Monday, August 11, 2014

Thomas Mathew: More about the IAS who spots 110 species of birds in Rashtrapati Bhavan

A FORTNIGHT ago, the President of India received the first copy of the coffee table book titled Winged Wonders of Rashtrapati Bhavan that tries to capture the avian world inside the Presidential Estate. And the man who brought out this 338-page book after clicking photos of as many as 110 species of birds was none other than additional secretary and 1983 batch Kerala cadre IAS Thomas Mathew. The bureaucrat who...
developed an interest in bird watching as a 10-year-old child visiting his mother’s village in Kerala’s Quilon, actually roamed around in Rashtrapati Bhavan between 5 to 9 in the morning and also two hours in the evening for almost a year spotting birds and clicking their photos. The idea came when he was with President Pranab Mukherjee in Mughal garden when the Prez turned to him and said: “It will be nice if you can record the species here”, Mathew told in an interview to Hindustan Times. And then secretary to President Omita Paul gave him enough pressure to complete the book on time. The book published by the government's publication division was launched on President's Mukherjee's completion of two years in office. Mathew found photographing migrant birds like Asian paradise Flycatcher as they sit on the canopy of the tree where lighting is an issue, he said in the same interview.
In fact, this 58-year-old Mathew had a long association with President Mukherjee. The officer who is an MA in international studies and PhD on US foreign policy, both from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, was a joint secretary in the ministry of defence when Mukherjee was India’s defence minister in UPA-I regime. Mathew was a member of the task force that formulated India’s new Defence Acquisition Procedure (2006).
In his cadre, he was a collector and mayor of Cochin. He also pioneered a number of public private partnership projects including one that involved an integrated development of outlying islands of Kerala at an estimated cost of $400 million, without any government assistance.
Later in 2007, Mathew joined Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) as its deputy director general. In August 2010, he joined the department of economic affairs under finance ministry when Mukherjee was India’s finance minister. And in 2012, he was one of several finance ministry officials who migrated from North Block to Rashtrapati Bhavan when Mukherjee became India’s 13th President.


  1. Mathew just like Omita Paul followed Pranab Mukherji wherever he went. No wonder he got adequate pampering and time to bring out a book. The procurement policy of UPA was such that the armed forces faced a critical situation because firms were being blacklisted and purchases were at the bare minimum. Thus the country's security was jeopardized. Perhaps there were not enough birds in Sena Bhawan.

    1. Your ideas reflect you are berozgar engineer, obvious to say lazy also.

  2. Will Publications Division under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting publish my book on exposing corruption in Government offices?

  3. In india, only Money, Muscle, Influence or a combination of these three forces matter. honesty, Hard work hardly counts.

  4. This Mathew guy seems to be interesting. A guy who formulated defense acquisition procedure, later moves on to the finance ministry to look after capital markets. Now he is busy clicking snaps of the birds in Mughal Garden in early mornings and late evenings.
    Although the photos of birds doesn't look that amazing, a quick google search shows me that he had an exemplary run in defense and finance ministries.
    This link -- -- tells me that this babu is one of the first guys who advocated a 100% FDI in defense. What makes it amazing is that it was done in 2008. And then he has followed it up with a lot of columns and write-ups supporting the argument, which is available all over the web.
    He also seems to be the person who came up with the idea of Rajiv Gandhi Equity Scheme in his finance ministry stint. I loved the idea once I read this column. .--
    Still being a very smart and capable officer is not an excuse for being a mediocre photographer. Even if the Babu is doing it in his spare time before or after a hard day's work !!!

  5. Love the comments more than the article!