Deconstructing the Indian bureaucracy

Published : September 26, 2019 16:59 IST

T.R. Raghunandan.


A former Indian Administrative Services officer, T.R. Raghunandan, who left the civil services in 2010 to take up a career as a consultant in decentralisation, anti-corruption and heritage conservation, has written a book titled Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Bureaucracy But Were Afraid to Ask.

Published by Penguin Random House, the book, which was published in early September, claims to be “a bold, insightful and hilarious deconstruction of bureaucracy for anyone who has ever faced red-tape”. The book talks of how the elite upper levels of power believe that decentralisation of power amounts only to decentralisation of corruption. With a touch of satire, the author points out that whatever its faults, the Indian bureaucracy cannot be accused of bias when it comes to confounding those who have to deal with it.

“Veteran insiders who return to it with their petitions after retirement are as clueless about how it functions as freshly minted supplicants. Outsiders have little knowledge of who is responsible for what and why, or how to navigate that critical proposal through the treacherous shoals of the secretariat.”

Raghunandan’s effort at deconstructing the bureaucracy for the common man has won plaudits. Fellow author-diplomat Navtej Sarna calls it “a trenchant appraisal of the elite echelons of India’s civil service by a highly perceptive insider.” Likewise, civil servant-turned-activist and author Harsh Mander describes it “an unusual insight into the bureaucracy observed from within: attentive, honest, funny, thoughtful and in the end hopeful.”

As for Raghunandan, after 27 years in the IAS, he now handles several national and international assignments, including adviser to the accountability initiative of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. He is also adviser to Login Asia, a network of practitioners on decentralisation from countries in south, central and south-east Asia. When he is neither a bureaucrat nor an adviser nor author, Raghunandan is a classic automobile restorer!