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Flaws in design of lateral entry policy

Synopsis: The government has approved the policy of lateral entry in civil services. However, it has some flaws over entry requirements, job assignments, number of personnel, and training. This calls for reforming the policy for lateral entrants.

Background:
  • The government has often complained about the problems associated with the permanent structure of bureaucracy. Recently, the PM talked about the overreach of the elite IAS cadre.
  • Realising this, lateral entry is encouraged by the government at middle and senior positions.
    • In various ministries, there was recruitment of eight professionals for joint secretary-level positions. 
    • UPSC has also advertised some other positions at the joint secretary and director-level.
  • However, the lateral entry policy lacks on multiple fronts. This might reduce the efficacy of a lateral entrant.
Issues with Lateral Entry :
  • Age Ceiling: The seniority rule decides the age of the lateral entrant. For instance, an IAS officer becomes a joint secretary at 45 years of age, so a lateral entry below 45 years is not allowed.
    • It discourages the attraction of the best talent. At this age, a person can reach top positions in the private sector (CEO, CFO, etc.).  And they would also be unwilling to join the government sector.
  • Portfolio Assignment: There is no provision to restrict lateral entrants to important portfolios. Providing an unimportant portfolio discourages the work potential and urges him/her to resign.
    • It is alleged that one lateral entry amongst the eight appointed joint secretaries had resigned due to this.
  • Control over decision-making: The small number of lateral entrants can’t disregard decisions of permanent bureaucracy who easily outnumber them. It hinders their work.
  • Training: The current policy doesn’t provide sufficient training to lateral entrants for understanding and working with the “permanent” establishment. By the time networks get built, it is time to move on.
Way Forward:
  • The government should appoint more lateral entrants at all levels in ministries to enhance their decision-making. 
  • Further, sufficient tenure and training are a must to better assimilate with the permanent bureaucracy.
    • A recent lateral entrant like Parameswaran Iyer succeeded because he was a former IAS officer who understood the system well.
  • The age ceiling for joint secretary-level should relax to 35 years. Likewise, similar relaxation should take place at other levels to attract the best talents. 
    • This was seen in the case of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Bimal Jalan, and Vijay Kelkar. They were joint secretaries in their mid-30s and secretaries by their late 40s or by 50.
  • The government can also reform the permanent system in order to reduce the unwelcoming behavior of senior bureaucrats towards the lateral entry. 
    • The first step could be a reconsideration of the seniority principle that allows promotion solely on seniority.

Source: Indian express  

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