‘Dabbang’ chief secretary cracks the whip in UP

Lucknow, Sep 7 (IANS) From threatening senior officials with prison if they failed to meet targets to asking policemen to beat up criminals and put them behind bars, Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal is fast turning out to be the state’s ‘dabbang’ bureaucrat.

Appointed barely a month ago, Singhal has sent shivers down the spines of Uttar Pradesh’s infamous bureaucracy, widely perceived as lazy and callous. And he seems to be also endearing himself with the people as well as the political class.

When Shivpal Singh Yadav was PWD Minister, Singhal was his “preferred candidate” for the top job; now Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, too, seems to be enamoured of the “quick decision-making abilities” of the official.

“Though his surname (Singhal) may make you think he is ‘single’, but he is like an army on the roll, doing so much work,” Yadav told a gathering recently. He has publicly patted the back of his Chief Secretary on more than three occasions now, setting aside speculation that Singhal was not his first choice for the sensitive posting.

Usha Shanker, an ageing principal of a local school that educates children of poor workers, rickshaw-pullers and maids, told IANS that she was “pleasantly surprised” by the “proactive attitude” of the Chief Secretary.

“I informed him that our school was short of funds and needed some encouragement from the government — and in no time help came. The Chief Secretary visited along with his wife and told us that the requirements of the 400 school children would be taken care of,” she said.

In governance, too, Singhal seems to be leaving his mark. Having held various posts in the past, including a long stint as the Principal Secretary (Irrigation), his access to the top political bosses gives him the added edge.

“He is very grounded, to the extent of being rustic, but works with godsend speed,” a senior bureaucrat told IANS. He recently threatened a group of senior officials that he would not hesitate to send them behind bars if the timelines of projects were not met.

A known globe-trotter — he says he has visited more than 72 countries, some as many as two dozen times — Singhal’s networking skills seem to be working in favour of the state. Earlier this week, he not only settled a long-pending issue — the widening of a road near Kukrail in the state capital — with the Indian Army in an hour but also moved ahead positively on at least three other contentious issues with the Defence Ministry.

This issue had been hanging fire for more than three decades but Singhal “activated the state machinery and punched the right numbers in Delhi”, said a beaming aide. He is also working relentlessly on getting the much-delayed international airport at Agra and is in talks with his contemporaries in Delhi to “smoothen raw nerves and undo the knots” between two politically-opposed governments.

Known to have a “baniya-buddhi approach” (businessman-like approach) the Chief Secretary is said to have expedited speedy and hassle-free allocation of a 16-acre stretch of land in Greater Noida to mobile manufacturing major Micromax. Officials of the company admitted that they had not expected to see work at such lightening speed, at least in Uttar Pradesh.

Chief Executive officer Rajesh Agarwal, who was handed over the allotment letter by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow last week, says the factory that would come up on this land is billed to manufacture six million mobile phones every year. Singhal’s access to political bosses seems to be working both in his favour and in favour of the state, hitherto tarred by question marks over investments.

“Our Chief Minister is young and his ideas of getting the best for the state invigorates our style of working and we are happy that results are flowing in,” Singhal says, while pointing out that global Vice-President of mobile company Oppo, Eric (who goes by one name), has shown keen interest in setting up its base in the state due to its investor-friendly IT policy.

Delegates from Oppo mobile have already submitted a proposal to set up a mobile manufacturing unit in Greater Noida or the Yamuna Expressway electronic manufacturing cluster on a 150-acre plot.

Unlike his predecessors — the suave Javed Usmani or the pragmatic Alok Ranjan — Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal seems to be emerging as the right choice for the top job, especially as the state goes to polls early next year and the Samajwadi Party (SP) battles anti-incumbency amid hopes of a second coming.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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