AN explanation is in order. Usually book reviews have to make way to the space allotted by the editor. It also has to assess the readers’ ability to absorb the ‘gyan’, and the current trend is for a review article, or even a regular column to be in the range of five to six hundred words.
However, the book under review is monumental – both in terms of content as well as the diversity of authors, and therefore a better way is to perhaps cover five to six chapters each in this wonderfully conceptualised book by a thinking and committed civil servant, PK Basu, and brought together by Shubhi Publications, Gurugram. The launch of the book, a few weeks ago, was supported by Blitz India at the iconic India International Centre. A word about the editor before we commence the discussion on this anthology of essays on governance and development administration.
About the book editor
PK Basu completed his masters in physics before joining the IAS in 1976 and superannuated as the Union Agriculture secretary. Later he served on the central Administrative Tribunal and as a member of the Academic Council of Vishwa Bharti University, Shanti Niketan, as well as the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the TERI DEAKINS Nanotechnology Centre at Gurugram. He has been writing articles, columns and blogs on governance, history, culture and political economy.
The genesis of this book lies in his concern with the uninformed, biased, and tendentious critique of the Service. His view (and that of most of the contributors) is that if the critique on governance is evidence based, and with an intent to improve the functioning of our institutions – from the gram panchayat to zilla parishads, municipalities as well as the central and state government agencies, it should be welcome.
However, criticism for the sake of criticism, which emanates from a lack of knowledge of the context in which IAS officers function, had to be countered by placing together the views of those who have been or continue to be in the centre stage of governance. With this idea in mind, the editor wrote to a broad spectrum of officers from across cadres and batches seeking their views on any of the issues they confronted in the course of their service life. Officers were free to reflect upon successes, partial successes, impediments to success as also lessons learnt from significant failures, for it is clear that every administrative initiative may not achieve the desired or expected results, nay, some may even fail to take off.
In Basu’s own words “since the IAS operates in anonymity, and we are bound by the code of conduct, very rarely do we inform the public about what exactly is our contribution. Some of us do write memoirs, but that does not typically deal with the nature and content of the work we do. The collection of essays in this book is an attempt to provide a glimpse of what the IAS has been doing for the nation over the years, and how it is still silently serving the citizens of the country.”
In his Foreword, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba mentions that over time, the expectations from the civil services and individual officers have grown higher. One has not only to do his duty but has to be mindful of the social impact of one’s endeavors.’ He concludes by saying that it was his earnest hope and desire that this volume would encourage many others to tell their tales for the benefit of the younger officers.
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