Lateral Entry

Mains Marks Booster     1st August 2023        
Samadhaan

Lateral entry in India involves hiring non-civil servants for high government positions. It adds topic expertise, varied perspectives, and specialized talents to the bureaucracy. 

Present Status:

  • Lateral entrants were recruited in two tranches: eight joint secretaries (JS) in 2019 and 30 officers (3 JS, 18 directors and 9 deputy secretaries) in 2022. 
    • All of them are on three years’ contract, which can be extended for two more years, with pay and perks being the same as their peers in permanent bureaucracy.

Need for lateral entry:

Need for lateral entry:

  • Expertise and Specialized Skills: Lateral entry recruits’ experts with specialised knowledge and skills not widely available in the public service. This can help the government solve difficult problems and control specialised regions. 
  • Lateral entrants can bring new ideas, perspectives, and problem-solving methods. 
    • Nandan Nilekani, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Vijay Kelkar, Arvind Subramanian, and Raghuram Rajan are outsiders who run committees and organisations.
  • Efficiency and Effectiveness: Lateral entry can streamline operations, use technology, and bring best practises from other sectors to government.
    • RV Shahi, the Union power secretary from 2002 to 2007, also came from the private sector.
  • Fill the officer vacancy gap: roughly 1,500 IAS officers are needed (Ministry of Personnel Data)—Baswan Committee (2016) recommended lateral entry. 
  • Bridging the Talent Gap

Challenges for Lateral entrants:

  • Difficulty adapting to the hierarchical work culture, which includes how individuals interact, how fast they work, how well they know the regulations, and how punctual they are.
    • Because they won't have a fair shot at top management, current authorities may lose motivation.
  • Short tenure: Given their short tenures of 3 to 5 years, it is difficult to preserve transparency and accountability for private people' judgements.
  • Lack of field experience: Entry-level officers may have domain knowledge but no field experience.
  • Representation of society: Reservations for Lateral Entry recruiting are unknown.
  • Transparency in recruitment: Discretion on lateral entry might be accused of being "politically motivated," undermining the system.
  • May encounter bureaucratic opposition
    • Lack of cooperation: existing officials may be unwilling to collaborate with outsiders, resulting in inevitable confrontations between generalists and specialists.

Arguments against lateral entry:

  • Field Experience: The civil service has more field experience than external talent. 
  • Issue with implementation: Career civil employees are better at connecting policy making and ground level execution than external talent. 
  • History of Failures: Even domain specialists fail sometimes. Example: Air India. 
  • Non-conducive atmosphere: The enabling atmosphere has a huge impact on efficiency, and even the finest managers can't create outcomes in a lousy operating environment like red tape.
  • Motivated interest: People have varied interests and motives. Thus, short-term lateral entry of officials can lead to unethical practises.
  • Internal conflict: A large-scale lateral induction will result in a vote of no confidence in the government personnel management system.
  • Undermines civil servants' role: Civil servants are institutionalised and efficient. They'll be demoralised by lateral entry. 
  • All of the recruits are not joining: Nine joint secretaries were chosen in 2019, eight of whom joined. One director-level inductee did not join the civil aviation ministry in the second round.

Way forward

  • Strengthening the recruitment process: Instead of lateral entry, focus on strengthening the recruitment process. Transparency, efficiency, and merit-based examination of candidates' knowledge, skills, and competencies might improve it.
  • Training and capacity building: Instead of depending on lateral entry to bring in specific expertise, investing in comprehensive training and capacity-building programmes can help existing civil servants expand their skills and knowledge. 
  • Facilitating internal mobility and career progression: Job rotations, secondments, and cross-training allow this. 
    • A career advancement framework with clear promotion standards might also encourage civil servants to specialise in their specialties.
  • Collaboration and partnerships: Instead of relying entirely on the civil service's experience, external organisations can bring in specialised knowledge and skills. 
  • Leveraging technology and innovation: Technology and innovation can boost civil service efficiency. 
    • Digital transformation, data analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence can improve service delivery, expedite operations, and boost public servants' skills.

Conclusion

  • While there are challenges associated with lateral entry, a well-designed and carefully implemented approach can harness the potential benefits and contribute to more effective governance and public service delivery in India.
Samadhaan