As the debate over the Centre's decision to allow lateral entry of experienced professionals as joint secretaries escalated, opposition parties today said there were "serious misgivings", alleging it was a result of Modi government's "administrative failure".
However, key BJP ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar defended the move, asserting the scheme was an experiment the need for which arose because of the paucity of IAS and IPS officers across the country.
Notwithstanding the opposition's criticism, Union minister Satyapal Singh pitched for extension of the lateral entry scheme to government-run educational institutions too and said the issue should not be politicised. The Minister for State for Human Resource Development said the scheme would improve the efficiency of educational institutions.
RJD's Manoj Jha saw the move as an attempt to have a "committed bureaucracy".
Addressing a press conference in Delhi, the former union finance minister said it needs more details on the issue and will raise its questions separately in detail.
"We need to have more details...We will raise a number of questions. Let us see what the government's answer is before we come to a final conclusion.
"There are serious misgivings about their advertisement that has appeared but there are a number of questions that deserve to be asked and we will in the next couple of days ask those questions," he said when asked about the issue.
However, bringing people at the joint-secretary level in ministries where various polices are framed, "We need to know more, we will have a number of questions, we will address them separately."
Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said he had no issue with the lateral entry of talented people in government and that it has been happening over the years but objected strongly to the way it is being done. "Where are the recruitment rules for the post? Why is UPSC not doing it? All this makes it suspicious," Sinha, a former bureaucrat tweeted.
"Opening senior-level bureaucratic posts in 10 departments to private people, who have not cleared UPSC, appears to be the result of administrative failure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said in a party release issued in Lucknow.
This is a dangerous trend and chances are it will increase the influence of capitalists and the rich in the policy making of the central government, she added.
When there is an arrangement and the trend of engaging experts in any field by the central and state governments on contract basis, engaging a private person on the post of joint secretary, which is equivalent to secretary level official in the state government, without the clearance of the UPSC is making a mockery of the existing system, she said.
It is also a matter of concern as to why the central government is finding itself unable to prepare experts in these department, she said.
In a DoPT advertisement published in leading newspapers, it has been stated that 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 highways, shipping, environment, forests and climate change, new and renewable energy, civil aviation and commerce.
The Department of Personnel and Training advertisement also 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."
Nitish Kumar, who has been an NDA ally since the 1990s, barring a four-year phase from 2013 to 2017, blamed "successive Congress governments" for downsizing of the civil services, which has "left us in a position where we find it difficult to meet many of our governance requirements".
Kumar said we are facing a situation wherein one IAS officer, of secretary rank, is holding charge of many departments. "Despite having committed ourselves to carving out of new districts, we are hesitant to proceed as we may not have IAS and IPS officers for manning these administrative units as DMs and SPs, he told reporters in Patna on the sidelines of "Lok Samvad" (public interaction programme).
"This is the case with the states. The same must be with the Centre. A secretary, at the Centre, usually briefs the minister upon important matters. But it is joint secretaries who do the necessary groundwork. When I was the Union Agriculture Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, I had 18 joint secretaries working under me, Kumar said.
These instances can help you gauge the gap between the requirement and the availability of officers. This experiment of lateral entry must have been thought of in this backdrop. Let us see if it works, he said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)