It was 1922. India was into a struggle mode for independence. It was also an evolving situation for the administrative structures in India. The British Parliament was discussing the future of administration in India.
On this subject, the then British Prime Minister David Llyod George gave a long speech inside the British Parliament. He opined, ‘ ..if you take that steel frame out, the fabric will collapse…There is one institution we will not cripple, there is one institution we will not deprive of its functions or of its privileges, and that is that institution which built up the British Raj-the British Civil Service in India.’
The steel frame- work of Indian administration still retained its supremacy in the post-independent India. Now in 2018, the steel framework has come under major over-hauling with the announcement of Government of India to allow lateral entry into top posts in bureaucracy in few critical sectors.
Interestingly, in 2015, the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions of government of India has categorically said in a press note that,’ ..no proposal to permit lateral entry into Indian administrative Service [IAS] is currently under consideration of the Government.’
Now, the same Ministry has made advertisement for ‘Lateral Recruitment to senior Positions in Government of India’ in 10 crucial sectors including Finance, Commerce, Civil aviation and Agriculture, cooperation and Farmers’ welfare etc.
Though into its last phase of tenure, this move is seen as one of the bold policy reforms and step in reorganizing the way the government functions.
The incumbent Government has not shied away from bold policy reforms. Generally the last year is seen to be the year of populist measures and governments stay away from undertaking big-ticket reforms.
It must be said that the government has shown its commitment to taking reforms further though it is on its way to face the electorate within a year.
Though there has been initial resistance on implementing the lateral entry by the government, it has finally agreed to it. Going by the trends in reforms in governance, the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission during the previous UPA regime recommended the lateral entry but the UPA regime could not implement it.
However, the UPA had managed to initiate the Result Framework Document [RFD] by specially inviting Professor Prajapati Trivedi from United Kingdom and making him Secretary of Performance Management.
This was also a big initiative towards reform of administrative and public institutions.
Restructuring the contours on governance and government have emerged as the twin basic principles of the reforms process in recent times.
The constitution of the committee on Organisational Restructuring of Ministry of Home Affairs under the former Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta has underlined the importance attached to the reforms by the central government.
The reform of governance has also been stressed upon. The implementation of PRAGATI [Pro- active Governance and timely Implementation ] directly through the Prime Minister’s Office has attempted to reduce the gap between the governed and the governance.
The concept lateral entry has been a popular attempt in both US and UK. The reason for bringing the lateral entry by the government in few important sectors has been to delivery of service to grass root with efficiency and effectiveness.
The recent successful initiatives like the LPG connections to a record number of people, the provision of the biggest health care facility etc has made the government confident in encashing the goodwill in the next electoral battle.
More over, the few critical sectors like farmers’ welfare and infrastructure etc have been identified to supplement the narratives on the successful government schemes which will in-turn be used as stepping stones towards electoral success.
The other factors are the rise of the Indian economy to the select club of strong economy of the world. This has necessitated the need of dynamic and efficient policy makers who can deliver.
The other important factor has been the dynamics of the changes in contours of public administration. In recent times, public administration has been advocating the use of the techniques of private sector in terms of service delivery and protecting the ‘out-of box’ thinking.
In a nut shell, it can be explained that the ‘ state’ has been adopting the success mantra of the ‘ market’. This is also termed popularly as ‘ New Public Management’ and the role of the ‘ Joint secretary’ selected through the lateral entry will function as a top level manager who will deliver the objectives of governance in tangible forms to the intended beneficiaries.
The government wants to shrug off the hang over of ‘policy paralysis’ of the previous UPA regime. It is important to note the lateral entry has been done with a strong recommendation from the NITI Aayog which has been experimenting on this aspect for quite a period of time.
The big question at this juncture is that how the traditional bureaucrats will react to the new initiative. Resistance to the new thinking may be a hindrance for the smooth implementation of the lateral entry.
Moreover, how much space in policy implementation the lateral entrants will be provided will decide the success of the new policy reforms.
Ensuring accountability and duration of tenure of the lateral entrants need to be crafted very carefully in Indian administrative institutional scenario.
The Indian Civil Service emerged with the help of Government of India Act 1858. And it has been subject to many changes over the last 160 years of its existence.
However, the lateral entry as a big ticket reform will not only fundamentally change the discourse of efficiency and effectiveness of Indian Administrative institutions but it will also have a huge impact on the contours of governance in India.