1. What is lateral entry?
Currently, most joint secretary-level posts are filled by IAS officers through promotions. But now, in a move that is fostering much debate, the Government of India has invited 'talented' and 'motivated' individuals with expertise in specified areas to directly join the bureaucracy at the joint secretary level. This is known as lateral entry. Joint secretaries are at a critical level of senior management in the government, leading policymaking as well as the implementation of various programmes and schemes.
2. Why lateral entry?
Many experts have welcomed this move saying that IAS officers are recruited at a young age and their administrative capabilities are hard to judge. Also since there is automatic career progression in the civil services, many unsuitable candidates might also be promoted to higher jobs. Lateral hiring, on the other hand, will allow candidates with appropriate administrative experience to hold important positions.
3. Lateral entries have been tested before as well
Lateral entries have been tested before as well, though mostly on a contract basis. Manmohan Singh was one of the earliest lateral entrants to join the government. Singh was an economic advisor and later went on to hold the role of finance secretary. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Vijay Kelkar, Rakesh Mohan, and R V Shahi are other examples of officers who came from outside to hold posts of secretaries to the government. While some of them have been successful, IAS bureaucrats have often been hostile towards them.
4. Positions offered by the Government
The advertised posts are mainly in the finance, environment, road transport, shipping, and agriculture ministries. These can be applied for by any Indian citizen with necessary qualifications, said the advertisement issued by the Department of Personnel and Training. There is a three-year contract with each posting. The number put out for open recruitment in the advertisement is 10.
5. Challenges to Lateral entry
Many experts say that a distinguishing feature separating the IAS officers from the rest is the field experience. Lateral entrants might score on domain knowledge but could fall short on field experience. The Opposition also claims that this move could mean the government filling up senior positions with those who would favour them or a particular ideology.