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‘Anti-establishment’ JNU has for decades given India its politicians, IAS & IFS officers

From ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and S. Jaishankar to NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and several state officials, JNU alumni have been shaping India’s governance for decades.

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New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar are the most prominent faces in the current Narendra Modi dispensation to have studied at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

But it’s not just the two of them. JNU may have gained the reputation of being ‘anti-establishment’, yet India’s governance landscape, both at the central and state levels, is dotted with its alumni. Not all of them are well-known, but they have all made contributions to India’s governance.

This Sunday, JNU hit the headlines again when students and teachers were attacked by masked assailants and at least 34 people were injured. The JNU Students’ Union and many others blamed the RSS-affiliated ABVP for the attack, while the ABVP said the assaulters were from Left student organisations.

Many JNU alumni in the political and social spheres, such as Sitaram Yechury and Yogendra Yadav, criticised the politicisation of the university. And both Sitharaman and Jaishankar openly condemned the incident.

“Horrifying images from JNU — the place I know & remember was one for fierce debates & opinions but never violence. I unequivocally condemn the events of today. This govt, regardless of what has been said the past few weeks, wants universities to be safe spaces for all students,” Sitharaman tweeted Sunday night.

Jaishankar added: “Have seen pictures of what is happening in #JNU. Condemn the violence unequivocally. This is completely against the tradition and culture of the university.”

Top government officials and policymakers with JNU backgrounds, such as NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and social justice & empowerment secretary R. Subrahmanyam also condemned the incident.

“#JNUViolence completely unacceptable and shameful. I condemn the violence is no uncertain terms and demand immediate action against the hooligans,” Subrahmanyam tweeted.

Also read: JNU attack aided by administration, says teachers association, demands V-C’s resignation

JNU alumni in Indian governance

At present, there are about half-a-dozen secretaries in the central government who have Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from JNU — prominent among them are Subrahmanyam, DoPT Secretary C. Chandramouli, Minorities Affairs Secretary Pramod Kumar Das and Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade Secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra.

JNU alumni in India's public life Infographic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint
Infographic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

Other prominent civil servants from JNU across services include Rajeev Topno, the private secretary to PM Modi (a joint secretary-level officer), and I&B ministry Additional Secretary Ali Raza Rizvi.

Among non-IAS officers, Sharmila Chavaly, principal financial adviser to the Northern Railway, is also a JNU alumna.

Indian Foreign Service officers from JNU include former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey, India’s permanent representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin, as well as Paulomi Tripathi, the first secretary at India’s UN Mission, who took on Pakistan at the UN General Assembly in December.

Among IPS officers, Tamil Nadu DGP J.K. Tripathy and Sikkim DGP Shankar Rao are prominent JNU alums, as are former Intelligence Bureau chief Syed Asif Ibrahim and former R&AW chief Alok Joshi.

Odisha Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy is a prominent state official who studied at JNU, as did Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac and former Jammu and Kashmir finance minister and J&K Bank chief Haseeb Drabu.

Arvind Gupta, former deputy National Security Advisor and director at Vivekananda International Foundation and former RBI deputy governor H.R. Khan are also JNU alumni.

Also read: Amit Shah requests Delhi LG to call JNU representatives for talks after attack on campus


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  1. Fine edit in Indian Express today. It is a safe bet that none of those masked bandicoots will ever be arrested. The woman in the check shirt has already been outed. She could lead to the others with a little sustained interrogation. Enough of a trail on WhatsApp as well. The question we should be asking is what useful purpose does any of this achieve. JNU will not shut down. The countrywide protests will not end. The force which keeps the city safe, needs to be both trusted and respected by law abiding citizens, sullied. Horrible consequences for India’s global reputation. Felt disappointed that EAM used the phrase Tukde Tukde gang.

  2. Fine! JNU has given us so many administrators to the country who are shaping Bharat’s future. But, what is the present status, when cracking the UPSC has become more widespread and creating celebrities also. Besides, is JNU the only university to have this honour. We are attaching too much of importance to JNU always. Leave them alone they will stop behaving in such manner. With all the attention they feel very superior and special. Treat them like other universities and they will fall in line.

  3. 1. Author has made valid observations. Even after accepting that JNU has supplied a stream of IAS & IFS officers, my query is this: how many of them have opposed wrong decisions of their political masters? My view is that if we wish to know the truth about JNU’s contribution for improving governance, we must do some critical self-examination. 2. First let us accept that the mixed economy model did not succeed on account of not-so-good contribution of the bureaucrats who were in charge of administrative ministries of public sector undertakings. 3. We have paid a heavy price for not undertaking a review of the mixed economy model at the right time-in the late sixties and seventies.4. One last observation: our top Bureaucrats, some them from JNU, almost always obliged political masters; they have preferred status quo and they did not support implementation of vital fiscal and other reforms.

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