Lateral Entry in Civil Services


Lateral Entry in Civil Services

There has been much cry about the need for induction of talent from outside into senior positions in the Government of India at the level of joint secretary and above.  Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) has been asked to prepare a proposition on lateral entries into civil services that deal with economy and infrastructure.


  • In 2005, the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended lateral entry at both the Central and state levels.
  • Surinder Nath Committee in 2003 and Hota Committee in 2004.


  • The ARC recommended a paradigm shift from a career-based to a post-based approach to senior government jobs.


  • The ARC highlights that performance appraisals may be adopted from the armed forces, which could aid in weeding out non-performers.


  • In the armed forces, only 3 per cent of officers make it to the grade of brigadier and above — and promotions are based entirely on merit, which fuels excellence.


Arguments in favour of Lateral Entry 

  • The 21st century economy needs specialized skills and knowledge for policy-making and administration.
  • The first ARC had pointed out the need for specialization


  • The present system of ‘frequent and arbitrary transfers’ hinder gaining of the relevant experience by incumbent officers


  • Domain experts have been brought from outside the services to head various committees and organizations like Nandan Nilekani, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Vijay Kelkar, Arvind Subramanian and Raghuram Rajan


  • Both the Niti Aayog and the Planning Commission had allowed for lateral entry. Jharkhand is also experimenting with it as well.


  • There is shortfall of IAS cadre officers. The Baswan Committee (2016) has shown that Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have a deficit of 75 to 100 officers and their unwillingness to sponsor officers to Centre on deputation


  • There is a need for a shift from the uniformity of centrally planned economic policy to the diverse demands of competitive federalism. Thus there is need to make way for talent pool outside the government.


  • Outside talent from the private sector is more likely to be target – oriented, which will improve the performance of the government.


  • Lateral entry has been adopted by Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, the UK, the Netherlands and the US.


  • When civil servants are made to compete with outside talent, the lethargic attitude will diminish and induce competition within the system.


  • More competition will encourage career civil servants to develop expertise.








Arguments against Lateral Entry


  • The width and depth of field experience which the civil services provide is not available with outside talent.


  • External talent cannot bridge the gap between policymaking and ground level implementation than the career civil servants.


  • Private sector who ran Air India, Indian Airlines and Vayudoot proved to be failures.


  • Performance is vitally influenced by the enabling environment and the best managerial capability cannot deliver results in an adverse operating environment.


  • Interests and motivation vary from person to person. Therefore, short term entry of officers through lateral entry might lead to corrupt practices.


  • Large-scale lateral induction would amount to a vote of no-confidence in the government personnel management system.
  • The best talent can be attracted only if there is reasonable assurance of reaching top level managerial positions.



  • It is difficult to assess the performance of a secretary to the government due to complex nature of the job. So it would be difficult to measure the performance of lateral entrants.
  • Discretion on lateral entry may pave the way to charges of being “politically motivated”, which may degrade the system.



  • A good managerial system encourages and nurtures talent from within instead of seeking to induct leadership from outside.
  • The remedy lies not through lateral induction but through more rigorous performance appraisal and improved personnel management.


  • India’s civil services need reform like insulation from political pressure and career paths linked to specialization


  • The government can consider lateral entry to head certain pre-identified mission-mode projects and public-sector entities where private-sector expertise actually matters.It should be a mix up of both private sector and civil servants.
  • A credible statutory agency like UPSC or an autonomous agency like the Bank Board Bureau established to hire heads of public-sector banks, should be entrusted with the responsibility of recruitment.
  • Liberalised norms that allow civil servants to work outside government with multilateral agencies,nonprofits and corporations for short periods so that they get exposure to market practices and fresh ideas.

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