I have never been a big fan of the IAS i.e. Indian Administrative Service system. Despite the godly reputation associated with the people who qualify through the very tough selection system. This book provides an insider view of the bureaucratic system of India, where does it falter and much more. You actually get to know a lot more than merely what the book title suggests.
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About the Author:
Naresh Chandra Saxena is a former IAS officer. Topper of his batch (1964) in the IAS, Dr Saxena retired as Secretary, Planning Commission, in 2002.

Interesting Themes/People:
International Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), BIMAROU states, Durga Shakti Nagpal, H C Gupta’s conviction, Armstrong Pame – ‘The Miracle Man’, Ashok Khemka, Arun Bhatia, Harsh Mandar, Karawan-e-Mohabat, K. J. Alphons – ‘The Demolition Man’, Social sector programs v/s safety net programs, NREGA, Right to Education Act, Meerut riots 1982, Hashimpura massacre 1987, Clientelistic state, Akhand Pratap Singh

Review:
I have never been a big fan of the IAS i.e. Indian Administrative Service system. Despite the godly reputation associated with the people who qualify through the very tough selection system. This book provides an insider view of the bureaucratic system of India, where does it falter and much more. You actually get to know a lot more than merely what the book title suggests.

The Indian Civil Service is one of those things that we inherited from the British rule. This system was introduced in the pre-independent in 1858. It was one of the most lucrative jobs in the world then and currently it is the most prestigious job in India if not most lucrative. The author introduces us to this world through some examples of mutual trust between politicians and bureaucrats and between senior-junior bureaucrats. The author marks 1967 elections as a line between old time and new time bureaucracy . In 1967 the coalitions and appearance of regional parties made allowed MLAs more bargaining power than before who would use it to tinker with the bureaucratic system. Also post 1975 emergency, the abuse of executive powers have become normal.

In a democracy like India’s, the elected leaders are captains and bureaucracy is the engine. The elected representatives are responsible for policy decisions and bureaucracy is responsible for the implementation. However most Indian voters do not expect accountability from the government regarding development. This leads to the politicians only bothering themselves with issues that wins votes, siding with populist views and focusing on short-term safety net programs than long-term social programs. This situation creates a favorable environment for the corrupt bureaucrats. The ones willing to make positive changes are slapped with transfers or demotions. Co-incidentally today Ashok Khemka received his 53rd (yes, you read it right) transfer, when this book was written it was at 51. The author explains that this is less prevalent in the national level politics than the state levels.

The author discusses great administrative officers like Armstrong Pame, Durga Shakti Nagpal, Ashok Khemka, Arun Bhatia and Harsh Mandar. Some could unite people to achieve the impossible without government funding, some exposed fat corruptions and some left the service to serve the people at grass root level. Then there are cases of corrupt officers like Akhand Pratap Singh. The IAS association had voted him as the most corrupt officer, yet four consecutive UP governments kept hiding and protecting him. Kalyan Singh (BJP) turned down an investigation against him, rajnath Singh (BJP) refused a CBI probe against him, Mayawati (BSP) closed vigilance case against him and finally Mulayam Singh (SP) made him the chief secretary of UP! The also book highlights some atrocities in independent India. Not a lot is wrote or discussed about them. I highly recommend reading about these 3 at least. 1) 1995 arrest of Adivasi women in Odisha for making brooms 2) Meerut riots 3) Hashimpura violence

Conclusion & Rating:
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
If you want a stepping stone to understand the reasons behind the policy failures of consecutive governments, widening income and social governments in India, do read this book. The goal is not to be pessimistic but to make yourself aware of the ground realities instead of rallying behind nationalistic slogans.