Department of Personnel and Training has been asked to prepare a proposition on lateral entry into IAS dealing with sectors related to economy and infrastructure.
Newly independent India had pressing concerns about the socioeconomic development and the demand for central planning as well as the imperative of holding a new nation together. Thus at that time, the civil services were seen as a tool for achieving these objectives. But seven decades later those dynamics have changed. A judicious combination of domain knowledge and relevant expertise is a critical requirement in governance today. It is often felt that these attributes are not present in a cadre of ‘Generalists’.
Moreover, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) also envisaged a shift from ‘career’ based approach to a ‘position’ based approach at the top tier of Government. Also given sheer enormity of several government projects, good managerial talent is of paramount importance.
Large-scale lateral induction would amount to vote of ‘no confidence’ in the government personnel management system. It is also not clear that how entrants would be more performance oriented with less process compliance than the civil services, considering the process compliance is a prerequisite. The direct and lateral entry at the senior decision-making levels will increase the disconnect between policy-making and implementation.
Also, the best talent in Civil Services could only be attracted if there is a reasonable assurance of reaching to the top level managerial posts. Lastly, lateral entries could open gates for people with high political approach and mala fide intentions, which will eventually drive talented, deserving and bona fide candidates away from this career.
The First Administrative Reforms Commission pointed out the need for specialization as far back as in 1965. The ‘Surinder Nath Committee’ and the ‘Hota Committee’ followed suit in 2003 and 2004 respectively. In 2005, the Second ARC recommended an institutionalized and transparent process for lateral entry at both central and state level. But internal resistance, ;lack of political and administrative will and the sheer institutional inertia of civil services that have existed and largely unchanged for decades prevented the process.
While the generalists have an array of exposure and experience of public dealing as erstwhile policy implementers and thus have an intricate knowledge of public perception that comes handy in policymaking. The incumbent policymakers were once the then implementers, it is rather assumed that they have much better sense of different government schemes and programs than the lateral entrants. Further, the generalists can act as better coordinators between policy makers and implementers. Considering the fact that the ‘Specialists’ (lateral entrants) have a deep and intricate knowledge about their particular domains, their minds are stuck in conventional inertia, while the generalists have the ability to take up any domain with an open mind and a fresh outlook, making them think ‘out of the box’.
Hence, there is a dire need to synergize the experience, administrative skills and innovative approach of Generalists with the domain knowledge of the specialists to create a win-win situation for all.
Shivang Shukla (BA LLB Hons)
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