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South Asian Bureaucracy

Sanjoy Bagchi

Edited by K.S. Chalam
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 293, Rs. 895.00


Amongst the regional organizations, SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, has not attracted much scholarly attention. It is a compact geographical region bounded on the north by high mountain ranges and in the south by high seas. On the sides it is enclosed by two arms of highlands originating from the Pamirs and the Himalayas. The countries of the region are diverse ethnically as well as in their religious beliefs. But historically they were managed by the East India Company, and later by the British Government in the recent past. Some of the members, though not under direct British rule, enjoyed British protection. Although the member countries had lived under Pax Britanica for long periods, most of them after the departure of the British fell prey to internal conflicts. Pakistan became a theocratic Islamic Republic and succumbed to military dictatorship. Sri Lanka went through a long spell of civil war. India and Pakistan continued under the shadow of border tensions and frequent armed conflicts. These events attracted the attention of outsiders. The region’s governance had rarely merited deep study. In that context this volume should be regarded as important. The editor of this book is a former member of the Union Public Service Commission, India. He has collected a number of essays on governance, most of them pertaining to India while some of them are of a general nature. A few of them deal with a particular member country of SAARC. He has grouped the essays under four headings.   In the first part under the overall heading of Governance and Civil Service, there are four essays dealing with governance and public service, constitutional status of the civil service in India, civil service values and neutrality, and importance of social security in good governance. The essays are of a general nature, mostly dealing with the Indian context. They do not even obliquely touch upon the situation in South Asia. The second part is India specific since it deals with civil service reform in India. This part contains four essays. The first one is on accountability in public service, followed by a very good analysis of corruption in India contributed by  the formidable Bhure Lal.  Then there are two essays of indifferent quality on institutional civil service reforms in the Indian civil service and reinventing the civil servant. The third part is the only one that is relevant for ...

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