Sanjeev Sabhlok: Promoting liberalism and good governance in India

Hello! Namaste!

My old home page > Regulatory Page > Google > Gmail > YahooHotmail 

[Beware of impersonators! There are at least two persons currently impersonating me on the internet, one blatantly on The Economist online’s website. Despite repeated requests The Economist has not taken steps to remove this impersonator’s comments. I don’t have a lawyer to give them a legal notice nor the time to pursue this further. All I can do is to warn you that if you have been reading those fraudulent comments, please be aware those comments were NOT made by me! Details here.]

Who am I?

I like to imagine that I am a practitioner of human affairs – on the lines of Kautiliya, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, or Burke. But the reality is that (at least so far!) I’ve been a mundane bureaucrat who has spent nearly three decades eking out a modest living (sufficient for my modest needs, though) by managing public policy projects and large organisations on behalf of governments in India, and by providing public policy advice and managing rather smallish public policy projects in Australia. 

The more enlightened souls amongst you will readily discern, of course, that there is a deeper question I’ve avoided by talking superficial things about myself. That is the following: “Who exactly am I?” This question will need a response more subtle and complex than the mere routine description about my career or life journey. But unfortunately, I’m not quite sure at the moment who, or more precisely, what I am. Does my consciousness, also found equally among all human beings, exist outside space and time – or does it have properties like any other form of energy? I’m going to explore this issue in one of my future books, but it currently appears unlikely to me that I’ll make any major breakthrough. Let me park this question for now, anyway, and revert to more mundane, material things that we are more comfortable talking about. [For those wanting to explore this basic question, this Facebook group might be useful; and also this blog post. Sadly, I think we are universally ignorant in relation to all basic questions about ourselves.] 

What’s my background?

I was a member of the 1982 batch of the IAS (India’s elite, senior executive government service) till I resigned in January 2001. Thereafter I’ve been working as a modest, mid-level public servant in Victoria (Australia) doing many interesting things between 9am to 6 pm, five days a week  (and many even more interesting things after work).

If you are really keen to find out about my school or educational ‘history’, and jobs held, I’ve got just the thing you are looking for. Plunge yourself into the information I’ve provided on my Linkedin page and a web-based resume I designed long ago. You can also check out my academic and training certificates (if you think I’m fibbing) and browse through a rather flippant old home page (try the “beach wear” option if you have idle time on your hands to go through this page!)

What’s the proof I know anything?

Moving on to difficult issues. I am supposed to know something, but what precisely it is no one knows. Whether what I have been taught – at considerable expense by the Indian, Australian, and  Japanese taxpayers through publicly funded scholarships (also an American private university fellowship for three years) – is sensible in any way or useful to anyone remains a moot question.

As a result of what I have learnt through my bumbling journeys across three continents, one thing I can confidently claim – that I continue to know very little. I have found that there is only one ultimate scientific truth: that we, individually, know almost nothing. Not only are my underlying mental faculties limited (despite an alleged intellectual ability in the 99.9th percentile – a truly questionable conception I’d argue if my abilities are considered exceptional), but the amount of knowledge I have so far accessed, understood, and assimilated is scant beyond description. Millions of books I’ve yet to read and digest. Libraries FULL of books that I’ve not read. There’s much to know but so little that I know. And because we know so little, it is certain that most of what we think is wrong.

All the certificates and collectibles(signals to the job market) are no substitute for a strong capacity for critical thinking and robust self-reflection (including reflecting on one’s deep ignorance). Because EVERYBODY ELSE is equally, or comparably ignorant, and only very few people think critically, I have formed the view that I believe no one nor trust anyone:  no one, that is, but myself. I therefore verify all facts for myself and only then form a view. The view I then form is MY view.  I do not take anyone else’s view to be true just because the person holding that view happens to be in a position of authority.

My main message to everyone is simple: Find the truth YOURSELF. That means everything you think you know (and I think I know) is subject to question. Our lives are therefore only a preliminary essay in the truth; a feeble attempt to seek answers. Any ambition beyond that is, that we may actually know something, is delusional.

