The government's move to open up senior-level bureaucratic posts in several departments to people, even from the private sector, kicked up a row today with political parties alleging that the move is aimed at getting those associated with the BJP into administrative ranks.
According to the advertisement published in leading newspapers, the government is looking for 10 "outstanding individuals", even from the private sector, with expertise in the areas of revenue, financial services, economic affairs, agriculture, cooperation and farmers' welfare, road transport and highway, shipping, environment, forests and climate change, new and renewable energy, civil aviation and commerce.
Congress spokesperson P L Punia, who was himself a civil servant before joining politics, alleged that the government is trying to recruit people associated with the ruling party.
"This is totally wrong. They will try to recruit people associated with the RSS, the BJP and their affiliate organisations besides the employees working for top industrialists who are close to the government," he said.
"They will try and influence government policies and these people will not be neutral or fair. This step is not in national interest," Punia said.
He said according to the Constitution, all elected heads have to be citizens of the country whereas the advertisement states that the eligible persons have to be an Indian national.
"This needs to be looked into. Does this mean that they are trying to get NRIs into the government as till now they are not allowed. They have done away with reservations as well," he claimed.
Slamming the government over the move, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said that it was an attempt to include 'Sanghis' in administrative ranks.
"Why are time-tested UPSC and SSC being sought to be undermined? To fill IAS ranks with Sanghis and undermine reservation too, in the BJP's last few months in office," Yechury tweeted.
A circular issued by the Department of Personnel and Training said, "The Government of India invites talented and motivated Indian nationals willing to contribute towards nation building to join the government at the level of Joint Secretary."
Former Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav said that the government's decision violated the constitutional norms.
"How can this Manuwadi government ignore UPSC and appoint people they like in posts as important as that of a joint secretary without any exam? This is a serious violation of both the Constitution as well as reservation criteria," Yadav tweeted.
"Tomorrow they will appoint the prime minister and the Cabinet without elections. They have made a joke of the Constitution," he said.
Asked about the Centre's decision to open up joint secretary-level posts to people, even from the private sector, Minister of State (MoS) in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh told reporters that it is part of an endeavour to get the best from whichever sources available.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led India on the path of development on a rapid pace. A number of decisions have taken place in the governance front during the past four years, whether it is giving away the age-old British legacy of getting certificates attested by the gazetted officers or abolishment of interviews for lower posts," he said.
"This all is motivated with the focus on aligning every citizen of India and give a fair chance to ensure his or her growth depending on potential, capability and diligence, Singh said.
The initiative is being called lateral recruitment to senior positions in the government.
Joint secretaries report to the secretary/additional secretary in a ministry or department and are normally appointed from all India services such as the IAS, IPS, IFS and other allied services.
The move comes days after a proposal to make changes in the allocation of services to officers of the all India services after completion of the 15-week foundation course.