The government has recently released a notification regarding the appointment of ‘outstanding individuals’ having a minimum of 15 years experience in either public or private sector to the position of Joint Secretary to the Government of India.
The decision is being inferred as unprecedented by enthusiasts as they believed that the dying bureaucracy trapped under red tape-ism desperately needed fresh air. Majorly, the concern about this move is more around the selection procedure of these professionals. But the real issue is more beyond this.
Civil Services in principle is a service that people who qualified the UPSC examination render, such as IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS and so on and so forth. And here we need to pause for a moment and dive into the dynamics of this profession. Unlike otherwise holding a big fat paycheck in metropolitan cities; civil servants vow to work in rural areas beginning from panchayats, tehsils, blocks and later in districts.
They imbibe a vivid scenario of the local demographics and challenges over the years till they reach the rank of joint secretary and contribute to policy making. Making a policy, in theory, can be quite simple at times. The best policies regarding health, traffic control, public transportation borrowed from foreign lands, having a successful track record there, have failed in Indian scenarios. The reason in addition to complacent implementation, ill monitoring and cases of strangling corruption is the unawareness of ground reality.
A vast section of Indian bureaucracy, undoubtedly does government bidding because dissent is never an option for them. Officials rarely disagree with their political bosses and independent thinkers are rarely given go-ahead. But the basic question remains the same – how will lateral entry abolish all this? In this era of crony capitalism, corporates influencing, (if not controlling) the ministries and the government is not the hidden secret. What if the big corporates send their own ‘people’ and dismantle every bit of secrecy in the governance? The possibility of this can’t be denied.
The other reason pointed out is the lack of specialisation civil servants possess. They are just generalist officers. It is true, but that could have been addressed by appointing highly qualified professionals to the NITI Aayog – a think tank initiative of the government for channelising the implementation of their ideas via a proper channel and coordination. What we need is a team of professionals doing ground research before framing a policy rather than heavy dependence on an individual, no matter where they have come from – private sector or by qualifying the prestigious UPSC examination. In either case, it’s always the same, ‘the babu, the dominant’.
It is an undeniable fact that the Indian bureaucracy needs reforms. It needs to be freed from the undue clutches of the netas, but this reform just doesn’t address the structural and the functional challenges. The selection process of these ‘excellent individuals’ will also be a bone of contention. It also isn’t a fair playground open to everyone like the UPSC examination where even a coolie working on the railway platform can aspire to be a civil servant. The vacancies in the USPC examination has drastically reduced this year. Why is the government providing employment to the already employed folks rather than trusting the unemployed youths to be the master of the art once they enter into the service? All these can be inferred in as many ways as one wants but the provision of lateral entry must be watched for a couple of years before arriving at a conclusion. Hope, it brings new aroma to the bureaucracy.