I superannuated as a civil servant on 30 June 2018. I had enjoyed every moment of my life as a Civil Servant (I wrote in Not Just a Civil Servant that if I were to be reborn, I would like to be an IAS officer) but what happened thereafter was even better. I am now a master of my own time. I was outspoken while in service. However, the Code of Conduct prevented me from expressing my views in public. Many outsiders who don’t have any idea about the civil services or the Code of Conduct wonder why some civil servants start expressing their views after retirement. They are also perhaps unaware that a number of civil servants do express their opinions freely and frankly on files and during discussions though these don’t get to be known in public for good reason. Thankfully, there are no such restrictions now. I love this freedom. Even during my stint as a civil servant, I did not encourage hangers on, but now, in any case, only true friends are around to engage with. Fortunately, there is not much of a change in the number. However, the biggest revelation was discovering my true worth, financially and otherwise. I was soon to discover that the government was shortchanging me big time.
The best part of post-retirement life is spending time with my family. Due to my professional engagements, my family members often felt ignored, though they never expressed it. I had a genuine desire to make up. However, as both my daughter, Aditi, and son, Apurv, had grown up and settled into their respective professions, I could not still spend as much time with them as I would have wanted to. It was a pity that when they wanted my time from me, I did not have it, and now, when I had all the time, they perhaps did not need me as much. There was a huge lesson here. However, I am making it up now with my twin granddaughters, Dviti and Srisha and my grandson, Avyay. They are bundles of joy as I see them grow. I love behaving just like them. I am a kid all over again. I did for them what I had never done for my own children. Sang them lullabies to put them to sleep. This is indeed the best time of my life. I would have probably missed out even on this one had I taken up a government assignment post-retirement.
I was clear in my mind that I would not apply for any official assignment because I considered it below the dignity of a Secretary, Government of India to ‘apply’. However, I did agree to work in the state of Jharkhand at the behest of the Chief Minister of the State, but it lasted for only a few months as there was a lot to be done in Delhi. Some Ministries kept approaching me for a few tasks, and I did not mind assisting them so long as it was purely honorary in nature and did not impact the newly-acquired freedom that I was enjoying. I accordingly chaired the Committee to reform the National Cadet Corps (NCC) at the behest of the Ministry of Defence. I also agreed to be on the Committee for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) constituted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. I even headed a committee constituted by the same Ministry to provide suggestions for the portal set up for CSR. The Ministry of Minority Affairs sought my guidance on mainstreaming children studying in minority schools. I duly provide that. Such assignments keep coming and I don’t mind contributing whatever little I can. Will continue to do so but without any obligation from the government.
My initial pre-occupation post-retirement was centred around the publication of my first book, Not Just a Civil Servant. I had been working on the book for quite some time. It could not have been published while I was in service because I was critical of certain aspects of governance. The book was launched on February 23, 2019, within a year of my superannuation. It became an instant bestseller. I did not have to spend a single penny promoting the book in various parts of the country. It was gratifying to see that organisations like the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Indian Exporters Organization (FIEO), organised events where I had to go and speak. Immediately after that, I started working on my second book, Ethical Dilemmas of a Civil Servant. When it was time to launch the book in 2020, COVID hit the country. Hence, a virtual launch was organised on July 5 2020. This book, too, was received very well by the readers.
I thoroughly enjoyed all the reading and writing that was not merely restricted to books. Soon I was penning down regular columns for three publications: The Daily Guardian, CNBC TV18 and The Millennium Post. The articles in ‘The Guardian’ centred around officers who made it happen despite an adverse set of circumstances. Some of these articles appear in the third segment of my recently released book, “No More a Civil Servant”. The Millennium Post articles highlighted the incredible work done by Civil Society Organisations. Some such articles find a place in the second segment of this book. Large part of this book comprises articles that were published in The Daily Guardian and The Millenium Post. Articles in CNBC TV18 were around current topics. These were apart from the columns that I wrote for other publications intermittently.
My primary pre-occupation post-retirement, however, was with Nexus of Good. To begin with, a Twitter handle @nexusofgood was created wherein positive stories were tweeted. This was followed by organising seminars where good and replicable work could be road-showed. A web portal, www.nexusofgood.org.in was set up and evolved over a while to house hundreds of stories. Soon, Nexus of Good Foundation was brought into existence by setting up a Trust that manages the entire movement. Due to the COVID pandemic, physical seminars could not be held, so webinars substituted them. Thousands of people got associated with this movement. A poet wrote: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!”
I am not young now, but I still feel the excitement of youth at the promise of the future! Superannuated life has been highly fulfilling.
(With excerpts from “No More a Civil Servant”)
Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.