Changes required in Lateral Entry Process – UPSC GS2

Why Lateral Entry is being promoted?
  • 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, the government has been encouraging lateral entry at middle and senior positions.
  • Eight professionals were recruited for joint secretary-level positions in various ministries.
  • UPSC has also advertised some other positions at the joint secretary and director-level.
  • However, the lateral entry policy lacks on multiple fronts that might reduce the efficacy of a lateral entrant.
Issues with Lateral Entry Process:
  • Age Ceiling:
    • The age of the lateral entrant is capped as per the seniority rule. For instance, an IAS officer becomes a joint secretary at 45 years of age, so a lateral entrant below 45 years is not allowed.
    • This discourages the attraction of the best talent. At this age, a person can reach top positions in the private sector (CEO, CFO, etc.) and would be unwilling to join the government sector.
  • Portfolio Assignment:
    • Providing an unimportant portfolio discourages the work potential and urges him/her to resign.
    • It is alleged that one lateral entrant amongst the eight appointed joint secretaries had resigned due to this.
  • Control over decision-making: The small number of lateral entrants can’t disregard the decision of permanent bureaucracy who easily outnumber them. This 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 are 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 must be given to better assimilate with the permanent bureaucracy.
  • The age ceiling for joint secretary-level can be relaxed to 35 years. Similar relaxation should be done at other levels for attracting 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 behaviour of senior bureaucrats towards lateral entrants. The first step could be a reconsideration of the seniority principle that allows promotion solely on seniority

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