Business News/ News / Business Of Life/  Bookmark: The many dilemmas of an IAS officer

While recently criticizing “call-out culture", former US President Barack Obama told an audience: “We can’t completely remake society in a minute, so we have to make some accommodations to the existing structures." It’s this matter-of-fact tone that comes from having gotten one’s hands dirty which comes through in Naresh Chandra Saxena’s book, What Ails The IAS And Why It Fails To Deliver: An Insider’s View.

The title makes what to expect fairly obvious: a clear-eyed look at what’s wrong with the system that governs India, how it got to the state it’s in, and what needs to be done to fix it. Saxena, an IAS officer from the 1964 batch who retired as secretary of the Planning Commission in 2002, draws from his experience and shares his failures.

He also describes the experiences of some of India’s most respected IAS officers—from Armstrong Pame and S.R. Sankaran, to Harsh Mander and Ashok Khemka. Saxena doesn’t shy away from examining the politicization of the bureaucracy, writing that many officials have “learnt to combine integrity and outcome orientation with pragmatism". He explains the breakdown of trust between the political leadership and civil services, which are dependent on each other. His ideas for reform are well-thought-through and many, but the conclusion is that all of it will need collective political will.

Shalini Umachandran
Shalini Umachandran is Editor of Mint Lounge, Mint’s award-winning magazine, and the Editor of Business of Life. Her areas of interest are culture and the arts, social justice, and more. Currently based in New Delhi, she has been a reporter, a podcaster and an editor for publications across India. She is the author of ‘You Can Make Your Dreams Work’, a book of 15 stories of people who switched careers. She is a former IWMF fellow, and a fellow of the Institute of Palliative Care India and St Christopher’s Hospice London.
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Updated: 01 Sep 2021, 12:39 PM IST
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