Just Transferred: The untold story of Ashok Khemka book review — Nerve-wrecking, sensibly bold
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The man, who has suffered 53 transfers in 27 years and is still in service, must have been made of a very different soil . ‘Transfer’ has become the synonym of Ashok Khemka for his bold decisions and fearless reports in and about the Indian bureaucracy. This is probably because he respects the ‘system’ and the ones who run it despite facing personal grudges and official assaults.

Bhavdeep Kang and Namita Kala listened to Khemka earnestly sketching precise details in this carefully written biographical account. The authors’ note reads: “His story is an uncomfortable mirror that faithfully reflects the bleak truth of all governments: they come, they go; nothing changes.”

Born in 1965 in an ordinary Marwari family in Kolkata, Khemka, the ‘anti-corruption icon’, finds, after joining the Indian civil services, that his childhood was not the only difficult phase in life. Junior to Arvind Kejriwal by a year in IIT Kharagpur, he was never an average student.

Book cover
Book cover

While in service, bureaucrats and ministers have despised his sight and yearned for his good riddance. His story tells the importance of short term reforms and reengineering of Indian bureaucracy. It is the tale of a fight put up by Khemka in public interest.

The book focuses, in detail, on the infamous land mutation case of Robert Vadra and DLF that made Khemka famous in 2012. His family was a huge support when the Vadra-years haunted him. Khemka admits he was scared every time he took a step against the government and was ready to face the consequences, but he did not want fear and greed to overcome his conscience. He got used to it and found every transfer a déjà vu.

The hardcover edition of the book adds to the sincerity and gravity of it. The cover picture shows Khemka sitting on a suitcase on the road and portrays just rightly the ‘in-transit’ theme of the book. The book feels like a suspense thriller due to the hardcover binding, fictional yellow pages and exciting turn of events between a prologue and an epilogue. It contains two appendices telling the anatomy of land scams in India and the history of the Indian Civil Services respectively.

The detailed alphabetical index at the end of the book provides an easy access to the important names of people, places and things, and significant events and reports. A list of 137 references in footnotes reveals the sources of information as well as the extensive research of the authors. The narration is also sprinkled with quotations from Orwell to Austen.

Readers who have a penchant to know about the lives of Indian administrative officers or who keep an opinion about Indian government would enjoy the nail-biting instances in the book. The students who wish to crack the civil service examinations would be able to prepare themselves of what they are to face while in service. The book is also a must-have in the reference section of university libraries across the globe. Every reader would love the story-telling in general.

Book: Just Transferred: The untold story of Ashok Khemka

Author: Bhavdeep Kang and Namita Kala

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Pages: 265; Price: Rs 599

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