Book review: Naresh Chandra Saxena, What Ails the IAS and Why It Fails to Deliver- An Insider’s View

Date01 September 2020
Published date01 September 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Naresh Chandra Saxena, What Ails the IAS and Why It Fails to Deliver-
An Insider’s View. New Delhi: SAGE, 2019, 245 pp., `595.
Naresh Chandra Saxena in his book, What Ails IAS and Why It Fails to Deliver
combines his great intellectual capability with vast practical experience of
working in government. He comes out with number of valuable suggestions to
reform the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the governance system in the
country. As an insider, who has held key positions in central ministries, coupled
with extensive field experience, besides holding the prestigious post of the Director
of National Academy of Administration Mussoorie, he is uniquely equipped to
author a book on bureaucracy. He is bold and forthright in his views and severely
critical of declining standards of current-day members of the elite service, much to
their discomfort, even inviting reprimand from some of them.
Civil services play a critical role in good governance. The IAS is the coun-
try’s premier service, from which all top policymaking posts in both Centre and
the State Secretariat, as well as field jobs such as district collectors, are drawn.
Saxena makes a critical analysis of various social service programmes launched
by government in the field of education, health, nutrition, public distribution,
land reform, etc., and points out their poor outcome in terms of delivery of ser-
vices. As a result, vast majority of people in the country continue to be trapped
in poverty and deprivation. The problem is largely due to bad designing as well
as poor implementation, for which the IAS has to share large part of the blame.
Saxena questions the commonly held view of members of the service that it is the
political culture which is largely responsible for poor outcome of public services
delivery and takes a middle of the road position. ‘Granted that radical reforms
cannot succeed in isolation without political support, non-performing adminis-
tration leaves little choice to the politicians but to resort to populist rhetoric and
sectarian strategies’.
He discusses the relationship between civil servants and political leadership,
which has become highly complex in India’s chaotic democracy. For about two
decades post-independence, the political leadership was of high moral standards.
There was considerable trust between political executive and civil servants and
latter functioned independently providing a reasonably good administration.
Subsequently, however, there has been gradual decline in moral compass of politi-
cal executive, and now they are more interested in seeking political office as a
Indian Journal of Public
66(3) 418–437, 2020
© 2020 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0019556120943386

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