Lateral entry into government needs more participation from states
According to media reports, the Narendra Modi government plans to expand the pool of lateral entrants in its second term. The aim is to bring in more domain specialists. On this occasion, the step to recruit at a lateral level may include relatively junior ranks such as deputy secretaries in central ministries. The push to bring in more domain experts into government is a good thing and has received wide public support. However, there is a need to learn from the recent experience to recruit lateral entrants at the joint secretary level to ensure the idea lives up to its potential.
There is a need to offer a career path in government for lateral entrants as their impact will be greater the longer they stay. The government plans to address this problem by offering them permanent jobs. However, these posts are entirely at the level of Union government. In key areas such as public health and education where domain specialists are needed, most of the action happens at the level of states. If Centre and states follow entirely different approaches, there are bound to be coordination problems. This will undermine the transformational impact of the move to bring in lateral entrants.
Given that many state governments are run by BJP and its allies, the Centre should bring states into the picture. At a political level, it’s now easier to iron out differences on lateral entry. This, in turn, will percolate down to bureaucracy and result in better coordination.