What do I ‘believe’ in?

It should be abundantly clear that I do not believe in anything without personal verification. But after extensive personal verification I do form clear beliefs about things. For instance I am convinced that the principle of freedom, or more precisely, the principle of  maximising freedom subject to accountability, can help humankind achieve peace and prosperity as a species. Freedom would let each of us pursue happiness our own way (if that is what we want to pursue).

In other words, I profess the political and moral philosophy called classical liberalism. To find more about this world-view, please browse through my books, writings and publications.  In particular do read my 2008 book, Breaking Free of Nehru . I also seek your views on my draft manuscript, The Discovery of Freedom .

What’s the best way to keep in touch with me and my ‘work’?

I announce almost everything I do, or think about, on the internet. That is very convenient. It is like a ripe flower that spreads its seeds in the wind. Who knows where the seeds will land and find fertile soil? The minds of my readers is what I seek – to free them from bondage to false belief, and to force them to think for themselves, often for the first time in their lives.

It is easy to keep in touch with my work:

  • You can subscribe to my blog  where I post thoughts on various issues.
  • You can also be my internet friend on Facebook, Linkedin, Plaxo, Myspace, Yahoo , Sulekha, Orkut, or Shelfari. I’m quite open to making new friends since I’ve got unequivocal political motives and I need friends to carry my message and become my  supporters! See, I’m very transparent and don’t hide my motives! But in doing so I would like to assure you that my message is for your own good. Have a think about it. No compulsion.

What do I do apart from being a faceless bureaucrat?

I do mainly three things in my spare time (basically I put in about 40 hours of work a week to earn a living, and 40-70 hours a week on my personal interests).

One: India-related political work

Since February 1998 I have done (and started again) a fair amount of political work to promote liberalism in India. I’m currently developing the Freedom Team of India (FTI) – a concept that I proposed in Breaking Free of Nehru initially in draft form in mid-2006, and kick-started, after considerable thought, in December 2007. 

[Recap: In mid-2005 I had started the Liberal Party of India along with a handful of excellent people but that fizzled out. Prior to that, between 2004-05, I had promoted the Swatantra Bharat Paksha (Party). See the decision of 2004 re: Swatantra Bharat Party (pictures). Earlier, in 2000 I had proposed starting work towards a liberal political party in India but there were no takers. So there were these three failed attempts before FTI.]

What has been the result so far? Nothing. It would therefore appear, at first sight, that I am a failure as a reformer, to which I can reasonably offer in my defence a reasonable claim that there is not much demand for freedom in India yet. Some things only take off once the entire society has shifted in that direction. India is still happy to live with intense corruption and government meddling.

Why I continue political activity is because I must. I don’t see much of a choice. We ought to do, and advocate, the right things in life, regardless of whether we “succeed” in the normal sense of the word. (Of course, I do want to succeed, and so I periodically review and change strategies.)

Do join me either as a member of the Freedom Team or as a supporter on Facebook. Read this (March 2010) issue of the FTI magazine. A category called Freedom Partners is being launched.

Two: A bit of policy work on India

In 1998 I started the IndiaPolicy mailing list which then led to the formation of the

India Policy Institute of which I am the Executive Director. In July 2009 I released a policy magazine called India Policy Update. I hope you can join me in this effort as well. Join me at this Google group. (Sadly this is now languishing – simply no time.)

Three: Manage my chronic RSI

I developed a very bad case of RSI in 1998 due to excessive typing (PhD stuff, IPI, etc.). My extremely painful and difficult experience with this muscular problem is discussed here: My (now 11) year experience of RSI – and its ‘cure’. It is much better now, hence I’m writing more than I did ever before. Once I find time, I’ll also write a book on how to manage RSI. My RSI was actually quite an eye-opener. It showed me how little our “super-qualified” doctors and “experts” know about the human body. That’s a good lesson for everyone to take home. Trust no one but yourself! Surviving the “expert” fools who clutter this world is no joke.


Sanjeev Sabhlok

That’s it for now! I’ll update this introduction about myself periodically when I find a spare moment.



