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Mavericks Of Mussoorie: Tale Of An Indian Bureaucrat

The book by M Ramachandran acknowledges the pitfalls of the system and set out clearly what needs to be done to bring out the full potential of the Civil Service

Photo Credit : Tarun Gupta


Conflict, collusion collaboration - The three Cs of what we refer as a politician-bureaucrat relationship. This relationship has not changed over the years, but ‘Life in the corridors of power’ has changed for the civil servants today.

“The stance of a civil servant has completely changed today,” says BK Chaturvedi, former cabinet secretary and member, Planning Commission.

“If you do something unpleasant, people would want you to be out of that job the next day. Unless the politician and civil servant relationship changes, how can the bureaucracy deliver? ” says Chaturvedi.

A lot of other senior bureaucrats have echoed similar sentiments, especially the politician-bureaucrat relationship and more important, ‘politicisation of bureaucracy’.

The 1972 IAS batch came together at the book launch of former bureaucrat M Ramachandran’s ‘Mavericks of Mussoorie - Life in the corridors of power'. In this candid memoir Ramachandran opens up on how and why, despite a distinguished career, the post of Cabinet Secretary eluded him.

More importantly, the author has put down brutally honest stances during his tenure as a civil servant.

The book acknowledges the pitfalls of the system and set out clearly what needs to be done to bring out the full potential of the Civil Service.

Speaking about the book, Chaturvedi says that it reflects some of the true experiences of a civil servant and situations one has to undergo especially with the politicians.

“Sometimes the civil servants don't get the assignments they deserve and it is very frankly narrated in the book,” says Chaturvedi.

Elaborating on the current situation, he says, “95 per cent of India is in states and that is where the real governance is. We may do all the talking at the centre but if the state governance is poor, nothing will change. In the northern states, the condition is even worse.”

Speaking of the worst condition, Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog states the very collapse of governance at the district level and the need to start naming and shaming to crack this problem.

He elaborated that there are several issues at the bureaucratic level that need an urgent attention, including tenures.  

“In my personal opinion, the whole system of governance has totally got politicised and unless you don’t de-politicised it and allow longer tenure for offices, India will never grow in long term.

We have too many officers working in the secretariat and it will be very difficult to transform India until and unless we put officers on the field including project work,” says Kant.

He also raises another issue of real-time data. He says that at the bureaucratic level, the officers are working with data dated years back.

Pressing on the same issue, NC Saxena, former IAS and member Planning Commission raises questions about the reliability of the existing data.  

“The data which flows from the grassroots to the states is not reliable at all. The sanitation data of 2011 census showed that only 31 per cent households have access to toilets where UP government showed 90 per cent availability,” says Saxena.

Talking about the disinterest of the politicians in serious issues, Saxena also raised an important issue of program evaluation.

“Programs not doing well are never evaluated. There is no trend to evaluate the programs independently in states. Even the government is either indifferent or do not appreciate states carrying out independent evaluations.”