Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his second term is keen to improve the efficiency of bureaucracy by expanding the policy of lateral entry that would facilitate recruitment of at least 40 per cent of officers at the Joint Secretary from outside the system. The joint secretaries who form the backbone of various administrative ministries in Delhi are so far sourced from IAS cadre officers.
The Prime Minister feels that the lateral entry will help bring in domain experts into the administrative system in place of the generalists who have been ruling the roost so far. His thinking is that policy interventions now require innovation and efficiency for which one needs to fall back upon technological tools. To source them one needs talents outside the system. Modi feels regular all-India service officers mixed with fresh minds from outside would deliver better results.
Recently the government issued appointment letters to 10 persons who form the first batch of lateral entry officers. They have been selected by the UPSC. The next batch of 55 officers, who will be equivalent to the rank of joint secretaries, will be selected through NITI Aayog, instead of UPSC. NITI Aayog, which is the think tank of the government, will process the recruitment of lateral entry officers.
In some departments the process of lateral entry has already begun. Modi has brought in Parameswaran Iyer, a technocrat, as secretary to the department of drinking water in Rural Development Ministry. Iyer, who was a civil servant, had resigned from the cadre to join an international institution. Now he has returned as a lateral entry officer.
Qualified professionals equivalent to the rank of secretary have already been introduced in the department of Aayush and Sanitation in Modi’s first term. These posts have been labelled as ‘flexi-pool posts’. So far these experts were being hired by NITI Aayog as consultants on a need basis. After an initial period of five years their work would be reviewed and given an extension of three years.
The Prime Minister is keen to introduce the new system of large scale sourcing of lateral entry officers from 2020. This is likely to result in a massive re-jig of the administration and the preparations have already begun.
Roping in private sector talent
According to sources the government plans to advertise for direct recruitment of more than four dozen positions in NITI Aayog at different levels, including directors, joint secretaries and even at the level of the additional secretaries. They will have a fixed salary of over ₹3 lakh and a minimum tenure of five years. These new posts would enjoy parity with regular government servant positions. The proposed advertisement for these posts is being monitored by the Department of Personnel under the PMO. NITI Aayog is seeking talents from private sector to fill these posts.
The idea of lateral entry of officials into the administration is not new. Prime Minister Morarji Desai had appointed MS Swaminathan as his Agriculture Secretary. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had appointed V Krishnamurthy as Steel Secretary and Vijay Kelkar as Petroleum Secretary. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi during his term brought in Manmohan Singh as Finance Secretary.
Perhaps, taking a cue from his predecessors, Narendra Modi is seeking to alter the mix of joint secretaries in the government by opening up the policy to include large scale lateral entry.
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