Summary-The Hindu-Neither New Nor Undesirable

Author: D. Shyam Babu

Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has moved towards lateral entry in government service and has invited applications from “talented and motivated Indian nationals willing to contribute towards nation building” to be appointed as joint secretaries in 10 Departments/ Ministries at the Center. The lateral entry decision is based on the assumption that since our civil servants, especially those of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), are generalists and hence ill-suited to deal with policy implications of new technologies and new modes of thinking, the country is in dire need of domain experts. 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.

In the past, services of outside experts have long been availed through consultative processes by the Plannning Commission/NITI Aayog. However, there are certain problems with the current move of formal appointment of ‘domain experts’ as joint secretaries:

  1. Vague policy :- There is no clear definition of the term ‘domain expert’. domain expertise is noticeable only in a very narrow context. Moreover so, the eligibility criteria have not been clearly defined.
  2. The lateral entry policy goes counter in spirit to the governance philosophy enunciated by the Constituent Assembly, insofar as it concerns the candidates from private sector, consultancy firms, international/ multinational organisations.
  3. The policy’s aim “also to augment manpower” can only mean that the lateral entry will be as wide as regular recruitment and used as regularly. In doing so the government is turning an exception into a rule.
  4. Accountability, bureaucratic neutrality and fidelity to due process cannot be guaranteed among the groups to which the opportunity is extended.
  5.  Private sector experts who become joint secretaries on three-to-five year contracts  cannot match 15-20 years of acculturation/on-job training that regular officers receive before they become joint secretaries irrespective of whatever training or orientation that these new entrants will undergo.

Quote-worthy –

“Good intentions, unless tempered by thoughtful deliberation and preparation, do not lead to good policy outcomes.”

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