I aim to help bring about liberal reforms and good governance to India. I'm also a bit obsessive about ethical standards. Write to me at sabhlok AT yahoo DOT com.

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25 thoughts on “Hello! Namaste!
  1. vijay chitale

    Just curious to know as to-

    a] why you resigned from the IAS
    b] what exactly is this Public Service in Australia
    c] what exactly caused this RSI-repetitive strain injury
    d]what would be your Action Plan if you were to be the Prime Minister of India

  2. sabhlok

    Dear Vijay
    Answers to (a), (b) and (c) can be found in ‘Breaking Free of Nehru’. Have a read of it. Re: (c) I propose to write a book on this in the next few years but in the meanwhile you can read: and research it on the internet.

  3. Farhan

    Dear Sir,

    All my life I have been looking forward to find somebody like you! Your ideology and philosophy runs through the hearts of millions of Indians who wants a change but doesnt know how to fight the system!

    Yet, you say; “None of this has affected anything on the ground. I am a total failure as a reformer.”

    You are the one to make the greatest call to a revolution since Gandhiji..!
    You are not a FAILURE.. You have succeded where all the others have fallen.. you made a call to the youth of this nation!
    The ideology of the FREEDOM TEAM is very practical and powerful.
    If the people coordinating the team can put themselves together, and have a lot of patience, our nation will see a change, never seen before!!

    thank you sir… for the inspiration…

    Thank you..

  4. Nazaqat

    We’re organising an International Law Summit in February next year for which we would like to invite the India Policy Institute. I would be grateful if you could give me your email address or any other email address on which i can send the invite to.

  5. sumit narula

    Couldn’t get your mail id, so writing here only.

    Sir, I am ready to volunteer with you sir.
    My brief introduction will say that i am pursuing my Ph.d in conflict resolution and peace building and i am also a visiting faculty in many of delhi’s colleges as well as Amity university in Noida. I want to help in the editorial work.

    Sir, if invited for a metting will bring my cv for your refernece.

    Hope to listen from you
    Mob No 9958232625

  6. sushil kumar singhal

    To be indian i love india and indian cultural and support Hindi and Hindu conuntry Hindi is internation language in india uses seventeen languages but Hindi is not must in all over india and not to be declare Hindu country in india population problem is very big every indian support government to remove the population problem all problem are generate from population to remove this problem.Kashmir is the part of india but indian is not living and buy property in kashmir so remove the section 370 to every indian live in kashmir and buy property not budy to see the following problems in india politics of vote otherwise else i have already try to all these problems try to make better and future india.
    sushil singhal
    c/o singhal traders
    (involve in iron & steel,hardware,electrical material supplier,ferrous and non-ferrous scrap)
    No.252/A,7th cross,Ist main,
    prakash nagar,
    office 080-32424879
    mobil 09740536003

  7. Chandran

    Dear Sir,
    I also have similar feelings.
    Perhaps you are able to think/write something because you are I suppose away from India. Being within India, many people who think in your line are helpless and only a bad end will result for social reformers if they work from within India.
    You might have read the news that one RTI activist who wanted to know the assets od some police officers was booked under several counts and many cases foisted on him. Some RTI activists were even killed. that is the Status here.
    Day in Day out one hears that one minister or other or some political bigwigs are involved in some political scandal or some such things either in State level or central level or even in local municipal body level.  Nobody perhaps comes to politics to serve the Society
    Only God has to save India.

  8. jaydeep

    You could have done better for improvement of policy making and administration of the same while being on IAS and in India. Do not you think so ?

  9. sabhlok


    I did try. There were no takers for reform. The politicians in India DON’T want reform as it will hurt their “pocket”. They will no longer get crores of rupees of black money to enjoy. The solution is only one: through the parliament.


