Critically examine the implications of Lateral exit as well as lateral entry towards improving performance and efficiency of the civil services in India?

Published: March 14, 2017

Lateral entry can bring fresh insights and innovative solutions to long-standing problems of the government and enable right-minded professionals and the adoption of best practices for improving governance.  Lateral entrants may not only bring specialized expertise, good practices and work culture, but they could also induce competition within the system. When civil servants are made to compete with outside talent, the lethargic attitude will diminish. So the prospects of lateral entry will always propel overall efficiency. 
However, this belief should be weighed against our country’s sociopolitical context, as well as the complex nature of our public policy challenges. Firstly, what should be the structure of lateral entry. It is possible that the lateral appointments would be made at the sweet will of the political masters and may induct loyalists, hampering the neutrality of the civil services. It can also lead to nepotism. Given the erosion of state capability and institutional credibility at all levels, it runs the risk of degenerating into an uncontrollable “spoils” system. Thus, government could contemplate hiring outside talent to head certain pre-identified mission-mode projects and public-sector entities where private-sector expertise could be invaluable — like in the case of Nandan Nilekani and Aadhaar
Lateral entry must be accompanied by lateral exit which is important in improving performance and efficiency. Civil servants should also be encouraged to move out and work for different sectors on a short-term basis to enrich their knowledge and enhance their motivation and efficiency which is known as lateral exit. Lateral exit will enrich the knowledge of bureaucrats and enhance their motivation and efficiency. The government will have its own set of domain experts. These “internal” subject experts, along with the outside experts, should be considered a part of the potential talent pool for any appointment, especially at policy-making levels. It will bring domain specialization to the public sector. Learning best practice from private sector and applying those practices to improve delivery of public services.

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