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Attributes of the Administrator

P.R. Chari

By Ram K. Vepa
Manohar Book Service, 1978, pp. ix 288, Rs. 60.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 2 September/October 1978

It is seldom that one finds genuine pleasure in reviewing a book, but involve­ment in its theme can make the exercise rewarding. Ram K. Vepa belongs to the Indian Administrative service. The blurb describes his book as one written by a ‘practising administrator for the benefit of other administrators’. As a ‘practising administrator’ cast, for the moment, into academia, quite uncons­ciously, one compares one's own ex­perience with that of another in the same business. As the administrator progresses from youth to middle age and, sadly thereafter into 'anecdotage' he reminisces; and passes out capsules of wisdom—some trite, some instructive, some amusing. Indeed, books have been written by retired administrators, laced liberally with home-brewed wisdom. Vepa has been unable to resist the temptation to which so many of our senior colleagues have succumbed. In the very first few pages of his book we find epigrams that are, no doubt, being instilled in his juniors. Samples: ‘... a quick decision in most cases is preferable to a “right” one, since there is no guarantee ever of its rightness:’ and, ‘India will stand or fall not by what happens in the cities but in its villages ...’ Further down the book one discovers, ‘One needs to be on the look-out for all types of injustices so that there is a sense of fair-play in society which will make for a contented public; after all, administration is meant to enlarge the area of human happi­ness ...’ Who says that the Indian Administrative Service does not carry the Brown Man's Burden? The first part of the book deals with the broad theme of district administra­tion in India, and its transition from a law and order, colonial administration into, hopefully, a development-oriented, national administration. District administration was recognized by Charles Metcalfe, ‘as best suited to the character of our native subjects’. One of its cardinal features was the placing of all branches of district work under the superintendence of the Collector. Also crucial to the working of the system was bringing the magistracy, as distinguished from judges, under him. Sir Thomas Munro believed that: ‘A judge should perhaps be abstracted from all private converse with the natives. A magistrate must maintain a most intimate commu­nication with them—justice should be blind but police requires the eyes of Argus.’ This basic system of district administration continues practically un­changed to the present day. ...

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