Recently, a proposal made a lot of hue and cry. The Government opened lateral entry of working professionals into the civil service. These professional are to be given the rank of joint secretary. This proposal has received mixed reactions; some whole-heartedly supported it, whereas some outright rejected it. Even the UPSC, ‘steel frame of the country’, gave reactions. Some of them tried to be diplomatic voices amidst the critics and enthusiast.
As soon as the news of this came, there were several questions regarding the competence of civil servants recruited through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). There were also questions about its selection process. And, as is customary, there came no solution from the debate.
This proposal is not the first of its kind; it has been done in the past. What is common between the two is, lateral entry is restricted to a very small number of people—this time there are only 10 vacancies.
The recruitment process of the UPSC shall not be put in question. It’s by far the most transparent institution of India. Candidates have to go through three stages of selection, and it’s after this gruelling process, on the basis of marks, that they are alloted service and cadres. We have seen some brilliant civil servants like P Narhari, Anil Swaroop, B. Chandrakala and many more. They have defined the reputation of the institution of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Were they working professionals, having specialised knowledge in any field? No. And they didn’t need to be, because in civil service or in any public service, it all boils down to managing people! Civil administration, will only function properly if they are adequately and appropriately utilised.
And even if we want to have specialisation, it should be given importance only during the training of civil servants. The bigger problem with bureaucracy is not that there are no specialised people, but the lack of officers who refuse to be sycophants. If civil servants start taking decisions according to their wisdom and acumen, half of the problem wil automatically be solved.
Therefore, if the objective is to maximise performance of bureaucrats, reforms should be carried out in the system, so that more genius people are attracted towards this service. Outside interventions, can be a short-term solution, but it will never be an everlasting solution.