Book Review: Governance and the Sclerosis That has set in

I haven’t read non-fiction as a genre for quite some time. Picking up Sidin Vadukut’s book recently re-ignited my interest in the genre. I have also been working up an interest in learning about recent Indian history. Books about this era starting from post-liberalization have now been emerging for quite some time now.

Arun Shourie is one of the authors who has written about India’s post-liberalization era. He was also a cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government. He covers three broad areas in this book – bureaucracy, environment and immigration. He shows through examples how the thinking within the government is not directed at solving the issue at hand but in ensuring that one is not held responsible for any errors in the resolution of such issues.

To be sure, some of these issues are complex. He also faces the same difficulty that his predecessors had in resolving the issues at hand. He tends to defend the delay caused during his own regime in the various Ministries whilst not really defending the actions taken by his predecessors in the same Ministries.

The book, otherwise, is a wonderful collection of reflection and insight into the working and the thinking inside the Government towards the end of the twentieth century and that in transition from the license raj to liberalisation. It is also a pretty breezy read despite being a book that cites a lot of correspondence and timelines to back up his assertions and observations, which are few, short and sometimes satirical to drive the point through.

Strangely, there were a lot of Arun Shourie interviews that got aired around the time I was reading this book. Again getting access to the government will hopefully push him to write more books that will help Indian citizens understand the issues with more clarity and depth.