Civil Services Reforms

‘Lateral Entry’ into Bureaucracy: Reason, Process, and Controversy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Lateral entry

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in the Indian Express.


  • Earlier this month, the UPSC issued an advertisement seeking applications for the posts of Joint Secretary and Director in central government Departments.
  • These individuals, who would make a “lateral entry” into the government secretariat, would be contracted for three to five years.
  • These posts were “unreserved”, meaning were no quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs.

UPSC begins lateral entry

  • The new ad is for the second round of such recruitments.
  • Earlier, the government had decided to appoint experts from outside the government to positions of Joint Secretary in different Ministries/Departments and at the level of Deputy Secretary/Director in 2018.

Q.In light of the growing need for Lateral Entry in top secretarial posts, discuss the need for enhancing the professional competence of Civil Servants in India.(150W)

What is ‘Lateral Entry’ into government?

  • NITI Aayog, in 2017 had recommended the induction of personnel at middle and senior management levels in the central government.
  • These ‘lateral entrants’ would be part of the central secretariat which in the normal course has only career bureaucrats from the All India Services/ Central Civil Services.

What are the ranks invited for this entry?

  • A Joint Secretary, appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), has the third-highest rank (after Secretary and Additional Secretary) in a Department.
  • It functions as the administrative head of a wing in the Department.
  • Directors are a rank below that of Joint Secretary.

What is the government’s reasoning for lateral entry?

  • Lateral recruitment is aimed at achieving the twin objectives of bringing in fresh talent as well as augments the availability of manpower.
  • Government has, from time to time, appointed some prominent persons for specific assignments in government, keeping in view their specialised knowledge and expertise in the domain area.
  • Indeed, the first ARC had pointed out the need for specialization as far back as 1965.
  • The Surinder Nath Committee and the Hota Committee followed suit in 2003 and 2004, respectively, as did the second ARC.
  • In 2005, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended an institutionalized, transparent process for lateral entry at both the Central and state levels.

Why is lateral entry sometimes criticised?

  • Groups representing SCs, STs and OBCs have protested the fact that there is no reservation in these appointments.
  • Some argue that the government is opening back doors to bring its own lobby openly.

Mentor’s comment: Why is lateral entry necessary?

For the sake of political economy

  • Pushback from bureaucrats, serving and retired, and the sheer institutional inertia of civil services has existed largely unchanged for decades have prevented progress.
  • The importance of economic effectiveness has risen concurrently.
  • That stagnation means the civil services as they exist today—most crucially, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS)—are unsuited to the country’s political economy in many ways.
  • The need for having bureaucrats act as binding agents, no longer exist.
  • Others, such as socioeconomic development, have transmuted to the point where the state’s methods of addressing them are coming in for a rethink.


  • Pushback is inevitable since every smallest policy change is resisted in our country.
  • It is both a workaround for the civil services’ structural failings and an antidote to the complacency that can set in a career-based service.
  • The second ARC report points out that it is both possible and desirable to incorporate elements of a position-based system where lateral entry and specialization are common.

Way forward

  • India’s civil services need reform. There is little argument about this.
  • These are not entirely new in India.
  • Domain experts have been brought in from outside the services to head various committees, advisory bodies and organizations.
  • Internal reforms—such as insulation from political pressure and career paths linked to specialization—and external reforms such as lateral entry are complementary.

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