ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Is India a Secular Nation?

Text of Undelivered Late B G Deshmukh Memorial Lecture 2016

This is the full unedited text of the speech titled "Is India a Secular Nation?" that was supposed to be delivered on 4 April 2016 by former Union Home Secretary Madhav Godbole at a function organised by the Maharashtra branch of the Indian Institute of Public Administration. The lecture was suddenly cancelled three days before it was scheduled to take place.


At the outset, I must say how happy I am to have this opportunity to address this august gathering in the memory of Late B.G. Deshmukh, one of the most illustrious civil servants of India. I had the privilege of working closely with him in the state and the centre. It was because of him that, as principal finance secretary, I could initiate and vigorously implement zero-base budgeting in the state  and earned, what some of the detractors believed, the ignominious, but what I am ever proud of, nick-name of "Mr. No". I am glad to know that this "glorious" tradition of finance secretary being the 'punching bag' has continued in Maharashtra to this day! If only all states had more "Mr. Nos", the state governments  would have done yeomen service by enhancing the rate of growth of the states and ensuring more productive public expenditures. B.G., as he used to be fondly and reverentially known, was brutally frank and open in tendering his advice to his colleagues and  political executives. He achieved the rare distinction of occupying the three highest and most coveted positions in the civil service of chief secretary of a state, cabinet secretary and principal secretary to prime minister. He personified the best in the "endangered species" of the civil service.

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