If there’s one thing I am grateful to the BBC for, it is the fabulous Yes Minister series. It redefined the word satire. Governance was suddenly refused to closed room volleyball of words and more words. The irony of course was that it was painfully close to how heavy bureaucracies actually function. Because India did inherit the Civil Service concept from Britain, much of what was satirized in the series, was and is true of India as well.
So you have the three main characters – Jim Hacker, the naive, trusting Minister of Administrative Affairs (later the Prime Minister), Sir Humphrey Appelby the Permanent Secretary (your essential Civil Servant) and Bernard Woolley, the Principal Private Secretary. I’m now spending an inordinate amount of time on this website listening to small audio clips.
Sample this wonderful piece. (audio link)
Jim Hacker: “What am I going to do with all this correspondence?”
Bernard Woolley: “You do realize you don’t actually have to, Minister.”
Jim Hacker: “Don’t I?”
Bernard Woolley: “Not if you don’t want to, we can draft an official reply.”
Jim Hacker: “What’s an official reply?”
Bernard Woolley: “It just says The Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter and we say something like The matter is under consideration, or even if we feel so inclined under active consideration.”
Jim Hacker: “What’s the difference?”
Bernard Woolley: “Well, under consideration means we’ve lost the file, under active consideration means we’re trying to find it.”