Shumsher K. Sheriff | 1976-77
Secretary General of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the Parliament of India
I was born in India a few years after it gained independence. From 1968–70, I studied towards an honours and post graduate degree in history from St. Stephen’s College and later a degree in law from Delhi University. These were interesting times of national and international significance. I began teaching as a lecturer in undergraduate studies. With the fascinating world of international relations unfolding, I ventured abroad for the first time in 1976 to the Graduate Institute.
Little did I realise then how much my life was about to change. I was fortunate that my study of international relations was in Geneva which was at the centre of many initiatives. It revealed a whole matrix of studies in international issues, trade, economics and international law. It was an enriching experience studying under the guidance of eminent professors and with students from other countries, many of whom have distinguished themselves in the public and private sectors. I was elected unanimously as the President of the Students’ Association in the 50th year of the Institute’s existence. In this capacity, I had a diverse experience: political, cultural, organisational, and certainly academic.
"It was an enriching experience studying under the guidance of eminent professors and with students from other countries, many of whom have distinguished themselves in the public and private sectors."
In 1977, I had the difficult choice of whether to continue with my studies or return and join the premier Indian Administrative Service. The advice of Professor Jacques Freymond, Director at the time, was profound and I returned to pursue a career in the civil service. Regretfully, I could not resume my doctoral studies due to my demanding career for the past 35 years.
In 1984, I was selected for the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) at Paris. Later I worked at the state and national levels including the Finance Ministry. In 1992 the Vice President of India selected me as head of his secretariat and I continued to work with him when he was elected as the President of India in 1997. It was natural that these ten years of assisting some of the highest political and constitutional authorities in the country gave me an opportunity to learn the contours of the highest level of governance of a State with a population of one billion and immense diversities. From 2002–2005, I represented India as Senior Advisor at the Asian Development Bank in Manila dealing with developmental issues. When the tsunami struck, I returned to India in 2006 and was given the task of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. As Chief Secretary, it was a challenging though immensely rewarding experience dealing with man and nature.
After a fulfilling career in civil service I was offered the position of Secretary General of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the Parliament of India, the position that I presently occupy.