In this illuminating memoir Javid Chowdhury shares his varied experiences over four decades in the IAS: the years in training when he imbibed the service's ethos and values; his initiation into the rural universe as the District Development Officer and the District Magistrate; and further on, to his handling of the infamous Bank Securities and Jain Hawala scams as Director of Enforcement and Union Revenue Secretary.
With a light pen, Chowdhury describes the changing social profile and attitudes of entrants to the higher civil services; the nepotism, in many garbs, that he encountered as Establishment Officer; and the stranger-than-fiction tortuous investigations of crimes. He also offers his nuanced reflections on the dubious legacy Gujarat acquired as a result of the communal carnage in 2002.
Chowdhury further examines how policymaking within government came to be whittled away under the neo-liberal theology, with key scrutiny being left to external expert think tanks and ad hoc groups. As a consequence, he perceives that public accountability came to be inordinately diffused, resulting in the roller-coaster governance that we witness today.
Sharp and insightful, replete with telling anecdotes and amusing sketches of icons, colleagues and ministers, The Insider's View is a compelling portrait of the author, a self-confessed welfare socialist, besides being an X-ray of the innards of the bureaucracy.