral entry and expects us to express in recent context. In pros we need to analyze the recommendation of various committees, past experiences, present requirements etc. In cons we need to present points like lackness in ground realities, experiences etc.

Since the question asks criticisms, we need to examine methodically the structure or nature of the issue by mentioning the points in separate headings and bring our analysis in common summary. Here we need to analyze whether the decision is in right direction or not.

Next, the conclusion should be a balance one with a fair judgement based on the points mentioned in analytical part. We can mention way forward also as in form of conclusion.

Model Answer:

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.

Arguments in Favour of Lateral entry:

  1. Increase competition: The assurance of a secure career in civil services has discouraged initiative by reducing competition in the higher echelons of government. The entry at lateral level would keep the competition alive.
  2. Bring new ideas: The quasi-monopolistic hold of the career civil services on senior management position breeds complacency, inhibits innovative thinking and prevents the inflow of new ideas from outside government. Lateral entry would help to bring in new ideas from those in private sector.
  3. Solve deficit of officers: The Baswan Committee has pointed out the huge deficit of officers. Many other reports have shown deficiencies at higher levels in governments. It is important to bring in new people. Here lateral entry would be of help.
  4. Bring expertise: IAS officers get recruited at a very young age when it is difficult to test potential administrative and judgement capabilities. Mid-career lateral entrants with proven capabilities will help bridge this deficiency.
  5. The career progression in the IAS is almost automatic. Notwithstanding sporadic efforts to introduce meritocracy, very few get weeded out for poor performance. Lateral entry is necessary to push the IAS out of their comfort zone and challenge them.

Arguments against lateral entry:

  1. 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.
  2. Cherry-picking jobs/profile: lateral entrants with the right ‘connections’ may join just to enjoy the perks and privileges by cherry-picking the post.
  3. No service motive: the motive of lateral entrants might be to just enhance their CV.
  4. Promote private interest: the lateral entrants may join permanently or temporarily to simply promote vested interests of their organization/field.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. What will happen to Reservation: Many activists believe that the lateral entry will disband the reservation policy since the government does not offer a quota in contractual appointments.

Way Forward:

While Lateral entry is a need of hour to bring expertise into higher echo leans of power, however certain safeguards are required to ensure that this novel idea is not misused, These safeguards include 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.