LUCKNOW If UP’s bureaucrats were spared the ignominy of a non-IAS officer writing their confidential reports (CRs), they have much to thank former chief secretary Prashant Kumar Mishra. In his 308-page autobiographical account ‘In Quest of a Meaningful Life’, Mishra recalls how he refused to sign a file cleared by the then chief minister Mayawati authorising cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar – a non-bureaucrat – to write the confidential reports of all IAS officers, excluding the chief secretary. “Mr Appointment Secretary, the proposal is both illegal and mischievous and so long as I am the chief secretary, I will not be a party to such a proposal. If it is approved, I will quit service immediately,” says Mishra, a UP cadre officer hailing from Odisha, sketching a vivid account of his days as a bureaucrat. The proposal eventually didn’t see the light of the day. Mishra was the only UP chief secretary (July 2007-May 2008) to take voluntary retirement after refusing to kowtow to political bosses who, as he claimed, wanted him to sign a proposal for leasing out about 70 acres of government land to a private body at a throwaway price.“I preferred to quit rather than dance to the tunes of politicians,” says Mishra in his book that offers a peek into the queer relationship between bureaucracy and politicians. Mishra recalls when he arrived to take charge as chief secretary he was informed that a confidant of the then CM was interested in using the room allotted to him and how he tactfully ensured that this didn’t happen. Mishra, however, remembers former CM Mayawati in a positive light. “It is often alleged that she subjected officers to humiliating treatment but she was never harsh to me and always treated me with courtesy,” he recalls. Mishra, who has had numerous run-ins with the powers that be, wonders in his book if there could be a body – Union Political Service Commission – on the lines of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to screen aspiring politicians. “Only those clearing the written examination could be allowed to contest elections and successful candidates should go through at least a year’s training. They should be allowed to take oath as a member of a house only if they complete the training. My friends termed the idea elitist, impractical and utopian,” he says. During his stint as director (information) from July 1985 to May 1986, Mishra refused to suspend an information officer despite the directives of the then chief minister. “On inquiry I came to know that the information officer was asked to distribute a truckload of materials of the government at a conference organised by a political party. Being a civil servant, he refused to distribute the materials at a political gathering,” Mishra recalls. Mishra, who was appointed by the Prime Minister as a member of the Union Public Service Commission after voluntary retirement, recalls another instance during his posting as commissioner, sales tax (June 1991-June 1994). The BJP government had come to power under Kalyan Singh and certain tax relief and exemptions were given in sales tax that led to reduction in growth rate of sales tax collection. Oblivious to the reasons for the decline, the CM asked Mishra to fix accountability and suspend non-performers. When Mishra tried to explain the reasons for the decline, the CM remarked, “You always take responsibility on your head to protect your officers. Therefore, I have no alternative but to transfer you.” When Mishra told the CM it was his prerogative to transfer him, he called off the meeting in a huff.When senior officers, including the then secretary SAT Rizvi and secretary to the CM Yogendra Narain, defended Mishra the CM said he knew Mishra was an honest officer. Cover page of the autobiography.When Mishra later sought to know from the CM the reason of his annoyance, he replied: “Jis tareeke se aapne uttar diya, us se aapne mukhya mantri ko sabke saamne niruttar kar diya. Yah mukhya mantri ke pad aur garima ke anurup nahin hai (You silenced the CM with your reply. This is detrimental to the dignity and position of a CM).” The book also throws light on how the post of Noida CEO is seen as a milch cow and that he cancelled 105 plots including those of IAS and politicians during his posting in Noida after which he was transferred. Mishra says the plots that he cancelled included the one that belonged to an officer who replaced him in Noida.