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Recent Civil Service Reform – An analysis

Context

RecentlyDoPT announced lateral entry for 10 identified posts on contract at the level of joint secretary.

Civil service reform

Civil service reforms aim at strengthening administrative capacity to perform core government functions and to raise the quality of service to population.

Many experts are of the opinion that the bureaucratic system in India has not evolved according to the changing nature of administrative challenges and a growing economy where the activity is shifting towards the private sector. This enhance the need of civil Service reform.

NITI Aayog suggestions

NITI Aayog in its Three Year Action agenda (2017-18 to 2019-20) suggests these reforms

  • Institutionalize goal setting and tracking for each department: Each Ministry and government agency should set outcome-based goals with a clear timeline.
  • Longer tenure of Secretaries: Currently, by the time an officer is promoted from Additional Secretary to Secretary, usually she has two years or less left before retirement therefore officer hesitates to take decisions on any major project. This causes inordinate amount of delay in decision-making. One possible solution to this problem is early promotion to the Secretary position.
  • Increase specialization and induct lateral entry: Officers may be encouraged to gain expertise in specific areas in the early stages of careers and the current system of rapid rotation of officers across ministries may be replaced by a system of longer postings according to specialization.
  • Implement an HR system for government employees: It should be implemented through a unified single online platform that covers employees from the time they are hired to when they leave service. It could also facilitate Massively Open Online Course style capacity building for government employees.
  • E-governance and paperless governance: This would permit increased efficiency, better tracking of progress on files and improved interface with citizens.
  • Outsource service delivery: This would reduce dependence on government administrative machinery. Identification of such services should be taken up and PPP models to provide those services should be explored.

Recent development about civil service reform

Recently central government has taken two major steps in civil service reform

  1. Proposed change in the service allocation and cadre allocation to successful candidates of the Civil Services Examination.
  2. The DoPT has come up with an advertisement of lateral entry of ‘talented and motivated Indian nationals’ to join the government at the level of joint secretary.

Proposed change in cadre/service allocation

  • The proposed cadre policy states that after the foundation course, the cadre allocation and the service allocation may be decided.
  • Presently, the service allocation is done right in the beginning when the candidates get selected after the UPSC examination and the cadre allocation is done based on a certain principle laid down by the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) from time to time.

Pros

  • Cadres in each state represent a mix of the country and it promotes an effective and efficient civil service.
  • To make the newly inducted officer-trainees more serious during the foundation course.
  • To better judge the aptitude of trainee officers towards respective services.
  • Candidates who feels their total score after the interview process is not up to the mark can use this opportunity to boost their overall score

Cons

  • This undermine the mandate of a constitutional body (UPSC)
    • by reducing the importance of an examination system, are we giving rise to the idea of a committed bureaucracy
  • Undermine the independence of civil service
  • Possible biasness on basis of religion, caste, creed, nativity, etc
  • Nepotism
  • Reducing the element of choice that an aspirant has under the current system.
    • The individual choice of a candidate would be undermined by a fifteen-week foundation course.
  • It would be difficult to judge such a large number of trainee at one place and may reduce transparency.
    • LABSNAA has very limited space to accommodate such a large number of people.
  • This would seriously impact the people from Hindi background or people from marginalized section.
    • As the whole course structure of 15-week foundation program is in English medium only
  • There is possibility of toxicity and suspicion among the trainees due to utter competition.

Lateral entry

  • Recently DoPT announced lateral entry for 10 identified posts on contract at the level of joint secretary.
  • Lateral entry refers to a mode of entering/joining an organization by-passing its regular mode at a higher level in its hierarchical structure.
  • A Joint Secretary is the head of the wing under the charge of Secretary of the Ministry/ Department and he/she reports to Additional Secretary/ Secretary. Joint Secretaries are at a crucial level of senior management in the Government of India. They lead policymaking as well as the implementation of various programmes and schemes of the Department
  • The idea of lateral entry in civil services is not new. It was recommended by both ARC report as well as NITI Aayog.
  • The 2nd ARC had recommended that a Central Civil Services authority be setup and lateral entry be extended to certain positions at the level of Additional Secretary & above.
  • People like Vijay Kelkar, Dr. Manmohan Singh and Montek S. Ahluwalia were lateral entrants who did great work in their respective fields.

Pros

  • Solve the problem of shortage of staff
  • Baswan committee recommended for lateral entry to overcome shortfall of 20% cadre officers
  • Solve the problem of lack of expertise
  • Targeted approach in solving problem
  • More competition will help in changing attitude of government officers.
  • Inclusion of academicians, social workers in policy making would result into more inclusive policy framing.
  • Helps to break nexus between politician and bureaucrats

Cons

  • It may be used to create committed bureaucracy who will support the government in key positions.
  • Lateral entrants may have to struggle to fit into ‘the system’ and understand the process and dynamics of government decision making.
  • There may be non-cooperation from existing bureaucrats
  • Gaps in policy making and implementations
  • Accountability of lateral entrant. There is no clarity about disciplinary framework also.
  • There is no clarity regarding SC/ST and OBC quota in case of lateral entrants
  • This move may deter the best talent that come for civil services
  • There is apprehension that new entrants cannot match decades of acculturation/on job training that regular officers go through.
  • The new system is open to three groups: 1) officers of State governments; 2) employees of public sector undertakings and assorted research bodies; and 3) individuals in the private sector, MNCs, etc. Among the three groups, any metric of accountability, bureaucratic neutrality and fidelity to due process gets progressively worse from group 1 to 3. (according to D. shyam babu article in the Hindu)
  • The lateral entry policy goes against the philosophy of Constituent Assembly which was against the candidates from private sector, consultancy firms, international/ multinational organisations (MNCs) in bureaucracy.

Way forward

There is a need to have a proactive, transparent, responsive, accountable, sustainable and efficient administration at all levels of the government.

  • 10th report of the 2ndARC suggests that at the time of training, those with some aptitude for specialized positions can be trained in that line.
  • Refresher training at periodic interval
    • Formulation of nation policy on civil service training
  • The government should formulate a proper policy before bringing reforms like lateral entry to bring objectivity in decision making.
  • Adoption of modern management techniques forCreation of new work culture and encouraging creativity.
  • Steps should be taken to secure honest, impartial and efficient administration
  • Government should ensure that candidate from marginalized section of society is not penalized.
  • Mechanism should be developed to improve accountability.
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