Anil Swarup, an IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre who retired in 2018, is a model bureaucrat who retained his optimism right till the end of service and exemplified dedication and commitment. His excitement at the opportunities that a job in the IAS provided is evident on every page of his new book published this year.
Anil is not afraid to speak the truth and narrate incidents as they occurred. He also shows tremendous courage in standing up for an honest IAS officer like HC Gupta who had been indicted by CBI and does not mince his words in evaluating the role of the CAG in the alleged 2G scam. As the same time, he has not filled up the book with juicy anecdotes which many a reader may be looking for. It is a book about achievement in a career in the IAS.
The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY), launched in 2008, was his creation and is the precursor to the ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme. RSBY was transformational in its impact. Anil starts from the genesis of the idea and moves on to describing how inadvertently the buck stopped at his table in the labour ministry. He came out with a really innovative scheme and used technology in a big way in the project. He was a one man crusader for the project along with a dedicated support team. He marshalled his personal and official resources to deal with other departments, state governments, peers and stakeholders. It was his passion which brought laurels to the programme and in return he derived immense satisfaction at having done something significant for the underprivileged. The introduction of a smart card was a path-breaking innovation.
Anil never forgets to laud his team which was instrumental in the implementation of the RSBY. He made a presentation of the RSBY before Brookings Institute, Washington. They wanted to know the motivation behind his passion for the scheme. He answered that it was the good wishes and blessings of all the poor people benefitting under the scheme that was his prime motivation. This is the spirit with which an IAS officer should work. Young officers in the service would need to introspect to see whether similar motivation drives their action.
I was personally witness to the zeal with which Anil carried out his duties as head of the Project Management Group (PMG, part of the cabinet secretariat).
He used to come to the state headquarters on regular basis and as chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh I used to review all major projects with him. He had devised a wonderful IT-enabled system which led to detailed real-time monitoring of the projects. I feel this kind of an arrangement is essential in both the central and state governments. In fact, in UP we also set up a project monitoring group under the chairmanship of the chief secretary to monitor major projects and this proved to be a huge success.
There are interesting anecdotes about his stint at the coal ministry after the change of government in 2014. The country was growing through a period of continuous coal shortages. He set up a system and formulated policy to make sure that coal shortage was a thing of the past. The situation improved to this extent that Anil had to write to the government that there was no work now left in the coal ministry and even raised questions on the necessity of having the ministry at all! Needless to say, the ministry continued but Anil was shifted…
He found his last assignment as secretary, school education, in the HRD ministry very challenging and interesting. This is indeed one of the most important areas where radical change has to be brought about. Most IAS officers would not be too happy with a posting in the education department but Anil found it to be very rewarding and satisfying. Every IAS officer should try and inculcate the same attitude towards the job if he or she wants to make a difference to society. The job of an IAS officer has very rich and diverse profile and it is up to him or her to make it a rewarding experience. The job of an IAS officer is not merely to push files but to get things done at the field level. They should be citizen-centric in approach and be concerned about outcomes rather than processes.
The book ends on a beautiful note. Anil says that if he was to be born again he would like to be an IAS officer in that life too! This is the level of satisfaction that he derived from his career. I wonder how many IAS officers would be willing to share this sentiment.
Ranjan is a former chief secretary of UP.