An Ac­count of Ret­ro­spec­tive Courage

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ATide In The Af­fairs of Men is rem­i­nis­cences of se­nior bu­reau­crat PK Lahiri who lu­cidly shares vi­gnettes of jour­ney through pub­lic life. The 225 page book is Lahiri’s jour­ney that he has tried to relook at some of the mile­stones as chap­ters of this book. The book can be clas­si­fied into three parts — early phase of his bu­reau­cratic jour­ney which he be­gins with the Sikh sen­si­tiv­ity in chap­ter one and end­ing at the night land­ing of the chief min­is­ter of MP’s flight in Gwalior, which the Air Com­modore de­clined to al­low due to in­suf­fi­cient light. Then Lahiri be­gins re­count­ing his jour­ney into the power cor­ri­dors in which he has relooked into his work as a civil ser­vant. The au­thor is quite can­did in re­veal­ing that he could get el­e­vated into the state sec­re­tar­iat of Mad­hya Pradesh af­ter twenty-six long years of ser­vice in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties. He re­counts his first post­ing as sec­re­tary into the Health Depart­ment in July 1985

where he shares his first di­rect in­ter­ac­tion with the Chief Min­is­ter — op­er­a­tional head of the state gov­er­nance. Here Lahiri shares an in­ter­est­ing in­ci­dent where he used to get some un­der­signed CM orders, which as sec­re­tary he found non-im­ple­mentable. As sec­re­tary, Lahiri had two op­tions — let the orders pile up at his ta­ble as CM Of­fice never en­quired about its orders and sec­ond op­tion was to send his in­abil­ity to im­ple­ment those orders with proper men­tion of its rea­son(s). As sec­re­tary, Lahiri chose the sec­ond one which the new bu­reau­crats who are in the nascent phase of their ca­reer may think of adopt­ing. In­ter­est­ingly, Lahiri re­counts that his re­fusal to im­ple­ment those CM orders didn’t riled the then CM Moti­lal Vora.

In this sec­ond part of this book Lahiri goes on to share his jour­ney till his job as rev­enue sec­re­tary with Dr Man­mo­han Singh, who was Fi­nance Min­is­ter in the PV Nar­simha Rao gov­ern­ment. But, be­fore that he doesn’t fail to re­count an in­ter­est­ing ten­ure of his jour­ney dur­ing Yash­want Sinha’s ten­ure as Fi­nance Min­is­ter in the Chan­drashekhar gov­ern­ment. He re­counts that in Yash­want Sinha’s time, they were un­der­go­ing the rigrous job of bud­get mak­ing which they had to get ratified by Chan­drashekhar, the then Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia. To his ‘quaint’, the meet­ing took place while sit­ting on the floor where Chan­drashekhar sat in the mid­dle while Sinha and other bu­reau­crats and im­por­tant of­fi­cials sat around him, but to his sur­prise Chan­drashekhar tele­phoned Dr Man­mo­han Singh who was eco­nomic ad­vi­sor to the Prime Min­is­ter to know his views on the bud­get that was made by his team of fi­nance. The PM asked Dr Singh to join them, which as bu­reau­crat, Lahiri of 1990s was not ex­pect­ing be­cause till that time Eco­nomic Ad­vi­sor to PM was not con­sid­ered part of the in­ner core com­mit­tee of the bud­get mak­ing process.

Third part of this book is de­voted to PK Lahiri’s in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure which be­gan with his post­ing in Bangladesh as Civil Af­fairs Li­ai­son Of­fi­cer af­ter it be­came in­de­pen­dent from Pak­istan. He re­counts his job as CALO, which helped lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­store civil ad­min­is­tra­tion in Bangladesh, as­sist in re­turn of and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the near 1 crore Bangladesh refugees who crossed to In­dia in the wake of Pak troops bar­baric act to sup­press the Bangladeshi In­de­pen­dence Move­ment ini­ti­ated by Sheikh Mu­jib-ur-Rehman. Lahiri also re­counts his role in es­tab­lish­ing po­lice and law and or­der in My­mensingh dis­trict where he was posted as CALO. In short, In­dia had a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion in in­de­pen­dence of Bangladesh and Lahiri was one of those few of­fi­cers who make it hap­pen. As Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor at the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADB), Lahiri re­counts his mem­oire while work­ing at the Gen­eral Cap­i­tal In­crease (GCI) where he force­fully helped the re­gional un­der de­vel­op­ing mem­ber na­tions to counter the non­re­gional de­vel­oped mem­ber na­tions like the US, who were in mood to im­pose some strin­gent con­di­tions like with­drawal of cer­tain sub­sides, com­mit­ment to have a struc­ture for re­cov­ery of elec­tric­ity dues, ad­her­ence to the guide­lines for safe­guard­ing en­vi­ron­ment etc., for lend­ing loans. But, an In­dian at the GCI in the form of Lahiri, helped In­dia and other re­gional mem­ber na­tions to have the last laugh as these re­gional mem­ber na­tions con­tinue to bor­row loans from the ADB even af­ter los­ing the bat­tle at the GCI.

Apart from these as­sign­ments, Lahiri has also re­counted his work at NMDC, which used to mine and deal in di­a­monds and his work dur­ing the na­tion­al­iza­tion of the coal mines. In short, thgis book is not a mem­oire of a civil ser­vant, who glo­ri­fies his work as if had he not been there, those works won’t have hap­pened. He has just nar­rated how he han­dles those as­sign­ments as a civil ser­vant and what helped him achieve suc­cess in the chair he was adorn­ing at that time.

So, the book is an hon­est re­count, which de­serves to be called an ac­count of ret­ro­spec­tive courage.

Ti­tle: A Tide In The Af­fairs of Men Au­thor: Pra­teep K Lahiri Pub­lisher: Lo­tus RoliNo of Pages: 225Price: `395/-

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