Delhi-based senior journalist Ashwini Shrivastava has written a first-of-its-kind book ‘Decoding Indian Babudom’ on Indian bureaucracy. The book mentions ailments of the country’s bureaucratic system from the common man’s point of view and suggests ways to improve it.
The book is recommended for civil services aspirants and those in governance to have a ‘realistic’ view of the system that governs us and also to understand the problem confronted by many in accessing the governance.
The author has highlighted possible causes of the rampant organized corruption in property registry offices, RTOs and civic authorities among others in the book.
It talks about red tape, ineffectiveness of administration in ensuring ease of accessing governance and the existence of unprofessional approach from a large number of ‘public servants’ towards the public.
The author also weighs the efficacy of the country’s administrative system, recruitment agencies and anti-corruption watchdog among others in the book from the common man’s eyes in an easy-to-read and understand format.
The book, which is a first by a journalist on bureaucracy, suggests ’15 sutras’ of good governance to ensure effective and efficient administration in the country.
Ashwini Shrivastava has been practicing journalism for over 15 years and is considered as a credible resource person on matters related to India’s governance, bureaucracy, Right to Information (RTI) Act and anti-corruption matters among others.
Ashwini is one of the few journalists in the country who regularly exercises his Right to Information (RTI) in journalism by getting governance related details from different central government departments.
Many of his stories, done on the basis of information obtained from RTI queries, have been raised in the Indian Parliament. Ashwini, who was born and brought up in Bhopal, has travelled abroad and widely within the country with VVIPs including former Presidents and Vice President of India.
He is an alumnus of the US-based East West Centre and Asia Journalism Fellowship (AJF), organized by the Institute of Policy Studies under the National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore. At present, he is working with the Press Trust of India (PTI), the country’s largest news wire, at its Delhi’s office as Assistant Editor.
Here are snippets from exclusive chat with Ashwini Shrivastava on his latest book Decoding Indian Babudom:
Bharat Speaks (BS): Please share your journey as a journalist and experience in the power corridor.
Ashwini Shrivastava (AS): It has been a wonderful journey full of vivid experiences so far. I believe that it is a bit difficult for an outsider to understand the government and its functioning. People’s perception, at times, may be different from the ground realities. India has a very good administration system manned by efficient administrators/ civil servants and the whole battery of employees.
It is not easy to administer this vast country with so many challenges. I would say bureaucrats, particularly the all-powerful Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers practically run the administration in the country. A lot has been achieved but more needs to be done. There are gaps that need to be filled sooner than later. Regular surgical strike to weed out organized corruption, red tape and inefficiency is the need of the hour.
BS: Tell us the idea behind Decoding Indian Babudom?
AS: The book is an effort to highlight the ailments of the bureaucracy from the common man’s point of view. It mentions, in an easy to read format, governance-related problems that still exist in 2022. The book also suggests 15 sutras of good governance as its conclusion. The idea to write this book came up when I was in Germany in 2018. I was there to speak at an event organised by Deutsche Welle media group in Bonn there. I have mentioned this in my book in detail.
BS: How much effort and research has gone into writing this book? Please share anecdotes while making pointers and a research list for the book?
AS: A lot of effort has gone into this. I held a threadbare discussion with serving and retired bureaucrats, not only IAS but of all other services as well, governance experts, civil society activists, professors and journalists among others.
The book mentions the problems faced by a common man, who has lack of resources, awareness and tools to access governance. I have answered ten frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the bureaucracy in the book. These questions and their response are based on the feedback I received from aforementioned stakeholders and a large number of people from different strata of the society who I met while performing my professional duty as a journalist.
I would ask them about their problems and difficulties faced by them. I also asked them what could be the probable solution to their problem as well.
One thing I have deliberately tried in this book – I have not only raised/highlighted the ailments of bureaucracy but suggested solutions to overcome them.
BS: What kind of insight this book is going to give to a layman and experts from the industry?
AS: This book is recommended for those preparing for civil services examination or for other government jobs recruitment for which is done by different government agencies.
It is also suggested as a good read for the serving civil servants and all other categories of the government employees.
There are real-life problems mentioned in detail in the book which are not yet completely addressed by the officers concerned. These problems exist all through the country. For instance, problems of alleged gratification during the passport verification and for getting a driving license. Instances of systemic ‘alleged’ corruption in property registration offices (be it personal or commercial properties) are also mentioned.
People would be able to connect themselves with the book as though it mentions their own governance-related grievance. There is something for everybody in the book, I would say.