Fiscal insight

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet of ministers never tire of boasting of their good governance, or of the growth they will bring. Prateep K. Lahiri, former IAS officer, analyses the meaning of the word ‘governance’ and expresses his reservations on its use. He finds it evocative of the relation between the ruler and the ruled, and says ‘administration’ is the better word.

In his book A Tide in the Affairs of Men: A Public Servant Remembers, Lahiri traces his journey through different corridors of power. He was revenue secretary under finance ministers Yashwant Sinha and Dr Manmohan Singh. Budgetary proposals formulated under Sinha were presented to prime minister Chandra Shekhar, who wanted it vetted by his economic adviser Manmohan Singh. Many of the proposals were questioned by Singh.

The Chandra Shekhar government later fell, and the budget was shelved. But, Lahiri reveals that when Singh was finance minister in the Narasimha Rao government, a budget was presented with the earlier proposals “recast and crafted afresh under his [Singh’s] guidance”. And, that became the ‘dream budget’ that India hailed. The author believes that the architecture of the economic reforms was the handiwork of Manmohan Singh.

Lahiri’s description of the former prime minister makes for interesting read in a book that has anecdotes and comes with narratives on topics as diverse as Bangladesh, communal riots, earthquakes and even the Nizam’s jewels. But, it is not a tell-all book.

A Tide in the Affairs of Men: A Public Servant Remembers

By Prateep K. Lahiri

Published by
Roli Books

Price: Rs 395;

pages 225