New Delhi: How to make cabinet notes, how to work around parliamentary procedures, why it is important to build relations and network with career bureaucrats and never get sucked into a sense of victimhood — these are some of the key things taught to the first batch of lateral entrants who joined as joint secretaries in eight central ministries last month.
In a two-week residential training programme organised by the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), the eight lateral entrants were given a crash course on governance-related matters that will help them begin their journeys as joint secretaries under the Modi government’s lateral entry scheme.
For the two weeks, their 12-hour days began at 7 am with a yoga session, and ended at 9 pm. Through the day, the lateral entrants listened to lectures, received assignments, reading material, and heaps of advice on how to navigate the seemingly impenetrable power corridors of New Delhi.
Recruited by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) earlier this year, the eight joint secretaries were given lectures by dignitaries and key government officials such as Nandan Nilekani, non-executive chairman, Infosys, and founding chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI); Parameswaran Iyer, secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Jal Shakti ministry; Arundhati Bhattacharya, former chairperson of the State Bank of India; Bhaskar Khulbe, secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi; Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog; Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Adviser in the finance ministry, among others.
In addition, serving officials from the home ministry, finance ministry, cabinet secretariat, among others also gave lectures to the new batch.
“All these people who have been very important figures in policy-making in the country gave us insights into how the government actually functions, and how to get work done,” said one of the lateral entrants.
“The key message was to not get sucked into a sense of victimhood that we are outsiders… They said that even when an IAS officer comes to Delhi from their states, they remain outsiders for a while.”
‘Long, gruelling & informative’
Another lateral entrant, who described the training as “long, gruelling and very informative”, said it had the perfect balance of providing an insight into the foundational aspects of governance — reading the Constitution, how to navigate inter-ministerial communication, understanding the allocation of business, budgeting, etc. — and providing perspective.
“The most interesting element of the training was to hear and learn about actual case studies like the Aadhaar, GST, Swachh Bharat, etc,” said the second joint secretary. “It was obviously very inspiring to learn about these mammoth nationwide programmes from people who were key in unveiling them.”
Asked how the training received by them was different from that given to career bureaucrats, an official of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said the focus for the lateral entrants was on objective, and not so much on procedures.
“When IAS recruits are trained, they have to have an in-depth understanding of procedures because they are left on the field as DMs to enforce the law from day one of their jobs,” the officer said.
“Lateral entrants are going into ministries where everyone is very well-versed with procedures… So with a rudimentary understanding of procedures also, they can do what they have been brought in for — their expertise.”
While the training provided the lateral entrants a “perfect launchpad” to start off, they were told to no longer consider themselves as outsiders.
“From here on, we are a part of the government, and no longer outsiders… Through all the sessions, the idea was to make us a part of the larger ‘New India’ project,” said the first joint secretary.
“All the other tricks of the trade will be learnt along the way… Like we had no idea that IAS officers refer to each other by their batches — those kind of fun facts about the bureaucracy also we will learn along the way,” the joint secretary added.