NEW DELHI, July 4: Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh left everybody amused in the House when he said in the Rajya Sabha today that the former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had also, for the first time, entered the government through lateral entry, way back in 1972, when he was appointed Chief Economic Advisor by the then government headed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, replying to questions on the appointment in Civil Services and Government sector through lateral entry, Dr Jitendra Singh refuted the charge that the Modi Government had taken the decision on the basis of a report from the NITI Aayog and he also sought to clear the misgivings that the appointments through lateral entry were motivated by a design to appoint certain favoured persons into high offices in the Government.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, the lateral entry process has existed for several decades and while the present government has just made about six such appointments in high offices, he could cite over a dozen important senior appointments made by the earlier Congress and UPA Governments through lateral entry, the most illustrious of which included the appointment of Dr Manmohan Singh as Chief Economic Advisor in 1972 and later as Secretary in Finance Ministry in 1976, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia as Economic Advisor in 1979 and then Commerce Secretary in 1990, Vijay Kelkar as Finance Secretary in 1998, Bimal Jalan as Finance Secretary in 1991, Dr Shankar Acharya as Chief Economic Advisor in 1993, Rakesh Mohan as Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of India in 2002 and many more. He said, it will take a long time to quote all the names. However, he added, he is not challenging the wisdom and discretion of the earlier governments and believes that all these appointments were made in good faith and in the interest of the purpose for which these were made.
As far as the present government is concerned, Dr Jitendra Singh said, what we have done is only to streamline the process of lateral entry appointments and make these appointments more objective and impartial. He said, the primary purpose of lateral entry appointments is two-fold, firstly to try to get the best of the merit from whichever source available and secondly, to serve as an adjuvant to the availability of the personnel. For this purpose, the entire process of selection, based on merit, experience and age criteria, is carried out by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
Dr Jitendra Singh further cleared the apprehensions in the House that lateral entry appointments will, in any way, reduce the promotion chances of such IAS officers who are already in service and said, there is already a big deficit of officers, particularly at the level of Directors and Deputy Secretaries. He informed that 10 posts of Joint Secretary had been advertised for which UPSC has recommended candidates for 9 posts, while 40 posts of Directors / Deputy Secretaries are planned to be fulfilled in near future.