  10. pagal aspirant

    Hello sir
    I am an engineering student(college,NIT-calicut) and ias aspirant.Many a times i find myself in doubts about my career.I have been doing very good in my engineering but i feel that ias provides more career opportunities.But then,i see reports of corrupt ias officers,their association with politicians.It sends shiver down my spine.For a moment i get upset and disturb and then feel like abandoning this idea.And start thinking about IIMs which will make me rich,make me lead a luxury life for rest of the life.And soon money starts creeping into my mind.Suddenly i hear inner voices,images of great people flash in my mind,their quotes seeps into my heart and then after reflection i understand that life is indeed worth living for others.And here again i am an ias aspirant…..paradox indeed ! My doubts are what i would do if am forced to take wrong decision,influenced to engage in corruption and not promoted for refusing to lick politicians.I have heard of many cases in which honest officers are either transferred or their department is changed.I wish there was some magic wand..some Gandhi.. I am sure,corrupt people are not born,they are made by the system and nurtured by the lack of checks.some great guy said that human spirit is made to accomplish and rise above troubles.All people love being appreciated and this should surely motivate them to do healthy acts. What would you do if you were in my position..perhaps i should think of forest/foreign service…

  11. sabhlok

    Life is not easy. Read, think, and make up your own mind. Others’ advice doesn’t matter. Your analysis does.

  12. M.L.Narasimharao

     first time see your blog to is educative and also socially motivated.ihave to study all the matter. i wish you sucess in your fti programme.

  13. sabhlok

    Thanks MLN.
    Look forward to your participation. That’s the best way to support.

  14. Ajay K Ashta

    Dear Sanjeev
    I feel proud to have spent two years (1977-79) with you at DAV Jalandhar (along with Virender Khanna, Sanjeev Bhatnagar).  I still remember your honesty and integrity  during one of the quiz competetions.  Feel great that one of my classfellows achieved  such a intellectual level. Could not get a chance to meet you in Assam. I was posted there from 1990-93 and 2005-2008.
    With Best Wishes & Regards
    Ajay K Ashta
    ONGC, Mumbai

  15. determined aspirant

    Hello sir
    As advised by you before,i read extensively various blogs and went through a few of the books about civil service.I thought and analyzed.I visited my village and for the first time i felt their pain(villagers of my village were forced to give their land for highway project in UP and recently rahul gandhi visited to take first hand knowledge)Although current scenario is demotivating,I have decided to take the plunge and will appear for the CSE at 2013 with IAS as my first option.I found that training at LBSNAA takes place in several stages and learning becomes a lifelong process.But in your blog why did you mention that many officers stop learning and ceases to be innovative.Its too early to think,but as an ias officer will i get the opportunity to study economics in elite institutes like harward,oxford or MIT? i like economics and dream to work in institutes like planning commission of india or world bank.Kindly brief me about the strategy needed and the kind of profile to be maintained..if i remain honest and upright will i be able to sail through any crisis(political)? pls guide..
    thank you..

  16. sabhlok

    Everyone must choose their life and career. I am not a personal adviser. Indeed, should you wish to study things seriously, nothing can come in the way, The fact that you are unlikely to find even a few books in the houses of the vast majority of IAS officers doesn’t mean that some of them don’t pursue their policy and other interests seriously. Personal integrity is also a personal choice, not determined by others.

    Best of luck.

  17. sabhlok

    Dear Ajay, nice to hear about you again after all these years. Look forward to your contributions in the reform of India’s governance, to the extent you can. Let’s keep in touch.

  18. anser azim

    I watched your you tube video and respect your views and hope that your political party (though in exile) manages to do better in the political arena. India is a complex country with over 1.2 billion people who are multilingual, adhere to multiple faiths, cast, color and traditions from kashmir to kanya kumari.  Bringing them together on one plate form is not that easy, but not impossible.  Do u believe in capitalism? Will that be your mode of governance if yr dream comes true? Is capitalism a solution to Indian problems? Lot to read on your blog … best wishes

  19. Bharat Chovatiya

    One tough question is often asked to people forming new political party, it is: What is guarantee that your party's elected members will not become corrupt after getting elected and forming a government?
    The question is very obvious after so many great leaders like JP Narayan, AB Vajpayee etc led parties are full of corrupt people. One thing repeatedly happened in past is that the people want to make money through power rapidly start joining party as it get momentum and start winning elections. Then mission lost the track.
    One option I think is this: Create a corruption policy for the party members with clear definition of corruption and clearly mentioned actions if the party get into power and any member is found involved in corruption. Make each member who want to contest election sign the agreement of the treatment they will receive if any strong corruption evidences are found against them. I know it is tough, but that is something which can convince many people like myself.

