Punjab’s power couple calls the shots
TOP POSTS Newly appointed chief secy Vini Mahajan is the wife of Punjab Police chief Dinkar GuptaUpdated: Jun 27, 2020, 01:33 IST
The ascent of Vini Mahajan, a 1987-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, to the top bureaucratic position in Punjab is a story of many firsts.
Mahajan is the first woman chief secretary of the state. She is the wife of Punjab Police chief Dinkar Gupta. This is the first time any power couple is simultaneously serving as the chief secretary and director general of police (DGP), the topmost administrative and police posts, in the state, and perhaps anywhere in the country.
Gupta, also a 1987-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was appointed as head of the state police in February last year. He was empanelled by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) last month for the post of director general or DG equivalent at the Centre.
Another first is that for the first time, both Punjab and Haryana’s chief secretaries are women. In Haryana, 1983 batch IAS officer Keshni Anand Arora, who is not the first woman CS there though, currently holds the top bureaucratic position. Also, Mahajan will have more than four years as the chief secretary if she continues in the office till her superannuation in October 2024.
The 1987-batch bureaucrat, who is a mother of two, owes her ascent to her professional credentials and varied experience in the field and at the Centre where she handled economic ministries.
An economics graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, Mahajan did here postgraduation from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta, where she was placed on the ‘roll of honour’ and later also received the ‘Distinguished Alumnus Award’. Mahajan, a decisive and no-nonsense bureaucrat, had served in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) from 2005-12, handling matters relating to finance, industry, commerce, telecom and IT. Her father, BB Mahajan, was also an IAS officer of the Punjab cadre.
SUPERSEDES 5 IAS OFFICERS
Mahajan has been appointed as the chief secretary, superseding five IAS officers senior to her. They include KBS Sidhu (1984), Arun Goel, C Roul, Kalpana Baruah Mittal and Satish Chandra (all four from 1985).
Sidhu, the senior-most bureaucrat in Punjab, is due to retire in July 2021. Both Goel and Roul are currently on central deputation whereas Mittal is additional chief secretary, cooperation, in the state government. Chandra, who has three months left for superannuation, is additional chief secretary, home.
KARAN AVTAR’S UNCEREMONIOUS EXIT
Karan Avtar Singh, who is due to retire on August 31, has been posted as special chief secretary (SPS), governance reforms and public grievances. Though Singh had apologised to the cabinet ministers in the presence of chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on May 27 to settle the unprecedented run-in with the minister, his shifting did not come as a surprise to several of his colleagues in the state bureaucracy.
Congress ministers and MLAs, who called a truce as the chief minister stood by the chief secretary, were not happy with the IAS officer’s continuation in the top post. They were pressurising the CM to remove him and the recent government notification to adopt the two-rule fixed tenure rule for IAS officers also riled them up.
Singh’s new posting as SPS after he remained the chief secretary for more than three years has not gone down well will some of his bureaucratic colleagues who feel that he had just two months left for superannuation and should have opted for premature retirement.
FIRST WOMAN DC OF PUNJAB
In 1995, Mahajan was the first woman IAS officer to be posted as deputy commissioner (DC) in Punjab. She was posted as DC, Ropar, where she carried out a highly effective ‘Total Literacy Campaign’, for which Ropar received the National Literacy Award for best performance in the country. She has served in various capacities in the state, including MD, PIDB, and as the first director, disinvestment. She was appointed as chief administrator of the new Anandpur Sahib Development Authority in 1997, and also CEO, Anandpur Sahib Foundation, for the organisation for the tercentenary celebrations of the birth of the Khalsa held in 1999. She served as the chairman of the celebrations committee for the 550 year celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019. Prior to being appointed as chief secretary, she was additional chief secretary, investment promotion, industries and commerce, information technology, governance reforms and public grievances.