Jayant Kumar Banthia, a 1977 batch IAS officer, is the new chief secretary of the state.
Banthia, 59, a low profile officer with top-notch credentials, was chosen by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan for the senior-most job in the state administration.
He took over from the outgoing chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad on Thursday evening. Banthia, who has a master’s degree in demography from the London School of Economics, was posted as the additional chief secretary of the public health department for the last one and a half years.
Prior to his posting in the state, Banthia was on a UN deputation to Nigeria as the chief technical adviser to the United Nation Population Fund for four years.
He was also the census commissioner of India from 1999 to 2004 and rolled out the 2001 census. Sources said that his good equations with the Centre helped him get the post ahead of other aspirants.
He is also the senior-most officer with at least a one year tenure before retirement. He also worked in the NDA’s national identity card scheme launched by former deputy prime minister LK Advani during the NDA regime.
Banthia has a tough job ahead of him in the coalition-run state, given the recent spate of scams, rifts between the allies, the media glare and low morale of the bureaucrats. In the state, he faces the challenges of tackling agriculture slowdown, infrastructure deficit, and improving social indicators such as the human development index, and the poor sex ratio in the state.
He said that this is his biggest challenge so far and he is keen on having “linkages with the judiciary and media” as he takes on the new role.
“E-governance and the increased use of information technology in government is a priority as it ensures there is transparency. The biggest challenge is to show that the government is taking credible action,” said Banthia.
Speaking to the media just before formally taking over of his new post, he said, “Give the government a soft landing on issues. Feel free to ask us. Hear the side of the bureaucracy also.”
The state bureaucracy’s moral has been low since the Adarsh scam, which led to the arrest of senior IAS officers.
Banthia wanted to work with not just the bureaucrats but all government employees across hierarchies. He said his first priority would be tackling of scarcity scenario in the state.