Article: Policy for Lateral Entry In Bureaucracy

UPSC-LOGO.jpg (356×272)

(UPSC) Article: Policy for Lateral Entry In Bureaucracy

Policy for Lateral Entry In Bureaucracy

What is Lateral Entry  ?

The lateral entry mode, which pertains to the appointment of specialists from private sector in government organizations , is an attempt by the government to bring in fresh talent into the bureaucracy. Lateral entry is not a new concept; it has been tried and tested in the past. But in the bureaucracy, the move to enlist experienced professionals is being seen as the latest.In the past, several eminent technocrats such as V. Krishnamurthy, Mantosh Sondhi, D.V. Kapur, M.A. Wadud Khan, and R.V. Shahi; the well-known plant scientist M.S. Swaminathan; and renowned economists such as Manmohan Singh, I.G. Patel, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Rakesh Mohan, and Vijay Kelkar had served as Secretaries in GoI.

A Good Option :

India’s current system of having generalists at all levels of government is flawed and partly responsible for poor governance. Finance, information technology, transport or human resources are subjects that require specialised knowledge. We must have also specialists when it comes to decision making in government and executing policies. Depending entirely on outside consultants is not desirable. One of the main reasons for permanent vacancies in IAS posts is that the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy has a ceiling on how many officers it can train. To overcome the academy’s limitations, lateral entry for senior positions is a good option. Recruiting domain specialists, in the 40-55 age group, will bring sharpness and expertise to the bureaucracy. 

The first batch of nine joint secretaries (selected by UPSC) , though, is too small to make any real difference. Those selected are Amber Dubey (for civil aviation), Arun Goel (commerce), Rajeev Saksena (Economic Affairs), Sujit Kumar Bajpayee (environment, forest and climate change), Saurabh Mishra (financial services) ,Dinesh Dayanand Jagdale (new and renewable energy), Suman Prasad Singh ( road transport and highways ministry), Bhushan Kumar ( Shipping)  and Kokoli Ghosh ( agriculture, cooperation and farmers welfare). The government must start with at least 100 people and then increase their strength to around 10% of the sanctioned posts. Presently, the total number of sanctioned IAS officers is 6,500.

Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) :

A report in Indian Express said that officials of  Department of Personnel & Training have been asked to prepare a proposal for inducting 400 domain experts to fill DS/Director posts. Government has been rooting for lateral entry to bridge the acute talent shortfall at the top of policy making. Officials at DoPT have also been asked to frame a process for recruitment and evaluation of private sector employees into central administration, the report added.If implemented, the proposal could take away 60 per cent of the 650 posts at the DS/Director level under the Central Staffing Scheme (CSS). These posts are currently available to officers from the three all-India services and 37 participating services such as Railways, Customs, Income Tax etc.

Selection Process :

A key concern about lateral entry is that the selection process will not be transparent. There is need to ensure the selected candidates under public scrutiny. Many of them might not have tried for the civil services in their 20s but would be happy to serve the nation after crossing 40. The government must be encouraged to tap this resource.The criterion for selection should be properly determined and experts brought in for each domain. There should be at least one interview with the shortlisted candidates that is telecast to the public. Many Opposition parties have criticised  GoI for resorting to lateral entry as a method of avoiding reservations for OBC-NCL, SC and ST. Lateral entry is also direct recruitment and so reservations will apply. As per standard DoPT norms, reservations apply to even temporary appointments if the duration of appointment is more than 45 days.

Apprehensions :

As the advertisement was issued by DoPT and not by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), it means that the lateral entrants will be selected by DoPT or the Departments concerned, and not by UPSC. This may be technically legal because the proviso to Article 320(3) of the Constitution of India enables such exceptions but, considering the importance of the post of Joint Secretary, it is not correct.The selections will carry credibility only if done by UPSC. There is a perception that such ‘extra-UPSC lateral entries’ could multiply in future and at all levels. This has caused apprehension that India’s 160-year old Merit System of recruitment is being undermined and that ‘lateral entry' is simply another name for the Spoils System. The term Spoils System refers to the practice in which a winning political party appoints its supporters to various civil posts in the government – as opposed to the Merit System in which appointments are made through a competitive examination.The Spoils System takes its name from an 1832 speech by United States Senator William L. Marcy. The U.S. woke up to its danger only when a disgruntled job seeker assassinated President James A. Garfield in 1881 for his alleged ingratitude. The assassination triggered the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Act, 1883, which replaced the Spoils System with the Merit System and a career bureaucracy.

Private sector executives in higher bureaucracy :

The U.S. is often cited as a shining example of ‘lateral entry of private sector executives into higher bureaucracy’ but it isn’t.  Peter F. Drucker noted:

“There is no reason to believe that business managers, put in control of public service institutions, would do better than the bureaucrats. Indeed, we know that they immediately become bureaucrats themselves.”  Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan had also experimented with lateral entry to senior posts from the level of Deputy Secretary to Secretary in the Central Secretariat. Bhutto’s motive was to weaken the iron grip of the civil service and to have pliant and cooperative bureaucrats. Many in Pakistan believe that the bureaucracy never recovered from this body-blow that Bhutto gave in 1972 and it has been deteriorating ever since.

Suggestions :

Moreover, at the level of Secretary, if the lateral entrant is inefficient or out of his depth, he will stand glaringly exposed and this acts as a built-in check against appointing a crony or a party loyalist as Secretary, but at the level of Joint Secretary or below, the crony or party loyalist may well carry on as a 'passenger'. So lateral entry into senior bureaucracy should be only at the level of Secretary where necessary, and not at the level of Joint Secretary or below. Lateral entry should be the rare exception and not the rule. A specialist tends to be partial to his particular field and has difficulty in seeing other persons' point of view. An intelligent, neutral, generalist administrator often does a better job of bringing different specialists together to devise a coordinated strategy that is fair to all. Winston Churchill’s dictum: "Scientists should be on tap but not on top" applies to all kinds of specialists.

(With valuable inputs from,,, and

Online Crash Course for Public Administration for UPSC Mains

Public Administration for UPSC Mains Exams Study Kit