23 September, 2020

'We Could Soon Become a Banana Republic'

"One of the Hindujas rang me at 10 pm. I told him it was late; he asked if he could call next morning. I told him I didn't keep a diary next to my bed."

'We Could Soon Become a Banana Republic'
Former secretary (economic affairs) in the ministry of finance Dr E.A.S. Sarma is not known to buckle under political pressure. Having served as secretary in key ministries—power, expenditure and economic affairs—he is remembered by contemporaries as "an outstanding officer", honest to a fault. When Sarma put in his papers in November last year, eleven months before his scheduled retirement, it sent shock waves through the bureaucracy. In his 36 years of service, Sarma was transferred 22 times. The latest—which he came to know of through newspapers—convinced him he should resign. That Sarma was a conscientious bureaucrat and his sudden transfer was "mysterious" is suggested in a Business Standard editorial: "The decision, to put it at its mildest, was a curious one, since Mr Sarma was generally well regarded." He will shortly be taking up an assignment as the principal of the Hyderabad-based Administrative Staff College of India. Sarma spoke to Outlook over two exhaustive sessions. Excerpts:

How does the pmo influence ministries on behalf of business...


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