Politicians writing books being the flavour of the season,this one,for a change,comes from a serving civil servant. It has a foreword by none other than the Prime Minister and is being released by the President on February 21.
Authored by 1982-batch IAS officer Sudhir Kumar — the man largely considered the brain behind turning around the fortunes of the Indian Railways — and Shagun Mehrotra,Bankruptcy to Billions-How the Indian Railways Transformed is an insider’s account of how the Railways,under a populist political mandate,transformed from near-bankruptcy to an annual cash-surplus of US$ 6 billion.
Is it possible to serve the omelet of reforms to the nation without breaking egg? asks Kumar. How you can is the story of this book, he answers before you can take a guess. That populism can be blended with profitability,that inclusive reforms are possible and that you can earn Rs 90,000 crore cash surplus in five years by reducing passenger fares is what we have attempted to explain, Kumar adds.
On what drove him to write a book,Kumar says,I strongly believe there is a feeling of cynicism about the way the government works. If there is one central message of this book,it is that of hope. If this book inspires hope in even a single person working in the government machinery,our purpose would be served. Kumar,a Bihar-cadre officer who was handpicked by Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav as his Officer on Special Duty in the Railways Ministry,says the book also explains how to honour the political mandate and be commercially oriented at the same time.
The fact that politicians have confused the political mandate with indifference and the civil servants have confused indifference with political mandate has led to a situation where one is being called a joker and the other a babu. Since both of them don’t respect each other,so does society, says Kumar.
The bureaucracy should learn to respect the political mandate. In the case of Railways,the bureaucracy never dishonoured the mandate of the Railways Minister while the Minister gave a free-run to the bureaucracy. Both sides did not cross their lakshmanrekha, he explains.
But is the book an ode to Lalu? No,it is not. And neither is it a personal story. I find no mention in the book and the book is written in third person, he says.
Lalu,though,finds a mention in the book,he concedes.