Dear Shekhar Gupta, an efficient clerk is more useful to society than a news broker

Shekhar Gupta, founder and editor-in-chief of the dubious news portal The Print and President of the even more dubious Editor’s Guild of India, recently made an interesting tweet about an organizational restructuring in the country’s national security apparatus –

The Strategic Policy Group (SPG) was created in 1999 to assist the National Security Council (NSC) in strategising on matters dealing with external, internal and economic security of the country. Earlier it was chaired by the cabinet secretary, but now the NSA has been appointed as chairperson. Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog has been added to the group, while other member continue as before – 3 defence chiefs, RBI governor, secretaries of external affairs, home, defence, finance, defence production, revenue, atomic energy, space, IB chief etc.

While NSA will convene SPG meetings, the cabinet secretary will coordinate implementation of its decisions with various ministries and departments.

This is a welcome change which rewards specialization and promotes meritocracy. Your National Security Advisor, a cabinet level rank, is expected to be an expert on national security, so why shouldn’t he head an advisory panel which is supposed to frame long-term policy for overall security of the country?

And it is not the first move by the Modi Government to bring in much-needed reform in the country’s ossified administrative structures – in Jan 2016, the NDA Government started empanelment of non-IAS officers (IPS, IRS, IFoS, IIS etc.) for appointment as secretaries and additional secretaries in different ministries – until then, these posts were usually occupied by IAS officers. This year, the Government invited lateral entry applications for 10 joint secretary level positions.

This tweet puts the Special Policy Group rejig in the right perspective –

There are two things Shekhar Gupta is trying to achieve with his obnoxious tweet –

1.) Incite IAS and IFS cadre & Defence Chiefs by telling them – look, you guys now have to report to a ‘lowly’ police officer!

The IPS Association tweeted a fitting riposte to Gupta –

2.) Demean and provoke the Cabinet Secretary (the top-most IAS officer) by labelling him as a ‘clerk’ – ridiculing him for falling lower than his initial role as ‘clerk’ of cabinet ministers, to now being ‘clerk’ of an IPS officer.

Does Gupta mean that all other secretaries in Union Government are ‘clerks’ to their respective ministers? Should CEOs and COOs consider themselves ‘clerks’ to their company’s Board of Directors and shareholders? Does Shekhar Gupta consider journalists and sub-editors who report to him at The Print as ‘clerks’?

Yes, a clerk’s role is mostly to keep records and undertake other routine administrative duties. It doesn’t have much scope for innovation and higher-level decision-making by its very definition. But why devalue or belittle any role – can an Army win a war if its jawans are not well trained, equipped and motivated? Why should hard-working, diligent clerks who are good at their jobs think any less of themselves?

Shekhar Gupta’s obnoxious tweet reeks of class bias and shows the petty power games that his ilk revel in while claiming to represent the national interest.

But it also enlightens us about how Lutyens’ Delhi thinks, and how this entitled cabal of journalists, editors, babus, judges, lawyers, activists, academics and self-declared public intellectuals is so threatened by the current Government led by an ‘outsider’.

The old elite, which thought it was their birthright to write the country’s policies and decide its fate, can’t digest any reform which tries to dismantle old hierarchies and bring in fresh, meritocratic thinking. These people are the powerful casteists of our times.


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