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State PCS

Mains Marathon

  • 09 Aug 2022 GS Paper 2 Polity & Governance

    Day 30: “The Lateral System came into being to check the shortage of officers and to ensure administrative efficiency.” In this context, analyse the efficacy of the lateral system. (250 words)

    Approach
    • Start Your answer by giving an overview of Lateral entry.
    • Discuss the advantages of Lateral entry.
    • Discuss the demerits of Lateral entry.
    • Conclude your answer by giving a way forward.

    Answer

    The term lateral entry relates to the appointment of specialists, mainly those from the private sector, in government organisations.

    Advantages of Lateral Entry

    • Need for Specialized Knowledge: Governance is becoming more and more complex requiring specialized skills. For example, increasing penetration of data dominance in our lives.
    • Filling The Gap: According to Department of Personnel and Training data, there is a shortage of about 1500 IAS officers. Lateral entry can help bridge this deficit.
    • Bringing a Change in Work Culture: It will help in bringing change in bureaucratic culture in Government sector culture. This bureaucratic culture is criticized for red-tapism, rule-book bureaucracy, and status-quoist.
      • It helps in bringing the values of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the Government sector. It will help in building a culture of performance within the Government sector.
    • Participatory Governance: Presently, governance is becoming a more participatory and multi-actor endeavor. In this context, the lateral entry provides stakeholders such as the private sector and non-profits an opportunity to participate in the governance process.
    • Organisation culture: It will help in bringing change in organisation culture in Government sector culture. It will help in bringing the values of economy, efficiency and effectiveness in Government sector.

    Arguments Against Lateral Entry

    • Need for transparent process: The key again to the success of this scheme would lie in selecting the right people in a manner which is manifestly transparent. The constitutional role of UPSC should not be ignored as it will provide legitimacy to the entire process of selection
    • Difference in Organisational values: The value systems between the government and the private sector are quite different. It is important to ensure that the people who come in are able to have the skills to adjust to a totally different system of functioning. This is because the government imposes its own limitations.
    • Profit motive vs. public service: Private sector approach is profit oriented on the other hand motive of Government is public service. This is also a fundamental transition that a private sector person has to make while working in government.
    • Internal Resistance: Lateral entry is likely to face strong resistance from in-service Civil Servants and their associations.
    • Issue of conflict of interest: The movement from the private sector raises issues of potential conflict of interest. This issue requires stringent code of conduct for entrants from private sectors to ensure conflict of interest is not detrimental to public good.
    • Narrow scope: Lateral entry at only at top level policy making positions may have little impact on field level implementation, given the multiple links in the chain of command from the Union Government to a rural village.
    • Lack of specific criteria: The criteria laid out in the advertisement were broad-based, and so failed to provide a narrow window to attract people of eminence or domain experts in the fields advertised for.

    Way Forward

    • Setting Objective Criteria: There are several joint secretaries in each ministry who handle different portfolios. If lateral entrants are assigned to an unimportant portfolio, there are chances that they will not be motivated.
      • Thus, what key skills, qualities, and experiences a particular role requires must be objectively decided.
    • Relaxing Age Barrier: To attract the best talent from outside at the joint secretary level, entry requirements need to be relaxed so that persons of 35 years of age are eligible.
    • Need for the Transparent Process: The key again to the success of this scheme would lie in selecting the right people in a manner that is manifestly transparent.
      • The constitutional role of UPSC should not be ignored as it will provide legitimacy to the entire process of selection
    • Training of Lateral Entrants: An intensive training program for entrants from the private sector to civil services needs to be formulated which helps them understand the complex nature of work in Government.

    Lateral entry, like competition in any sphere, is a good thing. But serious thinking is required on entry requirements, job assignments, number of personnel, and training to make it a force for positive change. Apart from it, reforms of the “permanent” system — particularly its seniority principle — are also a prerequisite for holistic administrative reforms.

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