Administration Times

Shaktikanta Das: Crisis Man in a New Avatar

Shaktikanta Das, former economic affairs secretary is best remembered as the crisis manager who saved the NDA government the blushes post the perfunctorily announced demonetisation. A shrewd bureaucrat, Das, a Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer, adeptly handled the media queries and even dodged them to stave off embarrassment for the government. The note ban had visibly outraged the aam aadmi and it took an officer of his calibre to douse the voices of protest.

The Modi led government lost no time in reciprocating Das’ services when it recently anointed him as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Urjit Patel had spooked the markets and shocked the government with his sudden and untimely resignation. Though the government floated a few names for the top honour, it was Das who got singled out for the position in a life time.

When Shaktikanta Das retired as secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, in May 2017, he got a Rs 1 note from the government with his signature on it as a farewell gift. Das, who was appointed 25th governor of the RBI will now have his signature on all the banknotes that are printed during his three-year tenure.

The career bureaucrat, who’s believed to have a good working relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been directly involved in shaping eight Union Budgets, the last of which was for the financial year 2017-18.

Often fondly referred to as a ‘bureaucrat’s bureaucrat’ by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Das was the main ‘face’ of demonetization as he held daily press conferences to explain the multiple change of rules, at a time when Patel or any other RBI official did not. Besides his edge in the government as one of the planners of demonetization, Das is also credited for being the only bureaucrat to feature in an Amul advertisement. “As he moves to the RBI, he should stand by what the institution stands for. Each institution has its own dharma. He should maintain the integrity, credibility and autonomy of the Reserve Bank,” said former RBI Governor C Rangarajan

Das is expected to take up pending issues between the RBI and the government. The issues are related to providing liquidity to the non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and discussing the recommendations of the RBI board for financial supervision on the prompt corrective action (PCA) norms.

Das was the Economic Affairs Secretary from September 2015 to May 2017. Before that, he was the Revenue Secretary from June 2014 to August 2015. He also had a stint as Secretary in the Fertilizer Ministry before that, and from November 2008 to December 2013, an unbroken stint in the Union Finance Ministry in various roles. He has worked under three finance ministers–Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and Arun Jaitley.

“Every institution needs to have integrity and autonomy but also needs to be accountable. I will try and uphold professionalism, core values, credibility and autonomy of this institution. It’s an honour and great opportunity to serve RBI. I will try my best to work with everyone and work in the interest of Indian economy,” Das said soon after his appointment.

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