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Home / News / India /  Lateral entry inadequate to fill 22% vacancies’ gap in IAS posts

The lateral hiring initiative by the government for the bureaucracy may have stirred up a debate but the number of appointees is insignificant to bridge the gap, especially as India faces a shortage of civil servants, primarily for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).

The government has hired just nine officers as joint secretaries and intends to appoint 30 more as directors and joint secretaries as of now. However, there is a shortage of 22.48% or 1,510 officers for the IAS cadre, according to official data. The IAS and the Indian Police Service (IPS) have a combined shortage of 2,418 officers.

Vacancies in the Indian Administrative Service have risen, as hiring of officers dipped post liberalization
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Vacancies in the Indian Administrative Service have risen, as hiring of officers dipped post liberalization

“The lateral entry number the government is talking about is minuscule and will have negligible impact. However, lateral entry in a bureaucracy per se is not a bad step," N.C. Saxena, former secretary of the planning commission, said.

“The vacancy in the IAS is huge and that is primarily because we started hiring a small number of IAS officers post liberalization, 60-70 per year, thinking that their role will shrink. It changed in 2012 and more officers got hired through the normal recruitment process of civil service exam of the Union Public Service Commission. However, in a developing economy you need a growing pool of good mid-to-senior level officers who understand and value action, outcome, and evaluation of policies," said Saxena, who was also a member of the National Advisory Council to the prime minister on key policy issues in the United Progressive Alliance government.

Saxena is of the view that laterally hired bureaucrats will need more training and support to contribute effectively in policymaking. Others said domain experts taken in via lateral entry lack policymaking exposure and administrative knowledge to effect real change and their three-year contract is too short a time to get used to the system.

“If you look at the hiring of nine, I think three were on deputation from within the government system and six were direct recruits. Now UPSC has advertised for 30 more lateral hiring positions both at the joint secretary and director level. Initially, they were talking about 50. This is too small a number. It is nowhere close to what is required. Governance is not contractual work. It is a perennial commitment to the country…what we need is reform of governance inst-ead of hiring just a few dozen officers," said ano-ther bureaucrat, requesting anonymity.

On 10 July 2019, the department of personnel had told the Lok Sabha that both the NITI Aayog and the sectoral group of secretaries on governance in the report “submitted in February 2017, have recommended induction of personnel in the middle and senior management level in the government. Based on this, it has been decided, in principle, to appoint outside experts to 10 positions of joint secretary in identified ministries or departments, and 40 positions at deputy secretary or director level".

“There are more than 2,400 vacancies in the IAS and IPS level and I am sure in other cadres the vacancies are of similar magnitude. However, lateral hiring in top positions in government is not new. In the Reserve Bank of India and science and technology departments, we have seen people of deep domain knowledge heading them at different times," the official said.

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