  20. vinay kuamr

    hi Sir,

    heartiest conngratulations and best wishes for your achivements and continuous efforts in educating us. 

    I am software engineer and very impressed by your views and have questions and suggestions.

    i would like to have your views on "Should student in todays world when many oppurtunities are there, join the IAS?" Reason of this question is ," despite knowing reg system , should they follow the same line as many honest persons like you have walked or they should opt for some ither career where merits is rewarded?"

    Also some suggesion from my side,"Please market your sites on the web and if possible then hire some vernacular translaters  and publish your articles in atleast Hindi And Tamil etc to educate vast majority of people."

    Reason behind this suggestion is -"Lets recall our freedom struggle where in the initial days we could not wage direct war against British owing to our own illetrate mass. Later various propagendas were run in desi languages."

    we value your experience and knowledge and would like to gain maximum out of this.



  21. A V Raju

    Dear Mr Sanjeev,
    I must admit that at home you are quite a hit , perhaps because we are brought up as children of Govt officials , and have gone on to man public services under the mantle of Govt of India. But what stands out with you is your passion for freedom. It in some sense does include freedom from corruption because I believe true freedom is contradiction in terms with corruption. We simply love you for that. Also is your passion and vision for the nation. This is one aspect close to my heart as well. In true freedom lies the well being of our children, our posterity and humanity in general. We enjoy the articles that unfold your thought on varied subjects which in any case is education for the uninitiated and plain knowledge for the interested. Though I am not overly awed by the IAS tag of yours for two reasons- a) having cleared some of the tough competitive exams I know the mettle you would have and whilst I regard you for that , I share the rub-off and feel that I have a small measure of it as well( makes me feel more confident being in dialogue with you), b) you have yourself disbanded, what could have been a seemingly bureaucratic barrier , through your articles. Honestly you have endeared yourself a lot to all of us who read you and regard you. Please trust me Mr Sabhlok that we really need a person like you – person with hands-on experience with politicians, clarity of thought, able to stand ground in a overly confusing socio-economic and political scenarios. Your experience as a senior adminstrator within the country and your experience as a policy thinker with ability to compare different political and social spectra must be tapped and brought to use by the country. I mean it 100%. I would love to be with you in your pursuit for a freedom of this nation. I ,however, have one issue to discuss. The problem of how we could ensure that the downtrodden is graduated to free themselves from the bondage of age old traditions and ready to compete socially, economically and politically. Though I don’t belong to such a community but still I feel strongly against the reprisal against humanity , perpetrated, practiced and continued for thousands years in our society and therefore, i strongly feel , if it were in our power, we must step into allow them to be put comfort first before the others come to share the gains. Perchance, that way we would probably undo the ills we have razed on them , either by compulsion or by choice.Would like your views on this aspect to understand if we agree on the issue or is there something that I am unduly seized with. Regards Sirji.

  22. sabhlok

    Thanks. The answer to the problem of the downtrodden is in the SBP manifesto: security, justice, equality of opportunity, freedom.



    Hello Sanjeev,
    very impressed to see your achievements. Congrats.
    I am 1962 yr. Indian born, graduate from Pusa Catering Collage in 1981. also graduate from Delhi University in Arts. Migrated to Australia in 1990 as chef under skill migration category.
    Since 1990, i started discovering lies, corruption and great injustice in Australian legal and political system towards Indian people.
    I was thrown into jail while fighting for my children’s custody in family court. It was called ”AN ERROR’ —No apology, No compensation. Absolutely disgraceful.
    One of the most corrupt deptt. is Immigration Australia, i have proof in black and white ”How they have simply collected money from Indian qualified citizens”
    Would you be interested to talk about this …Lot of hidden secrets have to come out..please send me email
    Anand Dagore


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