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Policy dive: No clarity on reservation in lateral hiring

Both the government and NITI Aayog are silent on the issue of quotas in lateral hiring.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2018 10:28 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lateral entry,Lateral hiring,UPSC
Senior officials say the attempt is only to bring in talent to enhance outcomes in various government departments and to improve governance and the selection, though not through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The Union government has decided to hire 10 professionals as joint secretaries in various ministries and departments. The move is an attempt by the government to enlist domain experts in key sectors such as finance, revenue, agriculture and infrastructure. There is no clarity yet on whether the reservation policy will be followed in making these appointments.

These positions, for a fixed period of three years, were advertised recently, and are open to Indian nationals who can supplement the government’s policies and programmes. Officials engaged with state governments, public sector undertakings, autonomous bodies, universities, research institutes and those working in private companies, consultancies and multinational firms with a minimum of 15 years experience are also eligible to apply. The advertisements skipped all reference to the reservation policy.

Issue

After it was elected to office with a thumping mandate in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had indicated that it would induct domain experts to buttress the administration’s policymaking to craft programmes that would be people-centric and based on inputs from specialists. The lateral hiring decision was based on this premise.

Following concerns about how the experiment would pan out and how the selections would be made, senior officials in the government clarified that the attempt is only to bring in talent to enhance outcomes in various government departments and to improve governance and the selection, though not through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), would still be rigorous.

Government think tank NITI Aayog has also backed the proposal, pointing out that the move will bring “competition to the established career bureaucracy”. NITI Aayog, in its recommendation to the government, had underlined the need to induct experts to accelerate decision making, implement policies and reward performance while cracking down on non-performance.

However, both the government and NITI Aayog are silent on the issue of quotas in lateral hiring. As per law, all appointments in government services have to abide by the caste-based reservation policy.

Significance

Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) upset by a decline in the intake of employees from marginalised communities have cautioned that they will take legal recourse if the go- vernment does not clarify whether the reservation policy will be followed. The policy stipulates 15% of government jobs to be reserved for SC candidates and 7.5% and 27% for ST and Other Backward Class (OBC) candidates.

While the government has been assiduously wooing the OBCs and the Dalits by trying to enhance outreach and quell apprehensions that the BJP’s ideology is against reservation, these groups are upset that most of the contractual appointments made in various departments of the government and even in NITI Aayog have not followed the compulsory quota requirements.

Debate

The Union ministry of social justice and empowerment, the nodal agency dealing with issues related to caste-based quota and policies for marginalised communities and tribes, has not made its stand clear on reservation in lateral hiring.

Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot on Tuesday said these posts are only “temporary” in nature, but did not specify whether his ministry would ensure that the reservation policy is followed. Incidentally, the minister had in May written to the department of personnel and training to ensure that the reservation policy for SCs, STs and OBCs is followed for appointments that are “non-permanent”, including those on contractual basis or limited time basis in government ministries and departments. The minister reasoned that salaries to employees hired on contr- act or for a time-bound period or even work that is outsourced are paid by the government, so it is appropriate that constitutional provisions of reservation are ensured in these appointments too.

First Published: Jun 28, 2018 10:20 IST