Interviews

Not Just a Civil Servant

Not Just a Civil Servant

Exposing Education mafias, a bureaucrat marches beyond the traditionally accepted definition of a civil servant. Being uniquely accessible and decisive, he records excerpts from his 38 years of service- filled with grappling with terrorists, floods, politicians –in his book.

In conversation with Brainfeed, Anil Swarup, Former Secretary, School Education (2016-2018), Ministry of Coal (2014-2016), Government of India, says, “It isn’t an autobiography in the strict sense of the term. I wanted to use this book to demonstrate that a civil servant can perform irrespective of the set of circumstances.”

What was your inspiration behind authoring ‘Not Just a Civil Servant’?

The book was inspired by a senior colleague who had seen me evolve as an officer. He felt that what I was doing needed to be documented. I wanted to use this book to demonstrate that a civil servant can perform irrespective of the set of circumstances. A number of incidents impacted my life and career. A few of these have been narrated in my book.

Please share your experience of penning down your journey.

This book was written over a period of time. It was first to be only about Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) that still forms a big part of the book but as I subsequently handled sensitive assignments in the Cabinet Secretariat, Coal and HRD Ministry, I expanded the domain.

What is the idea behind the title, ‘Not Just a Civil Servant’? Why did you opt to become a civil servant?

My father had decided what I had to become. The title was chosen primarily to convey a message as I felt that a bureaucrat has to be much beyond the traditionally accepted definition of a civil servant. He has to be humane. He has to be both civil and in service of the people. He has, hence, to be accessible and decisive. These terms are not normally associated with civil servants.

How do you envision the impact of your book?

I hope the book will benefit budding civil servants in terms of an appreciation of what is in store for them in the civil service. It could also benefit those who are already in service. They can perhaps believe that a civil servant can deliver a lot despite adverse set of circumstances.

As an internal observer of the system, what is your take on the education scenario today?

We have somehow managed to mess up the education, especially school education in India. It is beset with mafias that are eating into the essentials of our society. However, it can all be corrected. Teacher lies at the pivot of school education. The entire focus has to be in terms of improving the pre-service training of teachers by getting rid of the non-existent but powerful BEd colleges that give degrees without imparting any training. The selection of teachers for government schools requires an overhaul. Teachers, once recruited, need to be appropriately trained and their skills periodically upgraded. A number of initiatives have been taken. They need to be taken to logical conclusion.

Not Just a Civil Servant

 

Where does the youth stand today? How can they empower themselves?

As I still interact with a lot of youth, I find them full of enthusiasm and very well informed, much more than those of my generation. However, this energy needs to be channelized and harnessed for their own good and good of the society. The youth needs to be encouraged to focus on themselves, improve by learning from those that are doing well.

Would you like to share any opinions received on your book?

There is a demand also for writing about that part of the carrier that has been left out. Hence, I am now working on a sequel.

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