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July 19, 2017

Lateral Entries to Reform Civil Services

This Livemint article gives reasons in support of the idea that "In a 21st century economy, a quarter century after liberalisation ... the need for specialised skills and knowledge to inform policy-making and administration is more important than ever."


"...the civil services as they exist today—most crucially, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS)—are unsuited to the country’s political economy in many ways. In Public Institutions In India, K.P. Krishnan and T.V. Somanathan define effectiveness of the civil service, from an institutional economics perspective, as its “contribution… to the reduction of the transaction costs for economic entities”. But a newly independent India had pressing concerns about the need for socioeconomic development, the demands of Central planning and the imperative of holding together a new nation subject to internal political pressures. The Constituent Assembly debates make it clear that the civil services were seen as a tool—by Vallabhbhai Patel, for instance—for achieving these objectives. Their creation and functioning thus gave rise to a tribe of generalist administrators whose economic effectiveness was sometimes subordinate to other concerns...


India’s civil services need reform. There is little argument about this. Internal reforms—such as insulation from political pressure and career paths linked to specialization—and external reforms such as lateral entry are complementary, addressing the same deficiencies from different angles. Pushback is inevitable—but the Prime Minister would do well to remember the manifesto he laid before the secretaries back in 2014."


Read the full article here

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