face umpteen challenges in textiles, a sector dependent on export and hence on good global economic environment. For the new secretary, the biggest challenge will to be to engineer a smart turnaround of the sector in which millions of aam craftsmen in the country depend on for their daily bread. As minister Anand Sharma’s priority will remain in key departments such as commerce and industries, the textile secretary is likely to get a relatively free hand to bring in new ideas and put those in place till she retires on July 2014.
Ms Chatterji, who was a key joint secretary in Information and Broadcasting ministry between 2007 and 2010, also handled important portfolios even when she was an additional secretary-ranked officer. Additional secretaries usually live in oblivion. In most cases, they are the financial advisers for the government departments with no command over any vertical. But Chatterji handled important assignments including steering of Coal India Ltd as its interim head, and then Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on coal when she recommended de-allocation of a number of coal blocks which saw unsatisfactory progress.
As BoI had reported earlier, Ms Chatterji was a student of both science and arts before getting into IAS. She first graduated with physics, chemistry and maths, but then changed tracks to learn English literature in her post-graduation. And her command in English is well known among fellow bureaucrats.
For the last many years, the textile ministry had found a woman bureaucrat as its head. Two 1975 batch IAS, Rita Menon and Kiran Dhingra, were textile secretaries before Zohra Chatterji takes over as secretary. As Coal India chief, Ms Chatterji was unwilling to toe the PMO line drawn by arguably the most powerful bureaucrat and principal secretary to PM, Pulok Chatterji. And that's a good indication to safely draw a conclusion that the textile ministry will have a hard taskmaster at its helms for the next 18 months.