Friday, August 6, 2010

On the half-tones of truth

It is perhaps an acknowledgement of whatever fairness is left in the system that C.G. Somiah managed to make it to the top echelons of the Indian Administrative Services without ever swerving from his values and convictions. Born in 1931, Somiah joined the IAS in 1953, beginning in Orissa and ending up in Delhi. It was from his father, a forest officer to whom he was deeply attached, that he internalised the value of honesty. Later, he forged a similar companionship with his wife, Indira, whose counsel he seeks in tricky work situations.

But one wishes he was more introspective on some of the situations he describes. His struggle against the politician-contractor nexus on tendu leaves, for instance, which he won to a limited extent, is now a more serious problem in Orissa, stained with the blood of Maoist and state violence.

There are other passages that break through these self-imposed boundaries. Returning from Koraput, after the inauguration of a chromium factory, he reflects: “On the way back we passed by the Sunabeda where once a virgin forest stood!.... Instead of the twinkling lights of the new township, my eyes could only see the ancient forest that once occupied this land with majestic trees. This is the forest that I had once helped to uproot to make way for the township.” This ambivalence of the administrator, bereft of a universally accepted vision of development, still lingers. On the other hand, his spare style ensures that there is no sensationalising of the many exciting matters of state that could certainly have turned the book into a bestseller.

Full review here Outllook 

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