Lateral Entry: It was never easy for any government to appoint outside professionals in the higher echelons of the government through direct entry. However, nearly one year after announcing the vacancy for 10 posts of joint secretaries in the central government, Modi government finally appointed 9 professionals shortlisted from over 6,000 applicants. Though, these professionals have been appointed for a fixed term but the move is aimed at shaking off the bureaucratic inertia and red-tapism.
These professionals have been offered salary to the tune of Rs 1.44 lakh to Rs 2.18 lakh per months to (level 14 of the pay matrix) and other perks and facilities applicable to equivalent central government officers.
The decision comes at a time when it was least expected as the appointments have been announced a month after model of conduct came into force on March 10. However, the move opens a new phase in India’s rigid bureaucratic structure that is known for being cumbersome and slow because of its insistence on following archaic rules and regulation, a practice that has acquired notorious distinction of red-tapism.
As per the government notification, 9 professionals have been appointed as joint secretaries to meet the talent shortfall in the ministries and departments like civil aviation, commerce, financial services, renewable energy among others. The move is aimed at bridging the acute talent shortfall at the top of policy making. However, these 9 new joint secretaries will account for less than 3% of over 340 joint secretaries in the central government.
The government’s decision to appoint outside professionals had met stiff resistance from the IAS lobby that occupies all key positions in the government. There are over 5,000 IAS officers in the country that run almost every major position at the state level and in central government.
After assuming the power at the Centre in 2014, Modi government has worked towards appointing more officers from other services like IPS, IRS as joint secretaries to weaken the stranglehold of IAS lobby in the policy making. In fact, according to an assessment of 7th pay commission, IAS officers were occupying 249 of total 341 joint secretary level positions in the central government.
Though the Modi government gave preference to non-IAS civil servants for the post of joint secretaries but they were still appointed from other civil services like IPS, IRS and Indian Forest Service.
This is for the first time 9 joint secretaries have been appointed in the government through lateral entry.
It has always been the agenda of BJP to reform the bureaucratic structure of the country, known as steel-frame of India. In 2000, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee constituted a commission to review the functioning of Constitution under the chairmanship of former chief justice of the country MN Venkatachaliah. The commission had also recommended specialisation of some of the roles performed by generalist Babus but it took the government 17 years to appoint less than 10 specialists at key positions.