Jharkhand Governor’s ‘A-team’ puts governance back on track in the state

Jharkhand Governor's 'A-team'

It was on January 18 when the President of India proclaimed imposition of President’s Rule in Jharkhand, transforming Governor Syed Ahmed from a figurehead to the de-facto ruler. Governor Ahmed, however, perhaps knew from the beginning that things were in bad shape at the ground level.

So he started at a comfortable pace without severely challenging government officers known for their affiliations to political masters rather than the work assigned. The Governor has only gradually stepped up the heat, which has yielded him a mix bag of results.

It was exactly after two months after the date of proclamation that the Governor perhaps thought time was ripe for a reality check. So on March 18, when Governor Ahmed went for a surprise visit to Raatu block, just 10 kms from the state capital Ranchi, to see if governance at the grassroots has picked or was still in the deep freeze; he was in for a rude shock.

The Block Development Officer, Ravindra Kumar and Circle Officer Monika Rani Tuti were missing from their respective offices. Many rooms in the block office were still locked at 11.30 AM on Monday. The medical officer too was missing in the Raatu Health Centre while the police station and the child development project office were in a mess. Next day, the Governor’s office issued orders for suspension of 11 officers. Ahmed of late has been unsparing. On March 12 too – just a day before the Lok Sabha ratified the Presidential proclamation – the Governor had ordered suspension of Superintending Engineer RN Raman and Executive Engineer Rakesh Prasad of the electricity department for not turning in for a review meeting.

With both Houses of Parliament already approving the Presidential proclamation, Jharkhand stares at a prolonged spell of President’s Rule. But, with elections set to happen in next six months, Governor Ahmed has his task cut out.

His two advisors, former Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta and ex-CRPF director General K Vijay Kumar too are men in hurry to make things happen quickly in Jharkhand. Thanks to his political acumen and vast experience, Governor Ahmed is keeping his ear to the ground while trying make things happen in Jharkhand, otherwise known as a failed state.

If President’s rule has delivered some good news, the credit lies with Ahmed’s backroom boys: Human Resource Principal Secretary Devendra Kumar Tiwari who single-handedly ensured proper utilisation of huge central funds that were left unused for years, besides making decisive efforts to decentralise decision making in his department. Principal Home Secretary-cum-Vigilance Commissioner Jyoti Bhramar Tubid turned his office into an active accountability task force with the vigilance bureau coming down hard on tainted men including former JMM Minister Nalin Soren – who was minister till January this year and now absconding in a Rs.200 crore purchase scam.

Principal Secretary Energy Vimal Kirti Singh, a 1986 batch IAS officer, who boldly confronted the then Deputy Chief Minister Hemant Soren for construction of zero-error transmission lines in Jharkhand, also figures in the list while Principal Secretary Water Resources Santosh Satapathi has completed over a 1000 check-dams in less than two years of his tenure. To cap it all, we have 1987 batch IAS Nagendra Nath Sinha, the first person Governor Ahmed picked up as his Principal Secretary to coordinate the action on the ground. Sinha is said to have the final words on various administrative and developmental issues that the Governor regularly discusses with him.

JB Tubid, 55 years, 1983 batch IAS officer: Principal Home Secretary and Vigilance Commissioner

An officer who has served the Jharkhand Home Department for the longest period during his various tenures, Tubid is a man with rich leadership experience and complete understanding of the state’s security scenario. It makes him invaluable for the new Director General of Police Rajiv Kumar – who has just taken over.  A storehouse of information, Tubid has also emerged as the man Friday for Governor’s Advisor K Vijay Kumar in Jharkhand’s battle against extremism. Adviser Kumar is a retired IPS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre who eliminated forest brigand Veerappan.

An officer with impeccable credentials, Tubid is also the perfect boss for state vigilance bureau at a time when the Governor wants a crackdown against corruption. The records speak for themselves. In last 10 months, the vigilance bureau has arrested 37 bribe-seekers. A year ago, only nine were arrested. In last nine months, the Jharkhand vigilance bureau has seized Rs.24.91 lakh cash. A year ago, the figure was only 60,800. Big fishes like ex-Minister Nalin Soren are on the run with Vigilance snapping at their heels.

