Punjab bureaucracy: Let’s talk about Gen Next!

Punjab


By Manish Tiwari While covering the Punjab government in the past two decades, I have come across many IAS officers who I thought brought laurels to their cadre. But now it’s time to talk about Gen. Next! This generation — some of the emerging secretary and principal secretary-level officers — has not just impressed many with their performance and positive approach towards doing good to the people, but has remained focused, is well-informed and most importantly, balanced in decision-making and their delivery to the system. They have, in fact, kept the hope alive for the Indian bureaucracy and also the public’s faith in the system. Some of the officers, include Principal Secretary (Excise and Taxation) A Venu Prasad (1991 batch), Principal Secretary (Local Bodies) Ajoy K Sinha (1996), Principal Secretary (Personnel) Vivek Pratap Singh (1996), Secretary (Local Government) Ajoy Sharma (1999), Secretary (Employment Generation) Rahul Tiwari (2000), Special Principal Secretary to the CM, Gurkirat Kirpal Singh (2001), Excise Commissioner Rajat Aggrawal (2003), Chandigarh’s Municipal Commissioner KK Yadav (2003), Director (Public Relations) Ravi Bhagat (2006) and Director (Food and Civil Supplies) Anandita Mitra (2007). They are not only known for using their discretion in the public interest but have been disciplined and extremely hardworking. For the civil servants, though, the state of Punjab that has seen turbulent times for several decades has not been easy to handle. Today, when the State has been battling against the Covid-19 outbreak for almost a year, bad financial position besides many other issues such as the farmers’ protests, some of the top officers, including Chief Principal Secretary to Punjab CM, Suresh Kumar and the 1987-batch IAS officer, Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan have been providing leadership to the Punjab bureaucracy by their delivery to governance and more importantly — the people. The officers such as Financial Commissioner (Revenue) Viswajeet Khanna and Financial Commissioner (Development) Anirudh Tiwari, too, have shown the poise and balance in handing State affairs. Within the bureaucracy, there is hardly anyone who appreciates a retired IAS officer holding an important position in the government even after superannuating, but the way Suresh Kumar who has long been considered a no-nonsense bureaucrat and his two other colleagues, Principal Secretary to the CM Tejvir Singh and Special Secretary to the CM, Gurkirat Kirpal Singh have delivered to the system and not allowed any blot to come on the Chief Minister in the past four years, has been something the Gen. Next must take note of. They have worked as a cohesive team not only in the interest of the Chief Minister and his government but for the people at large. The CMO has never been as powerful and asserting as it is today and it goes without saying that it enjoys the full confidence of the Chief Minister. On the other hand, the Chief Secretary’s Office has also become as important as it would be in the past. Ever since Vini Mahajan has taken over as the Chief Secretary, the State bureaucracy has been more focused even as several ambitious plans are on the anvil and are likely to unfold in early 2021. I have a personal bias for Vini Mahajan as I have known her for the past 20 years when she was the Special Secretary (Expenditure) and watched her grow as a successful bureaucrat, including her stint in the Prime Minister’s Office initially as the Director and then as Joint Secretary handling several important departments and states. She has been a true leader, professionally very sound and imbued with effective decision-making and Gen. Next has to learn a lot from her, in fact, from most of what she has done as an officer. Critics often talk about what the government has not done and it appears very few know what all it has done in the past four years. While corruption is as rampant as in the past, one thing that the Capt Amarinder government can take credit for is — that there is governance sans vendetta and malice. He can also be credited with identifying good officers for his core team that has the ability to deliver. About 20 years back when I interacted with the bureaucrats such as former Chief Secretaries, K R Lakhanpal, Ramesh Inder Singh and Subodh Agarwal, I would always ask myself -- Will the Next Generation have the sense of balance and maturity as some of these officers? Over a period, however, one has realised that not only officers such as Suresh Kumar and Vini Mahajan had the potential to be in the top slot but almost all the mid-level emerging secretaries and principal secretaries whose names find mention in this article are the future chief secretaries! ( Manish@dailyworld.in)




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