Punjab’s power couple takes over Capt’s administration, Vini Mahajan is chief secretary
POWER COUPLE Wife of Punjab Police chief Dinkar Gupta, Vini replaces Karan Avtar Singh, who takes over as special chief secretary, governance reforms; she has been playing a crucial role in the state government’s response to the Covid crisis as chairperson, health sector response and procurement committeeUpdated: Jun 26, 2020, 18:49 IST
Vini Mahajan on Friday took over as the first woman chief secretary of Punjab.
A 1987-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, Vini replaces Karan Avtar Singh and brings to the table 33 years of experience in a host of key positions in the central and Punjab governments.
Karan Avtar takes over as special chief secretary, governance reforms.
The only Punjab-cadre officer currently in the state who is empanelled to hold position as secretary, Government of India, Vini was till now serving as additional chief secretary, investment promotion, industries and commerce, IT and governance reforms and public grievances. She has been playing a crucial role in steering the state government’s response to the Covid crisis as chairperson, health sector response and procurement committee.
Congress legislators were pressurising chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh to remove Karan Avtar Singh from the post of chief secretary after he had run-ins with ministers at meetings on the excise policy. Ministers, led by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, had boycotted a pre-cabinet meeting after comments allegedly made by the bureaucrat. The matter was settled with the intervention of Captain Amarinder Singh and after Karan Avtar Singh apologised to the ministers.
Vini is the wife of Punjab Police chief Dinkar Gupta, who is also a 1987-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. This is perhaps the first time any power couple serves simultaneously as the chief secretary and the DGP of a state.
BRIGHT STUDENT, ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER
An economics graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, and a post-graduate 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, Vini was pivotal in the state’s success in attracting over Rs 20,000 crore new investment every year during her tenure in the Investment Promotion and Industries and Commerce.
It was with her at the helm of the department that Punjab participated for the first time in the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2019, and held a highly successful Investor Summit, with focus on MSMEs, in December last year.
Under her able leadership, the department saw massive improvements in infrastructure in focal points, and new mega industrial parks were also taken up. A centre of excellence and several incubators were launched for promoting and mentoring start-ups, and recently, as part of governance reforms in the state, a completely new public grievances redressal policy was launched with her pioneering efforts.
It was during her tenure as ACS, housing and urban development, that the development of a 5,000-acre new township near Mohali airport was initiated. Further, during her term as additional chief secretary, revenue, Punjab became the first state in the country to roll out the National Generic Document Registration System.
Vini Mahajan served in the office of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from 2005-12, and handled, matters relating to finance, industry and commerce, telecom, and IT. She was part of the core team of the central government that put together India’s domestic response, during and following the global financial meltdown. She also participated in the global response through the G-20 mechanism.
In 2004-05 as director in the department of economic affairs, ministry of finance (GoI), she was involved with India’s external assistance programme, and infrastructure issues.
In Punjab, she has served in various capacities, including MD PIDB and as the first director, disinvestment. She was appointed 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 in 1999. She served as the chairperson of the celebrations committee for the 550th anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019.
FIRST WOMAN DC OF PUNJAB
In 1995, she became the first woman officer to be posted as a deputy commissioner in Punjab, when she took over as the Ropar DC, in which capacity she carried out a total literacy campaign, for which Ropar received the National Literacy Award for best performance in the country.
Vini Mahajan has received numerous academic awards, including the National Talent Search Scholarship. She was a Hubert Humphrey fellow based at American University in Washington DC in 2000-01. She could be the only student in the country who got admission to both IIT and AIIMS, Delhi, in 1982 after she finished her Class 12 from Modern School, New Delhi.
Her father, BB Mahajan, was also an IAS officer of the Punjab cadre. A topper of the 1957 batch and known to be a man of integrity, he held important positions, including FCR in Punjab, before retiring as secretary, food, Government of India.