By The Way: How Vijay Dev walked a thin line as UT adviser, and slipped

  • Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Mar 14, 2016 17:43 IST
The since-ousted UT adviser, Vijay Kumar Dev. (Ravi Kumar/HT File Photo)

It is one thing to like running, quite another to not know when to stop. It is one thing to like attention, quite another to be a victim of vanity. It is one thing to be a glib, quite another to fall in love with your own words. On these matters, Vijay Kumar Dev and I are on the same side of the divide. But this article is not about me, at least not this fortnight.

This one’s about Dev, who’s been shunted out as adviser to the Chandigarh UT administrator. The decision is a travesty of justice. He was the kind of man that Chandigarh needed as its top bureaucrat. After all, he mirrored the city perfectly.

Come on, now, start counting the similarities. He never missed a chance to party, nor tired of singing/dancing. He never showed up under-dressed for anything, always dapper down to his toes. He never missed a chance to tell tales of the heroic type. He constantly sought to inspire people with his love for fitness. He seemed to have a deep dislike for politics. He could hardly acknowledge that he might just have been wrong once or twice, at least. Confident, at all times. Isn’t that how Chandigarh is? Agree with me, I am right.

The signs were there early. Only a man steeped in Chandigarh’s spirit would spend ` 2 crore and more in the name of ‘renovation’ of a house. Mere mortals are stupid enough to buy new houses worth fractions of that amount. You tell me, what good is a public officer who doesn’t make good use of public money? And what better use of public money than having a modular kitchen, fresh furniture, and an entrance decorated with wood carvings?

The controversy was all a mistake of his predecessor KK Sharma, who had set the standards too low on this count and continued to live in a house which Dev had to make “liveable”.

Dev went from strength to strength thereafter, something that may have irked our wretched political class as has been alleged. But I will stop shy of blaming the politicians here. They were only doing their job: being jealous. Dev liked it fast. So much so that he did not wait for the elected representatives of the people to collect any bouquets. It would waste precious time. So he quickly went to every function that was held in his 15-month blitzkrieg of a tenure — be it a marathon, a school function, an inauguration, or even a button-pressing ceremony for new traffic lights that won’t otherwise qualify as a function — and collected all the bouquets.

He also liked to show the way by first taking the leap himself, no matter how uncertain. Sample his drive in Sector 17, when he deployed a force of 200 men and women to remove wrongly-sized display boards and window-glazing from one lane, as a trial of course. The staff also tried all possible ways to carry it out — even bringing down correctly-sized boards, of course just to check if the owner even knew the correct measurements! The people learnt their lessons, and Dev moved on, as all great men do, to bigger things.

He made many things online, rebuked some officials, turned others into his mini-versions, and declared the city ‘smart’ even before the government could. The government too took him seriously, and decided not to insult Chandigarh by putting it on the list of cities that would be made smart. Another feather in his cap!

But what took the cake was how well-versed he is with the Indian culture. Culture, after all, is the preferred word of our rulers these days. When the leader of our great country arrived in Chandigarh, Dev duly closed down the schools. Why would kids need school when they could learn more by the Messiah’s mere presence? He also closed the crematorium, knowing that no death could occur on such an auspicious day. It is only a matter of bad luck, though, that he had to give an explanation over the hassles caused to the common people.

But it is one thing to be brilliant, another to be brash. It’s a thin line. Some people just don’t understand that. What a pity!

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