Career Experiences
AK Srivastava
A TIDE IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN: A PUBLIC SERVANT REMEMBERS by Prateep K Lahiri Roli Books, 2018, 2018, 225 pp., 395
July 2018, volume 42, No 7

The author was in the MP cadre of the IAS and had a distinguished career both in the central and State governments. This is not an autobiography; it is a well written account of his interesting experiences. In this sense, the author is a chip off the old block. His father BN Lahiri was the first Indian IG of UP police.

The author did not keep any notes and hardly any documents but his recounting of even fifty year-old events has a freshness and immediacy, and the old events are perceptively linked to present-day concerns. Lahiri mentions Noronha, a legendary Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh and his excellent book, A Tale Told By An Idiot. Noronha comments that a civil servant often has to deal with ‘Tremendous Trifles’. This is perhaps more applicable to field postings. Lahiri had an eventful and longish career as a field officer. He handled a serious communal riot as Assistant Collector under training in Jabalpur, pacified angry Sikhs as SDO, Katni, handled student agitation and communal tension as DM, Guna, ran a huge drought and scarcity relief programme when he was Collector, Khandwa and tackled a big communal riot as DM, Indore. The reader gets a real flavour of the tension of those times.

The author has drawn correct lessons from his field experiences in law and order matters. Effective and proportionate early steps avoid a lot of trouble later. The best known example of this is the Babri Masjid imbroglio. When Mulayam Singh was the Chief Minister of UP he foiled a march on the Masjid by taking effective preventive steps. In 1992 these steps were not taken. The Government and the administration adopted a Micawberish attitude that everything will somehow be alright. The rest, as they say, is history. Of course, those who think that the demolition was a good thing will not agree. But I suppose even they will agree that it was a massive failure to maintain law and order.

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