New Delhi: A year after the Narendra Modi government recruited nine joint secretaries from the private sector, it is now planning to hire as many as 400 directors and deputy secretaries through the process of lateral entry, ThePrint has learnt.
Sources in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said the government has been grappling with an acute shortage of officers at these levels, and recruiting persons through lateral entry will serve the dual purpose of filling in the vacancies and increasing efficiency and expertise in governance.
However, the exact time-frame for these lateral recruitments, or when the advertisements for them will be released, is not yet finalised.
ThePrint reached DoPT spokesperson Shambhu Choudhary for an official comment via calls and a text message, but received no response till the time of publication of this report.
Massive vacancies, many attempts to fill them
There are approximately 1,300 director and deputy secretary posts in the government, of which half are manned by officers from the three All India Services (AIS) — Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service — as well as other central civil services such as Revenue (Income Tax and Customs), Railways, Telecom, Posts, Trade etc. It is for these posts that individuals are expected to be roped in from the private sector, sources said.
The other 650 posts are reserved for officers promoted from the Central Secretariat Service.
“There are massive vacancies at these posts, and despite repeated attempts by the central government to ensure that more officers from states come on central deputation, officers have not been too forthcoming… To ensure that the vacancies do not hamper governance, the government is considering recruiting talent from the private sector,” an official said, requesting anonymity.
The government has been repeatedly highlighting the issue of vacancies at these positions. Last week, it tweaked the empanelment policy to ensure that only an officer who has served as director or deputy secretary for two years can become a joint secretary at the Centre.
A senior official from the DoPT had said that the decision was taken to address the problem of vacancies in the central government at the director and deputy secretary levels.
Last year, the government had said it would open up 40 director and deputy secretary posts for lateral entry, for which recruitment would be done by the Union Public Service Commission.
As reported by ThePrint earlier this month, government think-tank NITI Aayog has also recruited 38 experts through lateral entry at the level of director and deputy secretary, extending the government’s bid to inject private talent into governance.
Declining number of officers coming on central deputation
The government is yet to draft recruitment rules for these 400 lateral entry posts, but under the Central Staffing Scheme, deputy secretaries have a four-year tenure, while directors serve for five years.
According to DoPT rules, CSS is a provision to fill posts in the ministries/departments of the government of India at deputy secretary/director-level and above.
“It draws officers from all the state governments and participating Group-A Services. Each year, the Establishment Officer, Department of Personnel and Training, issues a circular to all the chief secretaries of the state governments and the secretaries of ministries which are cadre controlling authorities of the participating Group-A services, requesting them to send names of suitable and willing officers for the Central Staffing Scheme,” the rules state.
However, as reported previously by ThePrint, despite nudges from the Centre in the last few years, the number of officers coming on central deputation under the CSS has been declining.
Government sources say IAS officers typically prefer to come to the Centre at leadership positions, starting from the joint secretary level, and are less inclined to come at DS/director-level posts, for which they get few perks and privileges.
In a letter written to states last year, the Centre had said states are failing to send in the number of IAS officers stipulated in the Central Deputation Reserve (CDR). The CDR determines the limit to which officers can be sent for deputation to the government of India.
“Underutilisation of this reserve, particularly at deputy secretary/director level, causes serious gaps in cadre management,” the DoPT had said in its letter.
“The cadres that have not been forwarding adequate nominations for central staffing scheme at various levels may have to settle for less number of additional senior duty posts in future by way of the corresponding reduction. These aspects have been duly conveyed to the cadre-controlling authorities during the recent meetings taken by the secretary, DoPT,” it had added.