Moneylife Foundation’s 6th Anniversary event showcased two super-achiever IAS officers, 40 years apart, committed to transforming India from within
On 6 February 2016, Moneylife Foundation’s 6th Anniversary celebration in Mumbai brought together Dr RC Sinha and Dr Praveen Gedam, to hear from them how they tried to transform Indian from within the system. Dr Sinha, now an advisor to the ministry of road transport & highways and ministry of shipping and former additional chief secretary to the government of Maharashtra, advised committed government officials not to break the law, but bend it for helping citizens. “If you do not have any malafide intent, the government will not take any action against you,” he assured.
Dr Sinha will be remembered in Maharashtra for completing the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in record time and at half the project cost of Rs3,200 that Reliance had bid for and without asking for additional 78 concessions that Reliance had asked for. He was also instrumental in completing 32 flyovers in Mumbai in record time. Following his retirement, he was sought after by governments of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, West Bengal and Punjab. In Andhra Pradesh, he implemented nearly 30 projects in three years.
Notable for his strong actions in public good in the face of political opposition, Dr Sinha said: “You have to get out tactfully from difficult situations. Within the system, we, as government employees, can do good for the public, provided we are ready to take risk against those with vested interests.”
Dr Praveen Gedam, the keynote speaker at the event and municipal commissioner at Nashik, explained how he used technology for better governance, in each of his postings to tackle entrenched corruption. Although there were several measures undertaken by the physician-turned-IAS officer, Dr Gedam cited four specific examples. One was about how he devised a strategy and came up with sand mining approval and tracking system (SMAT) to curb illegal sand mining.
Solapur has always been notorious for illegal sand mining and mafia gangs that operate without fear due to support from politicians. The Solapur district administration, under guidance from Dr Gedam, came out with a plan for e-tendering, e-auction and digital monitoring of sand mining. The results of this e-governance initiative were astounding. With these measures, the Solapur district increased its revenues to Rs78 crore (in FY13-14) from a mere Rs22 crore (in FY12-13).
Using the same monitoring and online reporting system, Dr Gedam put a brake on the loot at the famous Tuljabhavani Temple. After he sensed that donations were pilfered on a massive scale, Dr Gedam used multiple direct and indirect methods, which led to astounding results. The income of the Temple, which was hovering around Rs7 crore a year, some five to seven kilograms (kg) of gold and 40-45kg of silver, jumped four times, to Rs24 crore, excluding gold and silver donations.
Dr Gedam also spoke about the efforts taken by the administration for a smooth and incident-free Kumbh Mela at Nashik. Apart from building and modifying the infrastructure, what stood out in last year’s Kumbh at Nashik was the effective use of technology.
Last year, in September, the Nashik Municipal Corporation launched an interactive mobile app aimed at bringing transparency and providing facilities to citizens.
Dr Gedam, said, “With the mobile app, citizens can participate in the work of the Corporation, give suggestions, register complaints and use the facility for online payment of bills, register birth or death, seek building plan approval, all aimed at clean, efficient and transparent working of the Corporation.”
Their presentations were followed by a panel discussions that included Dr Sinha, Dr Gedam, Shailesh Gandhi (former central information commissioner), Dr Anupam Saraph (former CIO of Pune and former IT advisor to CM Goa) and Debashis Basu, editor & publisher of Moneylife.
Mr Gandhi said, “We need a government that can consistently deliver what is required for the benefit of citizens. What Dr Gedam has done in Nashik in terms of transparency is fantastic. But then why cannot it be replicated more often?” Dr Sinha said, “People often complain about non-governance. But look at the quality of people they choose as their representatives. The government official may have done hundreds of good things, but even if a single case goes against him, God help him! We, as government officials, have no support from the public. There is no reward or protection for honest officials.”