New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government initially wanted a committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary to recruit specialists from the private sector as joint secretaries, under its ambitious lateral entry scheme.
However, the backlash it received as soon as it announced the scheme resulted in a rethink, and the government decided to hand over the recruitment to an autonomous agency such as the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), highly-placed sources told ThePrint.
“Initially, the proposal was to induct individuals from the private sector through a committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary,” a source in the central government said on the condition of anonymity.
“But there was so much backlash soon after the scheme was announced — about possible favouritism in recruitment if done by the government — that it was decided to give it to a body outside of the government.
“Since the UPSC is a body which is known for its objectivity and integrity, it was decided to give the task to it. Besides, no other body can be trusted with recruitment in the government as much as the UPSC.”
Also read: Second push for lateral entry into IAS sees applications fall by half
The lateral entry scheme
In June 2018, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had invited applications from private sector specialists for 10 joint secretary posts in different departments of the central government.
However, over a month later, the task was reassigned to the UPSC.
The UPSC subsequently shortlisted 89 candidates, whom it will interview starting 1 April.
“The point to note is that ever since the task was handed over to the UPSC, the criticism has fallen silent,” the source said.
Ever since the proposal to induct private talent into the central government was first made public by the government through an advertisement, the issue has been deeply polarising.
While some have strongly supported the idea of bringing in private talent to shake up the bureaucracy, others have argued that it is a way of bringing in yes-men for the government of the day into the highest echelons of decision-making.
Several opposition parties like the Congress, CPI(M) and Samajwadi Party criticised the scheme as a means to sabotage a well-functioning system of governance in the country that has stood the test of time.
“This (lateral entry) is just to sabotage the efficiently-running system and with a view to take people from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party and some industrial houses so that they can directly influence the decision-making of the government,” Congress spokesperson P.L. Punia, a former IAS officer, had said.
However, several people who had been critical of the proposal did repose their faith in the UPSC as a legitimate body to enforce the idea.
Speaking to ThePrint, Anil Swarup, former secretary to the government of India, had said: “For me, it is not that important if such a reform is brought about. As long as the UPSC is doing it, it is okay. But the government should not have a say in who is getting what service.”
Also read: This is why UPSC has invited fresh applications for lateral entry into IAS
There was another reason this endeavour did not succeed. Lateral entry implies the government is welcoming of brilliance, intellect, above all fresh thinking and independent views, not just looking for specialised domain knowledge or expertise. The people who have been valued in recent times are men like Shri Rajiv Kumar.
Precisely what I had posted when this idea was first floated. There is a sanctity to the UPSC for all appointments to the government. Somehow that cannot be said for its state level counterparts. If CM Kamal Nath is serious, let him now peacefully, thoroughly get to the bottom of the Vyapam scam.
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