Lateral entry: Nitish defends Centre, blames Cong for shortage of officers

Nitesh Kumar

Defending the Modi government's decision to allow lateral entry of experienced professionals as joint secretaries, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said the need for such an experiment rose due to paucity of IAS and IPS officers across the country.

Kumar, who has been an NDA ally since the 1990s, barring a four-year phase from 2013 to 2017, blamed successive Congress governments for downsizing the civil services. He said the same has left the country in a position where "we find it difficult to meet many of our governance requirements".

The Centre opening up senior-level bureaucratic posts in several departments to talented and motivated people even from the private sector has triggered a political controversy, with the opposition alleging that the move was aimed at getting those associated with the BJP into administrative ranks.

Among others, leader of opposition in Bihar assembly and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav has also made critical comment on the decision of the NDA government.

We are facing a situation wherein an IAS officer, of secretary rank, is holding charge of many departments. Despite having committed ourselves to carving out new districts, we are hesitant to proceed as we may not have IAS and IPS officers for manning these administrative units as DMs and SPs, the Bihar chief minister told reporters on sidelines of 'Lok Samvad' (public interaction programme).

This is the case with the states. The same must be with the Centre. A secretary, at the Centre, usually briefs the minister upon important matters. But joint secretaries do the necessary groundwork. When I was the Union Agriculture Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, I had 18 joint secretaries working under me, he said.

These instances can help you gauge the gap between the requirement and availability of officers. This experiment of lateral entry must have been thought of in this backdrop. Let us see if it works, Kumar said.

The JD(U) leader, a firm supporter of caste-based reservations, however, did not elaborate on the fact that no caste-based quota has been fixed for the appointments made through lateral entry.

Kumar said there should be reservation in all sectors, but "I cannot comment on this particular issue since I have learnt about this proposed move only through newspaper reports".

About a recent controversy over Bihar government introducing its own crop assistance scheme despite a Prime Minister's crop insurance scheme in place, the chief minister said the state scheme was not running counter to the central scheme.

We have devised our scheme keeping in view specific requirements of farmers in Bihar who suffer perennial loss of crops on account of natural calamities like floods and drought, he added.

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