Chidambaram, an apology might help

Things really start to fall apart when union ministers start humiliating senior bureaucrats

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Puja Bhattacharjee | February 13, 2014



I do not personally know Sudhir Krishna, secretary of urban development department but I have interacted with him enough to say with conviction that his English does not merit reproach.

The first time I met him in September last year when he came to address the safe city conclave organised by Governance Now. He spoke clearly if somewhat accented English. But then in a diverse country like India where every region has its own dialect, majority of the people have accents. On the second occasion, I conducted an email interview with him. He answered in crisp, short and lucid English.

So when the news broke that Chidambaram had ostensibly humiliated Krishna at a meeting for his English language skills, I had to read twice to make sure it was the same Sudhir Krishna.

While the exact occurrences of the said meetings are still being debated, let me say that if Chidambaram has behaved in the way Krishna alleges he did, shame on you Mr finance minister. At a time when India is grappling with an ever increasing racism and partisan politics, this behavior from a person of his stature is appalling and unacceptable.

Many of my peers reporting in the business beat in other organisations have told me that Chidambaram is infamous for his arrogant mannerisms. But to behave in such a way with an IAS officer, no less, is beneath him.

The seeds of intolerance sown at the highest levels trickle down and percolate in the masses. Being a Bengali in Delhi, I have often encountered people who mocked my accent and there are those who genuinely want to help me improve. How you communicate it is what matters. Pointing it out in a high level meeting in the presence of junior staff is not how it should be done.

I would like to praise Krishna for having the gall and gumption to take on a union minister. Denial and fabrication has always been modus operandi of erring politicians. Tendering an apology might to a certain extent restore some confidence to the beleaguered government. Above all it will certainly create some goodwill.

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