Let’s unleash India! As the signature line says on the book, this book is a hand guide for every citizen of India. And I second (perhaps many readers) the first comment on the book by Gurucharan Das – It must be read by every Indian.
Although the title has to do with Nehru, for me, it is the book that addresses the current problems. Having got good amount experience in the Indian administrative service for about 18 years, Sanjeev has carefully analyzed and presented his case for ‘freedom for India’ through this book. Any book I used to read about India (atleast most of them) had the reference and disagreements to Nehruvian socialist policies. Even though we got out Independence in 1947, we are really not free in the society we are in. For example, we see corruption day in and day out and we have to admit that we have gotten used to some of these harsh realities. It is not a surprise to us anymore. And here in this book, Sanjeev tries to bravely address these harsh realities and recommends a solution by sharing with us his vision for India. This book, as Sanjeev says, is a book for ultimate ‘freedom’.
The title of the book need not be misunderstood by the readers. Sanjeev is not completely against Nehru nor did he dislike Nehru. What Sanjeev means by the title is that we are inheriting some of the policies from Nehru’s era that has leaded us lose freedom and power in many aspects. And even though we think we are liberal due to the 1991 reforms, there are many more systemic errors still hovering around some of those earlier beliefs of the political leaders or Nehruvian disciples. This is the best book to know about those policies that failed to achieve freedom for India. Sanjeev has analysed the root cause of all the existing problems and traced it back to the history. For me, it is a mind blowing book to understand some of the systemic errors of India and made me realize why we still say we are backward.
I kept making note of some of the interesting excerpts; one can read them here. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book at the same time I was deeply disturbed by the facts presented in the book. The book is divided into six chapters. To start with the powerful preface one would get to know Sanjeev’s commitment to India. Apparently Sanjeev left India after working as IAS officer for 18 years and now he is currently serving for the Australian public service. One of the reasons why Sanjeev left India perhaps is because of the systemic failures in India. Being in India and working the system, Sanjeev fails to fight against the same. But I guess he tried to do his best to make a difference and failed due to lack of enough support. He is now an Australian citizen who cares and committed for Freedom for India by empowering Indian citizens. His aggressive style of writing makes one empowered enough to fight against the system for sure.
In his first chapter, Sanjeev tries his best to take us through the history and makes a comparative analysis on the phases of transition. This section provides a stylized overview of the history of our freedom. He has broadly classified it into three phases in India’s freedom: Pre-1757 which talks about the period prior to the battle of Plassey; the next phase between 1757 to 1947 that talks about much of British influence and also about the philosophy of freedom preached by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dadabhai Naoroji, Mahadeo Govind Ranadae, Gopala Krishna Gokhle and Pherozeshah Mehta. It also speaks about early works of Gandhi and Nehru and key differences in their philosophies; the third phase post the 1947, the period where India evolved post Independence, the constitution and the governance.
The next chapter explores the key features of a free society. It first explores what a free society looks like and then how it works. I personally liked this chapter very much. It gave a good glimpse of how a country or a society functions if it is free, how the markets in the free society behave, what are the aspects of democratic governance and how can one create enough wealth and the like. Basically this chapter brings out the most key aspects of Capitalism against the Socialism. And goes on justifying the answer to the question – why Capitalism is the only solution for freedom?
There is a chapter on the problems with our constitution. Seriously speaking, I never had read such a detailed analysis on our constitution. May be it is my mistake for not doing it. After reading this chapter I got to understand more about our Indian constitution and what exactly it lacks when compared with the constitutions of the other developed countries. Sanjeev says “The Indian Constitution has been amended 94 times. Unfortunately, these amendments did nothing to remove any of its glaring defects. Instead, many of them added new defects”. The author deeply urges to completely rework on the constitution and he has also worked out the detailed plan for changing the same.
Causes of political corruption in India and the next chapter on the Indian Bureaucracy are two of the best chapters in this book. Having experienced some of the hard facts working with the system on a transactional basis, I could relate many of the points very well. Nobody will disagree to the points on the corruption and the problems India is facing because of the same. Author has well analyzed all the levels of corruptions and the root causes for the same. At the same time he has given a very good analysis on why a good candidate never contests for an election? I very much liked this part of the book and I wish to read it again and again. When it comes to bureaucracy, the author has made a very good comparative analysis on why are the Indian bureaucrats ranked the lowest? What are the failures in the system? How good the bureaucracy works in other countries? I think the eight point detailed explanation on the Australian Public Service is an eye opener in many ways for Indian public servants.
The last chapter, completely dedicated to Sanjeev’s vision is the blue print for Freedom in India. We often joke asking questions like – what will I do if I become a prime minister? What are the changes I am going to bring in India? The answers to the above questions are nothing but this chapter. Sanjeev has the blue print for what to do and how to execute the plan and the time required. For me, reading the blue print is like a dream and I only wish it somehow happens. I am not an expert or an economist to assess some of these ideas whether they will work or not, but given the radical ideas, I think it is worth trying. After all, we crib about bringing changes every day, we talk about corruption like every hour, we read about failures and political dramas every minute!
So, to end my review, I would recommend this book to every citizen of India. Perhaps, I feel this should be made a compulsory read for all the politicians and bureaucrats of India. Do not look at it as a book against Nehru; look at it as a book of solutions to the existing problems. I am not an expert in saying all that is given in the book are ‘good’ only. There are many areas I felt, it is too radical or it is beyond ones belief; but on the whole, it is a very handy book to get some of the solutions to the problems. I like such books where author not only complains against the system, but also gives proper solutions.
Many thanks to Bookrack and Sanjeev for sending me a copy of this book for review!
Publisher: Anthem Press
Author: Sanjeev Sabhlok