Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s idea for formulating the Indian Administrative Service to act as a binding agent in a newly independent India which was heterogenous and traumatised by the act of partition was right at that time. But the threats that lingered upon India (of secessionism) may no longer exist today as the federal structure has changed both politically and economically now. The Government has recently initiated various reforms to bring the bureaucracy at par with the complex realities of today.
Need for lateral entry
- Political elite finds it comfortable to work with a subservient bureaucracy and wish to not upset the steel frame of India with unnecessary changes.
- IAS officers are accorded constitutional protections against political pressure but the tactics of transfers are generally used to punish the non-confirmative staff. The same tactics are used to obtain bureaucratic loyalty.
- The risk-reward calculation for bureaucrats makes it worse for governance as the expertise or domain knowledge is no longer rewarded but loyalty prevails over these considerations.
- Short-tenures of bureaucrats at a particular position provides little opportunity to them to obtain domain specialisation.
- The generalist bureaucracy is ill-suited to adapt the rapidly changing dynamics of technology and economic complexities that directly or indirectly affect the governance structure.
- The status, career and progression of a bureaucrat in India is overdetermined by the results of an examination that she took in her 20s without giving adequate attention to specialisation after her 40s at least.
Therefore, moving from a permanent cadre of generalists to an accountable set of specialists is essential.
The steel frame of India must remain politically unconnected and the new entrants must be empowered enough to have a broad experience of public service in all its facets before they reach the decision making level of joint secretary. Therefore, the positions of crucial administrative power should remain strictly reserved for the tenured civil servants.
- The tenure of the lateral entrants must be increased from the currently advertised 3-5 years to a minimum of 5-10 years to bring in the element of commitment to service and accommodation of private sector personnel into government mechanisms.
- To ensure political unconnectedness of the entrants, the recruitment procedure can be carried out by the Union Public Service Commission.
- If the experiment goes well, the States must be encouraged to adopt a similar pattern of appointments because they lack quality bureaucracy at their level.
- Surendra Nath Committee recommendations could be adopted to allow civil servants to go for specialisation after they cross their 40s.
Government must be lauded for floating bureaucratic reforms such as postponing the cadre allocation until the foundation course is completed. This would reduce dependence on the initial ranking of prospective bureaucrats on the entrance examination. The lateral entry mechanism is a powerful reform that will go a long way in ensuring a competitive and committed bureaucratic structure in India.
Source – Livemint
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