Nagrik Dialogue

Not Just A Civil Servant-By Anil Swarup

This book is about the journey of an Indian Administrative Service Officer. It is about the travails and tribulations, successes and failures of a civil servant. It brings forth the challenges in traversing the difficult terrain of governance and public service There was not a moment of boredom. The book reflects this excitement, the excitement of spending sleepless nights on account of the potential of what could be done for the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich.

The first segment deals with the initial formative years outlining life in the two National Academies, the National Police Academy at Hyderabad and the National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie. It also lays bare the initial understanding of administration by a raw bureaucrat. “Management skills of a different kind” highlights the attributes required to manage a variety of challenges as a Collector of District and how the subsequent assignment (without any authority) was totally different from the previous one.  The wide spectrum of assignments and the skill sets required to handle them were truly challenging and certainly not taught at Harvard Business School.

“When it all came crashing down” is about what happened on the fateful day when the Babri Masjid was demolished and  reaction of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh.  This personal experience is at variance with generally held view about Kalyan Singh’s role in the entire episode.

Substantial portion of the book covers the experience in conceptualization, articulation and implementation of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna that came to be hailed by international organizations. This segment also reveals the problems faced in implementing a new idea in the Government, especially the Labour Ministry wherein, in any case, it was difficult to “deliver”. The scheme was originally designed for below poverty line families. (It has now enabled the present Government to formulate a much larger health insurance scheme).

The segment on coal deals with cleaning up of coal mess created by the so called coal scams. However, more importantly, it also highlights how the CAG observations and the consequent indictments impacted decision making in the Government. The segment also brings forth the true nature of coal related issues and the cause of the coal mess. The real story was not about the coal scam but about the manner in which the coal production was increased to unprecedented levels.

The last part of the book relates to experiences in the education sector. It describes the journey from the dark dungeons of coal mines to the apparent bright but notso-bright light of education sector. Whereas in the coal sector, mining was underground and the mafias were over ground, in the education sector it was the other way round. The segment provides some insight into these mafias and how they were tackled. The CBSE paper leak created quite a flutter. This constitutes the highlight of this chapter

A career spanning 38 years reveals such aspects of public dealing that goes well beyond the routine of a civil servant. It gets reflected in almost all the activities that the officer undertook. However, there is a separate segment related to random experiences that provide a glimpse of the motivation behind what was done and a number of occasions beyond the call of duty.

The book is about hope and optimism. It is about the potential of It is about the potential of what can be done what can be done despite myriad of problems.

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Nagrik Dialogue is the face of Nagrik Foundation’s communication skills that comes in the form of a monthly magazine. It will work as a bridge for those working at the grass roots level and those who support them in any form and manner.