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Book Review: Serve And Govern

While the book is not in the same league as Unfinished Innings by former Union home secretary Madhav Godbole who resigned in March 1993, 18 months before his term was to end (after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1991), it does give a peep into the inner workings of our babudom right from the grassroots to the sandstones blocks in New Delhi

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It is not often  that you come across reflections by a bureaucrat on a lifetime spent within the steel frame of India. Usually the stress is on the pronoun; the narrative tends to be romantic; few tell us how rusted the frame is either.

The Mavericks of Mussoorie by M. Ramachandran, a 1972 batch officer is refreshing. The author did not make it as cabinet secretary during the UPA regime despite having personally known two Prime Ministers – Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi – as district magistrate of Rae Bareli in 1980s. That’s because then cabinet secretary, K.M. Chandrasekhar, got two extensions. While the book is not in the same league as Unfinished Innings by former Union home secretary Madhav Godbole who resigned in March 1993, 18 months before his term was to end (after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1991), it does give a peep into the inner workings of our babudom right from the grassroots to the sandstones blocks in New Delhi.

And given that we are in 25th year of that fateful Babri Masjid incident, it is worthwhile to look at what Ramchandran has to say on the subject. Sadly, Ramchandran who was then Divisional Commissioner of Meerut on that fateful day does not dwell on the subject — on the polarisation, how it was bought about or on the events in its aftermath. Maybe, he felt much has been written on it; we don’t know. He observes that “I felt convinced that the core of the district administration should be above political influence and such a core team should be available to act in a fair manner generally and specifically in critical situations”. Well, of that was indeed the case la affaire Babri Masjid would not have happened. One can’t help feel a wonderful opportunity as to how the state bureaucracy dealt with the ground realities in the run-up to that awful day would have made for an interesting reading, especially in these ever polarising times.


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