Modi government’s push for attracting talent from the private sector through lateral entry program in the bureaucracy has received wider attention. Apart from infusing new blood in the notoriously lethargic bureaucracy, the lateral entry program has another far-reaching ramification. The program seeks to attract the best talent and as such works outside the ambit of the reservation system. An RTI inquiry has revealed that ‘reservation’ is not compulsory in lateral entry schemes as the vacancies are post-specific. “In a single cadre post, the reservation does not apply. Since each post to be filled under this scheme is a Single Post, reservation is not applicable,” said the Department of Personnel and Training in the RTI reply.
Recently, NITI Aayog, the apex government think tank, and advisory body, said that it will advertise for the post of 55 positions in various government departments. The government plans to fill 40 percent joint secretary level posts through lateral entry. Notably, for these posts reservation will not be a constraint for choosing the best suited candidates.
The upper levels of bureaucracy design and implement most important public policies. Billions of dollars of public money are invested on these schemes and therefore inefficiency in these schemes would be a loss of public money.
Majority of the population living Below Poverty Line comes from the communities which have access to the reservation. The public welfare policies of the government primarily benefit these people and therefore ‘best talent’ should be chosen to implement the welfare policies ensure maximum efficiency which has notoriously been lacking in the traditional IAS dominated bureaucracy.
The ‘social justice’ at the cost of inefficiency in public welfare which is aimed at marginalized section of the society could not be justified. Just like the armed forces, judiciary, top executive posts like that Prime Minister and President has been kept outside the ambit of the reservation to attract the best talent, the upper echelons of bureaucracy should also be free to choose the finest professional talent.
The mere ‘tokenism’ where few people from a particular caste or community are chosen as representative of the group is not acceptable. These few ‘chosen’ people work for the betterment of themselves and their immediate kinship but the rest of the people of the community are left untouched. These ‘chosen’ people are flagged in media and popular imagination as a symbol of empowerment of that community while the majority of them remain oppressed.
For decades, left the liberal establishment of the country patronized few families from ‘marginalized castes’ and used them as a ‘token’ for the community. The betterment of a few families from these castes was presented as welfare of the community by left-liberal media and academia.
For instance, the left-liberal establishment of the country has monopolized the discourse on Dalit. This ‘representative voice of the marginalized’, as they like to believe, is removed from reality. To borrow a favorite term of this particular group, they simply lack the ‘lived experiences’ essential for understanding. Their work is often based on the previous literature published on the topic and some ‘personal imagination and theoretical construct’ but never on ground reports and empirical evidence.
As such, the lateral entry push by the Modi government is a step in the right direction where the best man/woman would be chosen and entrusted with the task. The program is in accordance with the BJP government’s push for upholding meritocracy and weeding out the incompetent from the upper echelons of the bureaucracy. The reservation system will remain in place at the lower levels and the people who get in through reservation have to prove their competency to remain on their posts or climb higher in the system. In essence, the lateral entry push will ensure that reservation is not the sole criteria for forward mobility in bureaucracy.