New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project of giving lateral entry to specialists over and above the senior IAS officers has been put into limbo after the Opposition accused him of trying to fill up the top bureaucracy with the RSS hands. Around 6,000 applied for 10 posts of the joint secretaries across different ministries more than two months ago, but their applications have been not even sorted out to select the candidates for interviews.
Modi thought of the idea on noting shortage of the capable IAS officers at the top in the bureaucracy. He borrowed the idea of the lateral entries given to over half a dozen experts in the NITI Aayog, though such entries were encouraged in its previous avatar of Planning Commission to attract the best brains.
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) that selects the gazetted and all-India officers like IAS, IPS and IFS, was supposed to sift the applications and conduct interviews. It has, however, desisted to wriggle out, putting the ball in the court of the Cabinet Secretary.
In an attempt to institutionalise the practice of direct lateral appointments instead of letting the officers reach the zenith of bureaucratic posts through promotions, the government had advertised in July, inviting applications for ten posts of joint secretaries.
Experts were invited to fill the posts in financial services, revenue, economic affairs, agriculture, cooperation and farmer welfare, road transport and highways, shipping, environment, forest and climate change, new and renewable energy, civil aviation and commerce.
There was no clarity at the time of the advertisements as to who will carry out the selections – the concerned ministries or the Department of Personnel and Training which managers the cadre of IAS officers or the UPSC. At the last moment, the PMO put the UPSC on the job and the UPSC wriggled out to play safe after the IAS officers protested at their domain being invaded by the outsiders. Even the ministries were unhappy as they were not taken into confidence before putting out the advertisement.
Insiders say the requirement of a minimum 15 years of experience in the profession discouraged the really top professionals in the private sector to queue up, particularly when the contract period of just three to five years was also not attractive. They say the PMO also lost interest in view of the resistance from the IAS lobby for fear of an unhappy bureaucracy paralysing the government just months before the polls.