Prerequisites for lateral entry into bureaucracy
If you get an eye infection or if you want a cataract surgery, you go to an ophthalmologist, if you need a neurosurgery, you go to a neurosurgeon. But what if the General Medicine doctors end up dealing with all these cases requiring specialist requirement? It would be a disaster. It's the reason generalist doctors dread giving a medical prescription for issues that require special attention.
Turn to policymaking, it's not the case, in fact, it's even worse. Generalists, who are not even generalists in policy analysis, but primarily implementers, design policies. We all are being operated by general medicine doctors for every ailment! It is definitely not a desirable scenario. For this simple reason, there have been demands for incorporating specialists in policymaking.
There's been a wide debate and several commentaries on the pros and cons of lateral entry into bureaucracy. I am not going to discuss all that. In this post, I would like to touch upon an aspect which seems to be missing in the debates, the nature of responsibilities of a policymaking bureaucrat in India.
The lateral entry of specialists at higher levels of bureaucracy presumes that bureaucrats at that level are only into policymaking. It's not true in the case of India. Bureaucrats at such level deal with both the implementation and policymaking aspects. For instance, a sanitation secretary would also be monitoring the implementation of the toilet construct and be accountable for those numbers, while thinking about broader policy issues at the same time.
In such cases, if an outside specialist with no experience in Indian public administration is brought into this role, it would be a disaster. Getting things done in India's system needs a good knowledge of inner dynamics of administration, for which the bureaucrats are trained for years on the ground. The traditional bureaucrats have definitely an edge here.
So, if we are to bring external specialists to higher level policymaking, separating these executive and policymaking rules should be the pre-requisite. Lateral entry would be ineffective without doing such reform.
Again, this is not a unique insight. Even 2nd Administrative Commission recommends separation of executive and policymaking responsibilities of the senior bureaucrats, on the lines of UK.
In summary, lateral entry into policymaking levels of bureaucracy is highly needed but should be preceded by an administrative reform that separates the execution and design roles of senior-level bureaucrats.