/ / / Part 2: Women Empowerment through Administrative Reforms

Part 2: Women Empowerment through Administrative Reforms

In the month of March, 2021, the UPSC sought applications from “talented and motivated Indian nationals willing to contribute towards nation building” for “lateral entry” into the government by advertising 3 posts of Joint Secretary and 27 posts of Director in central government departments. This was after the Modi government launched its ambitious lateral entry scheme two years ago. According to UPSC, the contract would be for a period of three yearsand the postsare“unreserved”, meaning there is to be no quota for SCs, STs and OBCs.The lateral entrants are required to have 15 years of experience for the position of joint secretaries, and 10 years for the position of directors.

For the sake of good governance and women empowerment, the Rising People’s Party is of the opinion that ‘lateral entry’ of Naga women into the bureaucracy is the need of the hour. In Nagaland, the biggest setback to women empowerment is the fact that no woman has ever sat in the state legislative assembly. While Nagaland has produced many distinguished women, there has been an absolute dearth of women in policy making bodies at the top. The bottom is even worse. As an example, the Nagaland Village Council Act envisions women constituting 25% of the VDB membershipand whereas this statutory obligation is rarely fulfilled. If at all women constitute membership in the VDBs, they are mostly reduced to serving chais (tea) and biscuits during meetings.

Woman may constitute almost half of the population but their presence is almost nil in gender equity and policy making discourses. These are historical aberrations which need to be rectified with hard decisions. Lateral entry is one such hard decision which the RPP is willing to implement if it comes to power. The RPP will only consider women for lateral entry for which suitable amendment will be made in the NPSC. There is no argument that having the required number of women at sensitive positions at the middle and senior level of the bureaucracy will also lessen the impact of endemic corruption in the state. Corruption-free governance and good governance is invariably related to women empowerment as well.

Lateral entry is never random. The whole purpose of lateral entry is to bring in domain experts – undiluted by the ‘quota’ clamour – people who are noted in their areas of expertise, such as academicians, financial experts, economists, community enablers, captains of Industry with IIT/MBA backgrounds, educationists, etc., who can take the concerned departments/Ministry a step ahead given their years of experience in their respective fields.

Most lateral entry points are Joint Secretary-level with pay and pensions at par with direct recruits. Women entrants will be tasked with taking care of critical departments such as Health & Family Welfare, Social Welfare Department, Education, Agriculture and allied departments, Tribal affairs, etc. In the light of NITI Ayog’s assessment or failed report card for the state, it’s direly important that women hold senior positions where critical policy decisions are conjured and implemented.

The main reason for lateral entry has been succinctly put by NC Saxena, a retired IAS officer. Writing in The Wire, he said,“The IAS officers too lack the necessary domain knowledge so essential for effective policymaking and delivery….A high degree of professionalism ought to be the dominant characteristic of a modern bureaucracy. The fatal failing of the Indian bureaucracy has been its low level of professional competence. The IAS officer spends more than half of his tenure on policy desks where domain knowledge is a vital prerequisite.However, in the present environment, there is no incentive for a young civil servant to acquire knowledge or to improve their skills. As years pass by, there is thus an exponential growth in both his ignorance and arrogance.”

Apart from lateral entry, the RPP envisions filling up women in constitutional and statutory bodiestoo which will bring the much needed balance in the system and dynamism in governance. According to UN Women, “Women’s representation in local governments has made a difference. Research on panchayats in India discovered that the number of drinking water projects in areas with female-led councils was 62 per cent higher than in thosewith male-led councils.”

By bringing in lateral entry for women, the RPP will be giving thrust to women empowerment and good governance at the same time.

Issued by Rising People’s Party

22nd September 2021