Friday, November 11, 2016

How DEA secretary and 1980 batch IAS Shaktikanta Das answers a question in Tamil

AT THE inaugural session of economic editors conference in New Delhi, televised by some TV channels, finance minister Arun Jaitley got puzzled for a moment. “Kya” (what?) — he asked his officials sitting next to him, as one of the editors from Tamil Nadu began by asking a question in English before shifting to Tamil language. The question was on investment awareness among common people. The media person from Tamil Nadu got a reply from union secretary of the department of economic affairs (DEA) Shaktikanta Das who hails from Odisha but...
belongs to Tamil Nadu cadre. He knows Tamil language and can speak that language. Das smartly answered the question in Tamil. As this 1980 batch IAS officer completed answering the question in Tamil, there was a huge appreciation from the audience and Das’ colleagues present there, even though none of them actually understood what Das had explained. Arjun Ram Meghwal, IAS-turned minister of state for finance who was sitting next to Jaitley, highly appreciated Das.
The video of the Das' Tamil moment is available in You Tube. 
IAS Association in its Twitter handle said: “This is awesome stuff by @DasShaktikanta Secy DEA. Language skills are one of the many strengths of the IAS.”
In fact, it’s mandatory for IAS officers to learn the language of one’s cadre. In this case, Das hails from Odisha but being a Tamil Nadu cadre officer, he is fluent in Tamil as well. Das who was joint secretary, additional secretary and then special secretary in the ministry of finance between November 2008 and December 2013, was first union fertilizer secretary before he was brought in to the ministry of finance as revenue secretary in one of the first major bureaucratic reshuffles by the Narendra Modi government in June 2016. Later, he was shifted to the DEA. In Tamil Nadu, Das worked as industry and revenue secretary.
Das will retire from service in February 2017.


  1. Dignity of bureaucracy under UPA and NDA
    Shaktikanta Das (TN 80, IAS) Economic Affairs Secretary attended a conference of economic editors ,chaired by FM Arun Jaitley.
    An editor from TN asked a question in english and then willy nilly switched over to his mother tongue Tamil.
    Much to FM's bewilderment and others' amusement, Das responded in Tamil.
    The non-Tamilians without understanding a word of what he said, applauded, nevertheless.
    No rancour. FM enjoyed without knowing the Tamil language.

    Now , the opposite experience.

    I recall a cognate incident of 2014 under UPA regime that created quite a controversy.
    Sudhir Krishna ,the then urban development Secretary,at a meeting chaired by Chidambaram, started speaking in english with smattering of hindi words. Though from UP, he belonged to Karnataka cadre. Suave and no-nonsense officer.

    Chidambaram in his typical arrogance. humiliated the poor Secretary asking him to speak in hindi that could be subsequently translated by his officials into english.

    Sudhir Krishna registered his protest with Finance Secretrary and also with his minister Kamalnath to bring the humiliation to PM's notice.
    Nothing happened as Dr Manmohan Singh. the de jure PM, was perennially in silent mode.The actual power was exercised by the then Congress supremo,the de facto PM.
    The incident demoralised the IAS fraternity,rather unfairly.
    Such incidents do not occur in NDA with PM Modi at the helm.

    A K SAXENA (A retd civil servant)

  2. I agree with Mr Saxena. Chidambaram was habitually arrogant, so much so that no officer desired to receive him / wait for him / chaperone him. I witnessed him twice arriving at Army HQ and each time he lacked the most basic courtesies in his behaviour with both junior and senior officers. A K Antony was very different and more of a gentleman.

    Brig S.S. Dhillon (retd.)

  3. True. Neither did PC try to learn other languages, nor did he respect humans. We feel that HARVARD teaches this arrogance. But a Harvard Professor (Dr Swamy) has a different attitude.

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