Daily Answer Writing
01 March 2021

Q) Should a civil servant be a generalist or a specialist? Comment in the context of the lateral entry into the Civil Services. (150 Words)

Source:  <https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-lateral-entry-into-bureaucracy-reason-process-and-controversy-7208943/>

GS 2: Role of Civil Services in a democracy.

Approach Answer:


Introduction: Recently, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) issued an advertisement seeking applications  for three posts of Joint Secretary and 27 of Director in central government Departments for lateral entry. Earlier in 2017, the government had decided to appoint experts from outside the government to 10 positions of Joint Secretary in different Ministries/Departments and 40 positions at the level of Deputy Secretary/Director. This has enkindled the debate of the specialized


Problems of a generalist Civil Servant under current mechanism:

               1. Excessive Job Security: Career-based civil services is coupled with excessive job security. There is an Automatic Career Progression in the IAS with no performance audit or appraisal. The only penalty for failing to make the grade is fringe postings.

               2. Lack of Domain knowledge and training: From Department of space to ministry of culture a generalist IAS is posted with subordinates with specialized knowledge.

               3. Sense of complacency : Excessive job security coupled with lack of initiative and political interference makes the services complacent.

               4. Recruitment Problems: With the recruitments at Young age, it is difficult to test potential administrative & judgement capabilities. Further the Civil services Examination itself are not full proof.


Advantages of specialization:

               1. Fresh Energy & Talent: A new force comes into the system with fresh energy.

               2. Specialized skills: They're helpful in Policy making, being people with specialized skills

               3. Outside Perspective: The IAS officers see the government only from within. There is need to have people who have experienced the government from outside.

               4. Increases competition: Lateral entry is necessary to push the IAS out of their comfort zone and challenge them.


However, lateral entry has its own negatives:

               1. Resistance from the system: They'll have to deal with the same system. The Lateral entrants have struggled to fit into “the system” and understand the processes and dynamics of government decision-making. They have complained of hostility from the IAS network. The lateral entry might demotivate the officers.

               2. Accountability: difficult to ensure as decisions taken by the private people during the  short service tenure, when stakes are long term.

               3. Fears of Partiality: Fear of Loyalist being filled at the posts.

               4. Only few stellar examples: Lateral Entry is tried out but only at the margins, as advisors and consultants, on ad-hoc basis, for fixed tenure or on open ended basis. But only few had made stellar successes like. C. Rangarajan and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

               5. Questions on Appointment: The IAS system sees lateral entrants as adversaries who have made their way in, not through an open competitive examination like they have, but because of privilege and connections.

               6. It can make the institution Top Heavy: The institutionalised lateral entry will make the IAS cadre top-heavy and thus it must be accompanied by lateral exit & Voluntary retirements(now only after age 50 - seldom used).

               7. Issue of Reservation.


Conclusion: The Indian civil services are known as 'Steel Frame of Governance'. They bring a certain Permanence in Policy making with No extreme policy change with regime change. They remain politically Neutral & Impartial due to permanent deputation. They also have a cutting edge field experience with first "immersion" of the first decade into districts and years of experience in the concerned department.  We have examples of Many of the major programmes like mid-day meal, RTI that have been mainstreamed across the country are the brain child of young IAS officers.


However there is still a general sense of complacency that we get from the system, for which the lateral entry can refreshing for the system. The specialization is thus a welcome step. In this context the 2nd ARC's 10 Report on Governance  has backed limited lateral entry. It also calls for promotion of specialized services IRS etc.

Write a comment