Deccan Chronicle

The art of the possible

Deccan Chronicle| Swati Sharma

Published on: May 15, 2019 | Updated on: May 15, 2019

Through this memoir, the retired IAS officer looks back at his life and offers great insights into the life of an Indian civil servant.

K. Pradeep Chandra, former bureaucrat-turned-author

K. Pradeep Chandra, former bureaucrat-turned-author

Former bureaucrat-turned-author K. Pradeep Chandra recently launched his debut book titled Tiger Hunting Stories published by HarperCollins, in which he shares many anecdotes from his 34 year career in the IAS to fighting corruption, ignorance, and casteism.

Through this memoir, the retired IAS officer looks back at his life and offers great insights into the life of an Indian civil servant. The no-nonsense bureaucrat chalks up working with powerful politicians like Chandrababu Naidu and K. Chandrasekhar Rao as the most challenging and satisfying experience of his career.

"They are a little authoritarian and can get intolerant at times, and this can be quite frustrating to the bureaucracy. It was challenging and satisfying working with both of them. CBN and KCR are very similar in their work styles. They are both very knowledgeable, hands-on and quite demanding about officers delivering results in very short periods of time. Ultimately though, they both have good ideas and have a feel for the pulse of the people," he says.

What about when intolerant politicians push bureaucrats to the wall, like the recent case wherein N. Chandrababu Naidu was seen berating the CEO of AP, Gopal Krishna Dwivedi? Responding diplomatically, he says, "The relationship between a senior bureaucrat and the CM is like that between happy spouses. Harmony is predominant but sometimes there may be friction. It is all part of the long term relationship and nothing special needs to be read into one specific incident."

Having left a corporate job and choosing IAS as his calling, the debutant author has traversed a journey that has taken him through triumph and turmoil alike. "Bureaucrats face such situations on a regular basis and I was no stranger to them. No two situations are alike and one has to cater to different strategies to tackle the problem. There are times when you are alone with only one or two trusted subordinates. Sometimes you get mauled in the bargain.

Yet you emerge, with a solution in hand, with another tiger hunting story chapter to be written. Thus emerged my own tiger hunting stories," says Chandra, talking about the origins of his book, which contains anecdotal stories where he describes administration as ‘the art of the possible’.

"I believe this will be very useful to young officers as well as those who are preparing for a career in the civil services. The general reader should be able to understand the challenges that are faced by IAS officers and hopefully get a better understanding of our work," says the former bureaucrat, who rescued the then MLA Balaraju, who was held hostage by Naxalites during his stint as Visakhapatnam district collector.

"This was probably the most stressful period of my career. MLA Balaraju was in Naxal custody for 26 days, the longest period anyone has been in captivity. The Naxalites threatened to behead the kidnapped officers one by one if their demands were not met and that made each day quite nerve-wracking. Meanwhile, I had to also handle the law and order situation created by Balaraju’s supporters," he recalls, adding, "But I had the unqualified backing of the Government, especially the Chief Secretary Diljeet Aurora and IG Intelligence D.V. Subba Reddy. There was also a feeling of satisfaction when the Naxals made it known that they would deal only with me and not even with the representatives of the APCLC. That spoke volumes about my credibility in the area."

Mentioning some of the instances narrated in his book, Chandra says that as greenhorn IAS officers, he and his batchmates were called on by senior officers, who would then enlighten them with stories of their past, telling what they did, their administrative exploits and most importantly, what was expected of the young bloods. "My dear friend and batchmate, the late M. Nagarjuna would call them ‘tiger hunting stories’," recalls the 63-year old alumnus of IIT Madras and IIM Kolkata.

Coming from a family of IAS officers — including his father and sister, it was not a difficult choice for Chandra to forsake a well-paying private sector job for the IAS. "We had seen my father working, especially as a district collector of three districts and it was inspiring. But with an IIT/IIM education, the thought of becoming an IAS officer was not the obvious career choice. However, after working in the private sector and seeing the commercial motives, I realised that my hard work would only be maximising some unknown shareholder wealth in the corporate world," says the former bureaucrat, who adds, "As my father had said, I did not want to be selling soap for the rest of my life."

Listing Catch-22 by Joseph Heller as his all-time favourite, the debutant writer says, "I do read a lot but serious philosophical books are not my cup of tea."

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