LATERAL ENTRY The Constitution clearly articulates that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) alone has the mandate to conduct examinations for recruitment to civil service jobs in the Union government.
Lateral entry-Therefore,the government’s decision to recruit joint secretaries from outside the system, undermining the authority of the UPSC in the process, is an attempt to tear down the very fabric and fundamental premise of parliamentary democracy, which is undeniably linked to placing confidence on a strictly merit-based, apolitical civil service.
Lateral entry- An IAS officer becomes eligible to hold the post of a joint secretary after completing roughly 20 years of service. Now, it is important to understand the role and functions of a joint secretary serving in the Union government.
To begin with, she is meant to be a generalist and not a specialist. Officers at this level are not empanelled to maximize profits or to market some product or service, as maybe the case in the private sector. A joint secretary-level officer is expected to funnel-to-pulp well-researched information, data or statistics, as the case may be, in a lucid, succinct manner before the political executive. She is to aid the political executive in weighing competing trade-offs, bearing in mind that the ultimate objective of public policy is to maximize social welfare.
It is only a generalist with rich experience in public administration who can visualize, see through, and articulate macro perspectives. Besides, she has sufficient experience of working at the village, district and state level. She understands how policies are implemented and the shortcomings of various policies. Therefore, when she rises to the rank of a joint secretary, she has vast practical experience in her kitty, which enables her to craft and design dynamic policies.
Specialists and domain experts are bereft of such qualities and, therefore, are not best suited to fill-up these positions. Lateral inductees, divorced from reality, will have little or no idea of how policies are implemented at the grass-roots level, let alone the policymaking process. Their myopic vision and risk-averse attitude, coupled with ignorance of office procedures, is a deadly cocktail that can choke an already suffocated system. They can, at best, be roped in as consultants in an advisory role to offer expert advice. However, offering them a decision-making position would be dangerous for smooth governance and will lead to turf-wars. It may also result in lowering the morale of regular recruits whose knowledge is upgraded at periodic intervals in the best training institutes across the globe.