Vol. 6 | issue 7 | August 2012
intrigue shailaja chandra
Minister’s Rotten Pupil
One Union Health Minister wanted to build a model hospital in his constituency. His Secretary, who had no post-retirement sinecure in sight, was sulking. He sent a long hand-written note to say why the model hospital idea was “outside Central Government policy and could not be supported”.
Weary of constant stone-walling, the Minister found another ploy to garner support. He began summoning the four Joint Secretaries under him, hopeful that they might be more amenable. On such occasions, he lost no time in reminding us that the Secretary would soon retire while he would continue.
One evening, it was my turn to be singled out. He had just told me that I had the makings of a Cabinet Secretary. My only failure was that I did not know how to ‘exercise authority’.
‘I will show you how to apply the power you have,’ he said. A few minutes later, the secretary will come to see me. You please don’t get up. I will ask you to keep sitting. I want you to watch what happens. And take a lesson from that.’
At exactly 6 pm, there was a sharp knock and the Health Secretary (let me call him Sharma) walked in, with long purposeful strides with a ramrod straight spine. Quite the pukka sahib!
‘Yes, Mr Sharma, you wanted to see me? All is well I hope?’ queried the Minister, his gold rimmed glasses and diamond kurta buttons glinting under the glare of two score neon lights.
‘All is quite well, Sir,’ replied the Secretary, as he cleared his throat –something he always did when he wanted to emphasise a point. He looked down at the jottings in his notebook.
‘Sir you will be very happy to know that the Planning Commission has agreed to your request and our budget has been raised by 10 per cent. It was your letter that did the trick. Remember you had added a sentence? Well, that made all the difference. That, Sir, was a superb stroke on your part!’...........READ MORE