Civil Services Reforms

Changes needed in lateral entry requirements


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Making lateral entry a success

It has been a while since the government introduced the provision of lateral entry into civil services. This article suggests the changes that need to be made in the system to attract the best talent and facilitating their success.

Administrative reforms in India

  • The lack of administrative reform in India has frustrated many stakeholders for a long time.
  • One of the key focus areas of such reform is enabling lateral entry into an otherwise permanent system of administrators.
  • Eight professionals were recruited for joint secretary-level positions in various ministries.
  • Some other positions at the joint secretary and director-level have been advertised.

Changes needed

1) Entry requirements need to be relaxed

  • In the permanent system, IAS officers get promoted to joint secretary level after 17 years of service and remain at that level for ten years.
  • If similar experience requirements are used for lateral entry, it is unlikely that the best will join because in the private sector they rise to the top of their profession at that age.
  •  To attract the best talent from outside at the joint secretary level, entry requirements need to be relaxed so that persons of 35 years of age are eligible.

2) Facilitating lateral entrants for success

  • There are many dimensions to this. For a start, there are several joint secretaries in each ministry who handle different portfolios.
  • If assigned to an unimportant portfolio, the chances of not making a mark are high.
  • A cursory look at the portfolios of the eight laterally-hired joint secretaries doesn’t suggest that they hold critical portfolios.
  • There must also be clarity in what precisely is the mandate for the lateral entrant.
  • To be disrupters, lateral entrants need to be able to stamp their authority on decision making.
  •  For this to happen, there need to be more lateral entrants at all levels in ministries.
  • In the functioning of government, there is a long chain in decision-making and a minority of one cannot override it.
  • Also, it requires an understanding of the system and an ability to work with the “permanent” establishment.
  • No training or orientation is provided for this.

Consider the question “What are the advantages of lateral entry in the civil services? What are the challenges in the success of lateral entrants? Suggest the measures to improve it.”


Lateral entry, like competition in any sphere, is a good thing. But serious thinking is required on entry requirements, job assignments, number of personnel and training to make it a force for positive change. Some reform of the “permanent” system — particularly its seniority principle — may be a prerequisite.

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