Lateral Entry in Civil Services

Lateral Entry in Civil Services

This topic remains in news . Eg : In 2019 , UPSC has selected 9 professionals to work in the capacity of joint secretaries in the Government of India.  

Lateral Entry means people from outside the organization are also considered for recruitment at middle & higher level.

Why Lateral Entry?

  • Specialized knowledge , new Ideas, fresh energy, good practices and Innovative work culture comes in from diverse fields to insular bureaucracy
  • Induce competitiveness – Now Civil Servants have to compete with others too to reach at the top.  Lethargic attitude will diminish. So the prospects of lateral entry will always propel overall efficiency.
  • International Examples : Australia, Belgium, New Zealand,  UK,  Netherlands and  US follow this system successfully.
  • There have been government commissions and reports advocating the lateral entry of specialists.  6th Pay Commission, 7th Pay Commission, Niti Ayog  and Second ARC & Hota Committee (2004)  were unanimous on lateral entry.
  • Deficit of Middle Level OfficersBaswan Committee (2016)  noticed overall 20% shortfall of IAS cadre officers and states are unwilling to send their officers on deputation to Central Government.  Lateral Entry can help in addressing this issue
  • Competitive federalism requires state and union to hire persons with specialized skills and knowledge for informed policy making
  • IAS officers get recruited at very young age when it is difficult to test potential administrative and judgement capabilities making it prone to both type I and type II errors ie some who are potentially good administrators fail to make it, and some who do make it, fall short of the requirements. Mid-career lateral entrants with proven capabilities will help bridge this deficiency.

With governance becoming increasingly complex, experts need to be at the forefront . Present Bureaucracy is seen as a monolith with no scope for improvement, self-serving & obstructionist license-quota Raj vestige. It is an argument well-known to students of public administration that Weberian bureaucracy is status-quoist, and is not fit to administer a chaotic, rapidly growing country . Hence, Lateral Entry can provide new lease of life to bureaucracy.

Current State Of Lateral Entry?

  • It  has been done but at a limited scale and at very high level.
  • Few examples are RBI  Governor & NITI Aayog Vice president
  • The idea of inducting exceptional talent from outside is not entirely new. K.R. Narayanan, India’s 10th President, joined the Indian Foreign Service at the behest of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, apparently without appearing for the qualifying examinations. He was strongly recommended by the renowned political theorist Harold J. Laski. Some recent examples include the appointment of Nandan Nilekani (Chairman of UIDAI), Montek Ahluwalia (Planning Commission) , Raghuram Rajan (Governor of the Reserve Bank of India) and various other experts in the Niti Aayog and other government bodies. 

Challenges For Lateral Entry?

  • Dangers for creation of Spoil System (Politically motivated selection)
  • Opposition from Civil Servants whose chances of promotion are reduced.
  • Short term lateral entrants can misuse their office when they occupy that post and later can misuse the insider information putting national security at risk.
  • Best talent can be attracted in civil services only if there is reasonable assurance of reaching top level managerial positions
  • Width and depth of field experience which the civil services provide is simply not available with outside talent
  • Civil services administrative framework has integrated the diverse country into a coherent whole. Therefore, we should not tamper with the framework
  • Lateral entry does open the risk and prospect of powerful corporate groups placing their men in key positions of government.
  • Issue of reservation : There are no provisions regarding Reservation in 10 Joint Secy Level posts (2018)

How it should be handled?

  • Transparency and accountability are two important factors that should not be underplayed in hiring lateral entrants. Discretion on lateral entry may pave the way to charges of being “politically motivated”, which may degrade the system.
  • A credible agency like the UPSC should be entrusted with the responsibility of recruitment. This would help avoid many pitfalls associated with general lateral entry.
  • For this, the ARC recommended the establishment of a Central Civil Services Board to deal with issues concerning lateral entries. But the body, which would have ensured a robust and accountable system of lateral entry, is yet to come into existence.

1 thought on “Lateral Entry in Civil Services”

  1. The civil service can have a probationary period of 5 years during which they can be observed and reassessed later on their work during probation period. During this period they can be deployed to dedicated area of professional expertise. After deployment they can be given training as per the needs and this skill and knowledge acquisition should be continuous. If at all there are proven not upto the standard they can also be released or offered lower level cases as the case maybe. The reassessment body should be a body shorn of any political slant, including acclaimed academics, industry representatives, professional experts, judiciary and representatives of common society. This body can be under UPSC and constituted and reconstituted continuously, Parameters for assessment should administration capability, integrity, specialized fields knowledge, jurisprudence functioning and knowledge of the societies needs, it’s character and composition.


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