The Modi governmentâs move on lateral entry into government is inching along. Out of the 6,000 applicants from the private sector who applied for 10 posts of joint secretary in the Central government last year, 89 have been shortlisted, sources say. These posts are in revenue, financial services, economic affairs, agriculture and farmers welfare, road transport and highways, shipping, environment, forests and climate change, new and renewable energy, civil aviation and commerce departments.
In December last year, the personnel ministry decided to entrust the task of selecting the candidates for these posts to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The UPSC had then asked all such aspirants to fill a detailed application form (DAF) to obtain additional specific information from the candidates regarding qualifications and experience so as to facilitate the selection process.
According to sources, of these 89 candidates, 14 each are for the posts of joint secretary in agriculture cooperation and farmers welfare, and shipping, 13 for aviation, 10 for the department of financial services, nine each for the departments of revenue and new and renewable energy, eight for road transport and highways, seven for environment, forest and climate change, three for department of economic affairs and two for the commerce department.
The slow progress, say our sources, is due to the need to carefully shepherd the policy through the thicket of babu opposition.
Obviously, the question of lateral entry into the civil services is an old one. And bitterly disputed and resisted by babus who want to keep outsiders at bay.
Though there have been individual instances of lateral entry in nearly every government at the Centre, it is only this Modi sarkar which has formulated a formal more all-round policy on lateral entry. The first concerted effort was made way back in 1959 when, feeling the need to bring in private sector specialists into some positions, the government set up the Industrial Management Pool (IMP). The objective was to hire talent to fill middle and high-level positions. During this programme the nation saw the induction of such high priests of the public sector as V. Krishnamurthy (SAIL, BHEL and Maruti), Prakash Lal Tandon (State Trading Corporation of India, Punjab National Bank and the National Council of Applied Economic Research), and technocrat Lovraj Kumar (secretary, petroleum ministry), among others.
Naturally, there was a pushback from the babus who saw their turf being stolen, and the programme finally ended in 1973.
Since then, technocrats have been brought in from time to time, mostly as economists â I.G. Patel, L.K. Jha (former RBI governors), Montek Singh Ahluwalia (erstwhile Planning Commission) â scientists (Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam), engineers (K.C.R. Chari, Mantosh Sondhi, S. Varadrajan, K.P.P. Nambiar) and visionary entrepreneurs (Sam Pitroda). They blazed a largely individual trail of success, which got swamped under the sheer numbers of the civil service officials they were surrounded by.
Until now. The present policy has the backing of the Niti Aayog. Earlier too, the Sixth Pay Commission and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission had strongly recommended lateral entry. Even now the Modi sarkar is stepping carefully so as not to offend the eggshell egos of the powerful IAS lobby.
Will the lateral entry mode, which relates to the appointment of specialists from the private sector in government organisations and considered one of the Modi governmentâs âpetâ projects, bring in fresh talent in bureaucracy? But with only a few months remaining for the general elections, it is unlikely that Mr Modiâs pet project will fructify before the new government is formed.