Lateral entry in Modi government: Why Opposition’s objection is double-speak – What Indira, Manmohan did

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New Delhi | Updated: June 12, 2018 3:53:42 PM

Joint Secretary lateral entry: Soon after the release of Narendra Modi government's notification for appointment of 10 joint secretaries in several departments, the opposition Congress and some other leaders jumped in to criticise the move.

narendra modiPrime Minister Narendra Modi delivers the keynote address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore June 1, 2018. REUTERS

Soon after the release of Narendra Modi government’s notification for appointment of 10 joint secretaries in several departments, the opposition Congress and some other leaders jumped in to criticise the move. Some even smelled a rat, alleging the BJP would induct its men from RSS into government under the guise of lateral entry.

Congress Spokesperson and former IAS officer, P.L. Punia said there is a time-tested, fool-proof and efficient system of recruitment of bureaucrats and officials. Modi government’s lateral entry scheme will “sabotage” the “efficiently-running” system. “This is just to sabotage the efficiently-running system and with a view to take people from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party and some industrial houses. So that they can directly influence the decision-making of the government,” Punia told IANS. The Congress leader said he was suspecting a foul play.

Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M), which has been a Congress ally in past, tweeted: “BJP’s attempt to subvert SC, ST and OBC reservations in the IAS is not the first. They have done the same for university professors as well, through similar devious methods. This, when we need more affirmative action, not less.”

READ – Joint Secretary Lateral Entry: Join ‘IAS’ without UPSC! Check notification, salary pay scale, eligibility, how to apply

Samajwadi Party, which had fought the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections 2017 in alliance with the Congress, claimed the lateral entry initiative is a “conspiracy” to disturb reservation policy. SP leader Rajesh Dikshit told Hindustan Times: “It is a conspiracy to put people affiliated to the RSS in the government and disturbing the reservation policy.” Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said the lateral entry notification indicates the failure of Modi government. In a statement, Mayawati said lateral entry is a “dangerous move that could benefit big businesses through policy making.”

The criticism of the government, however, appears to be based on the fact that there is a trust deficit with the current dispensation that it will not act in accordance with what it states. The criticism of several Opposition parties point to this direction. However, the point they miss out on is that this isn’t the first time that such a move has been proposed or implemented.

All governments in past – be it led by Indira Gandhi or Manmohan Singh – inducted several professionals so that the country could gain from their expertise.

Singh is credited for inducting Bimal Jalan from ICICI, as early as 1973 in the government. In a previous interview to The Indian Express, Singh had said he got experts like Nicholas Stern involved; Jagdish Bhagwati and T N Srinivasan; Vijay Joshi from Oxford. Singh had said, “I wanted to sensitise the people of India on the need to revisit old orthodoxies. It was therefore helpful when we got a group of young and learned people to back the process that we were embarking upon.”

As a finance minister, Singh inducted Montek Singh in Ministry of Finance, Shankar Acharya as chief economic advisor, Ashok Desai as advisor, Rakesh Mohan and Arvind Virmani in the then Planning Commission. Even as lateral entry in the government was not easy, Singh had got Raghuram Rajan – first as honorary advisor to PM, then as chief economic advisor and finally as the RBI governor. Nandan Nilekani was hired to head the ambitious UIDAI, which gave Indians Aadhaar.

Indira Gandhi had hired Mantosh Sondhi for heading the Department of Heavy Industry. Sondhi was previously head of Ashok Leyland, Bokaro Steel Plant and founder of heavy Vehicle Factory, Chennai. Later, Gandhi appointed Venkataraman Krishnamurthy to head the Department of Heavy Industry. Krishnamurthy was formerly head of BHEL and SAIL. DV Kapur was appointed as secretary in Departments of Power, heavy Industry, Chemicals and Petrochemicals. Kapur was the founder chairman of NTPC.

Lal Bahadur Shastri had appointed Dr Verghese Kurien the chairman of National Dairy Development Board.

Rajiv Gandhi government appointed KPP Nambiar as the head of Department of Electronics in 1986. Previously, Nambiar headed Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation. Rajiv also appointed technocrat Sam Pitroda as the head of many technology missions. Pitroda also headed the National Knowledge Commission in Manmohan Singh government.

The Planning Commission, which was replaced by Niti Aayog after Modi came to power in 2014, had several experts from outside like Yoginder Alagh, Vijay Kelkar, Nitin Desai, and Sukhamoy Chakravarty. They served at several top positions in the government but their appointments had to be approved by the UPSC when the job tenure exceeded a year.

Interestingly, Alagh, who headed the Civil Services Review Committee, had recommended lateral entry into several government departments in 2002.

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