Dr. Devendra Kumar Tiwari, 52 years; 1986 batch IAS officer: Principal Secretary, HRD

Popularly known as DK in Jharkhand’s administrative circles, the officer seems ideal for the Human Resources Department for his keen interest in education. A qualified MBBS from King George Medical College in Lucknow, Tiwari has further earned a Master’s degree in development economics from Manchester University. While in job, DK took special permission to attend evening classes to complete a Law degree from Ranchi.

DK has only been a month old in the Jharkhand’s HRD department, but the short period is enough for the workaholic bureaucrat to bring strategic changes. By decentralising the tendering process and thus empowering school principals to purchase and distribute uniform among children, DK has ensured quick utilisation of Rs.200 crore – a fund that was lying idle for last 10 months.

Tiwari has disassociated himself from finalising tenders, delegating maximum possible authority to field officers, though he maintains a tight monitoring over the process.

The officer looks like a man on a mission. From opening new schools to creating physical space therein, constituting village education committees and getting its members involved in the physical monitoring of schools and from identifying and creation 25,000 new posts for teachers to be recruited in next four months, to building new plans to bring out-of-school children back to the study benches, Tiwari is doing all this while taking many more initiatives to take education to the next level in the tribal state.

Vimal Kirti Singh, 53 years, 1986 batch IAS officer: Principal Secretary, Energy

A soft-spoken bureaucrat who wields power with a firm hand, Vimal Kirti Singh has the reputation of keeping an independent profile. The officer has restored credibility to Jharkhand energy department, which in the past has seen a number of senior Jharkhand State Electricity Board officers involved in a series of scams. No wonder, the person that Singh is, he keeps on asking the vigilance sleuths take action against the corrupt in his department.

Singh is not afraid of taking on anyone and no one was surprised when the officer did not agree with the then Deputy Chief Minister Hemant Soren on the issue of building an error-free power transmission network.

Soren was opposing awarding the consultancy of the work to state-owned Power Grid Corporation of India, which had agreed to charge the lowest ever consultancy for the ambitious Jharkhand project. Vimal’s views finally prevailed because he fearlessly argued in Jharkhand’s interests.

Singh knows he has miles to go in generation, distribution and transmission sectors. But, he is on the move. His current brief is to provide uninterrupted power supply to consumers in Jharkhand, where power production (including availability from other sources) is sufficient to meet demands but problems in distributions hamper supply.

“My aim is to achieve zero power cut in Jharkhand,” Singh says. Under Singh’s leadership, Jharkhand has taken concrete steps towards streamlining power distribution with two private companies assigned for Ranchi and Jamshedpurpur in the first place. Vimal has also allowed private partnership in revenue collection.

Santosh Satapathi, 55 Years, 1986 batch IAS officer: Principal Secretary, Water Resources

Santosh Satapathi is a can-doer; an asset for the government; the officer seems to have achieved the seemingly impossible.

From securing release of Swarnerekha water from Chandi reservoir and Galudih barrage to the canal system in Jharkhand and Odisha to completion of five legacy projects, and from renovation of major, minor and medium capacity irrigation projects to completion of over 1,000 check dams, Satapathi has surpassed the fondest hopes of successive Chief Ministers in Jharkhand.

Jharkhand is a state of backwater villages and in this backdrop Santosh’s role assumes significance because as Water Resources Secretary it is his job to increase irrigation coverage in the state. He has set a very high goal for himself – to increase irrigation coverage above 80 per cent of the total agriculture land.

Though his job is least glamorous and less visible, his performance can have widest social and somewhat even political impact in the tribal state.

And therefore, he seems to be the right man at the right place. An unassuming officer that Satpathi is, he only talks about his challenges he faces without harping on the long list of achievements. Some of his feats could be achieved only because Santosh travelled to many of the renovation locations, keeping his ear to the ground.

Nagendra Nath Sinha, 49 years, 1987 batch IAS officer: Principal Secretary, Governor Secretariat

Governor Syed Ahmed apparently weighed his options for a little over a week after Jharkhand came under President Rule on January 18. On January 28, he ordered the first major reshuffle and brought in NN Sinha as his Principal Secretary, the most powerful position in the President’s Rule in Jharkhand.

The Governor is said to have unshakable faith in Sinha, who has revitalised the Governor’s secretariat with his inputs. His is said to be the final words on crucial administrative issues. As a close confidant of Governor, Sinha is the bridge between the administration and the final decision maker. Sinha is also strategic adviser to the Governor on key administrative affairs, who finally shapes the government’s plan of action.

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