Lateral Entry in Bureaucracy

Lateral Entry in Bureaucracy
The term 'Civil Service' refers to the administrative machinery of the state which is responsible for implementing policies made by the political executive, which constitutes of the elected representatives in a democracy. The Indian state had some form of civil service since the ancient past. Mauryan Empire had a centralized bureaucracy that was responsible for tax administration, as mentioned in Kautilya's Arthashastra. Such governing machinery existed under the Gupta period as well. The Mughals had created an elaborate bureaucracy known as the Mansabdari system which ranked officers based on the number of troops they commanded. Until the rule of East India Company, there was no clear demarcation between civilian officials and military officials. Also, payment of salaries to these officials varied from cash payments to in-kind payments such as land grants. The British had systematized civil services in India by distinguishing it from the military services, creating a hierarchy of officials who are paid out of public revenues. The need for the civil service was felt soon after the Company acquired territories after the Battles of Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764). Warren Hastings, the then Governor-General of Bengal had created the post of District Collector who was made in-charge of collecting land revenue. This post was soon abolished on grounds of excessive concentration of powers and corruption. Lord Cornwallis is usually known as the Father of civil services in India. He had introduced the Covenanted Civil Services and the Uncovenanted Civil Services. Gradually under various Charter Acts and on the recommendations of the Aitchison Committee, Indian Civil Service (ICS) reformed to a very powerful institution and came to be regarded as the steel frame of British rule in India. Post-independence, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was among the top nationalist leaders who had argued for the continuation of the civil services because he had believed that an organized bureaucracy was essential to ensure the unity and integrity of the newly independent India. Civil servants enter public service as generalists and have grass root realities. Of late there has been a need to have expert advice and opinion for efficient administration and fulfilling the aspirations of people. Lateral entry into finance ministry has produced illustrious public servants like Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and Vijay Kelkar. It is argued that they’ll bring in a vast number of fresh and vibrant ideas. Outside talent from the private sector is more likely to be target-oriented, which will improve the performance of the government. When civil servants are made to compete with outside talent, the lethargic attitude will diminish and induce competition within the system. More competition will encourage civil servants to develop expertise. NITI Ayog’s experience with lateral entry has been extremely good. There is an overall 20% shortfall of IAS cadre officers alone in 24 state cadres. The Baswan Committee (2016) has shown how large states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan have a deficit of 75 to over 100 officers and their unwillingness to sponsor officers to go to the Centre on deputation is understandable. Lateral induction is, therefore, a small step towards essential housekeeping in central government staffing and ought to be supported. The conventional wisdom on lateral entry is that it infuses fresh energy and thinking into an insular, complacent and often archaic bureaucracy. It enables the entry of right-minded professionals and the adoption of best practices for improving governance. The proposal for lateral entry at senior decision-making levels, besides increasing the disconnect between policymaking and implementation, will also result in inequitable sharing of the benefits and burdens of government service, with permanent civil servants left to bear the burden of “humble” implementation and lateral entrants getting access to “glamorous” policymaking positions, without having roughed it out in remote and rural India in the rough and tumble of Indian democracy. While there would certainly be a beeline for lateral entrants to join top policymaking positions, there would be no such great desire to serve the country at the ground level. Large-scale lateral induction would, in fact, amount to a vote of no-confidence in the government personnel management system, rather than in the highly dedicated, motivated and talented officers who have chosen to join the civil services. Lateral entry shouldn’t lead to the politicization of bureaucracy. The government must also allow the deputation of its officers to the private sector as well so that they get exposure to market practices and fresh ideas. The government can consider lateral entry to head certain mission-mode projects and public-sector entities where private-sector expertise actually matters. The process of selection needs to be transparent. A credible statutory agency like UPSC should be entrusted with the responsibility of recruitment. Any failure in this matter is primarily a failure of the system to identify and nurture talent at the appropriate stage. For this, the remedy lies not through lateral induction but through more rigorous performance appraisal and improved personnel management. All this, coupled with competition among both serving bureaucrats and market participants, would help avoid many of the aforementioned pitfalls associated with the general lateral entry. Further, this would be in line with the lateral entry strategy adopted by more developed parliamentary democracies like the UK. Such an approach would have to be complemented with liberalized norms that allow civil servants to work outside government — with multilateral agencies, nonprofits, and corporations -for short periods. By enabling exposure to market practices and fresh ideas, this, as much as infusing outside talent into government, is likely to help achieve the objectives of the lateral entry itself. India’s civil services need reform. There is little argument about this. Internal reforms-such as insulation from political pressure and career paths linked to specialization-and external reforms such as lateral entry are complementary, addressing the same deficiencies from different angles. Thus, a lateral entry cannot be a panacea for everything. It has been an exception in the Indian civil service system and should continue to be so. Lateral Entry as perceived should be like an alien invasion but it should not disturb the sanctity of the planet of civil services.
References:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Administrative_Service https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/retired-ias-officer-moves-sc-against-lateral-entry-at-joint-secy-level/624290.html https://www.thehindu.com/thread/politics-and-policy/lateral-entry-into-senior-bureaucracy-opening-the-flood-gates-for-a-spoils-system/article24201356.ece https://indianexpress.com/article/india/no-adverse-effect-on-bureaucracy-from-lateral-entry-persons-were-appointed-earlier-too-govt-5275878/ https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/committed-bureaucracy-fear-in-lateral-entry/cid/1347937www.upsc.gov.in http://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/coop/16.pdf

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