Nityanand Pandey/ Ankita Mishra
Nidhi Choudhari, an IAS officer of the 2012 batch, is presently posted as the Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Special) & (RE) MCGM.
The much talked and lime-lighted Removal of Encroachment squad of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai popularly known as Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or the BMC first came in to notice when it was headed by DMC Govind R. Khairnar. For the first time ever, this department is headed by an IAS officer added to the charm is the fact that a lady IAS officer Nidhi heads this much talked department which is the most sensitive of all. She served as Chief Executive Officer of Zilha Parishad, Palghar and Assistant Collector in Pen Sub-Division of Raigadh district prior to her posting in the MCGM. Before her cadre service as an IAS 2012, she served as a Manager in the Reserve Bank of India for over five years and in Indian Audit and Accounts Service for over a year. It has been more than 11-years since she joined the public services and tried to render justice to her profession with outmost sincerity, ethics and efficiency to the best of her capacity.
In an exclusive interview with India Unbound Magazine, Nidhi Choudhari shared her experience on various postings and vision for the betterment of our Nation.
What are your school and college memories? Where were you born and brought up?
-I was born and brought up in a village known as Balsamandat of Nagaur district in Rajasthan. My father worked as Junior Engineer in water supply department and my mother is a home maker. I completed my graduation from Government College in Didwana. Academically, I was good at studies but coming from a place where girls were not allowed to study, it was not really easy but today, I am here because of massive support from my parents. I have a young Brother who got into IAS in 2014 and a sister who is an IPS of the 2009 batch.
What are your memories of 2012 batch? Do you still meet your batch mates?
-Yes, whenever we get an opportunity we try meeting each other like sometime there are conferences where we meet.
Did you always wanted to be an IAS officer since your childhood?
-No, coming from such a background, where none of us could reach or even think of reaching up to the post of a Tehsildar; girls were allowed to take graduation only after marriage and if at all their in-laws allowed them, we had really not thought it. But the idea of doing something for the society was always in my mind. It is all due to my struggle and thankfully my parents too stood like a pillar in my support.
Before joining the civil service, you had worked as Manager in RBI and in the Indian Audit and accounts service; kindly share your experience?
-RBI is an organisation that shaped me as a professional, today what I execute and its mannerism is all the outcome of my learning at RBI. I joined RBI in Chennai, I can still imagine the girl (myself) straight from a small town in Nagpur who didn’t knew to speak English or operate a computer, landed in Chennai and joined RBI. But RBI, Chennai gave me all the exposure, I use to write on social issues, after joining RBI, I developed an interest in economics and financial issues. Without having any financial background, I was able to task out all the things. Thanks to what I learnt in RBI and to all my seniors there. They allowed me to perceive my dreams. My training of Indian Audit and accounts was in Shimla. I was one among a batch of 20 people, we continue to be very good friends and are in touch with each other. That one year exposure of working at Indian Audit and accounts service at a time when CAG were Shri Vinod Rai, he was the then Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India and probably the institution got its peak in terms of glory during his tenure. So, the auditing prospective has come into my working style. I had a great experience there.
You served as Chief Executive officer of Zilha parishad Palghar and Assistant collector Pen Sub – division in Raigadh District prior to joining MCGM, kindly tell us about the challenges you faced?
-In pen, I had been given an assignment to conduct election, there were around 360 polling stations. Pen, Roha and Pali, were the three tehsils under my control for elections. When I attended the first meeting held by the district collector, as he was only concerned about Pen, being a volatile area, he asked me to take care on Pen. That was the task which was assigned to me immediately after returning to Maharashtra on completing my training, but I did my best in terms of what I learnt in the academy. I knew my role as an executive magistrate, so I have issued many orders under section 107, 110 and 144 (3) of CrPC my action were highlighted as it reached the highest number of action under provisions of section 143 of CrPC. I assured that there is no partiality while taking action under CrPC During the elections I visited each and every polling booth, changed a lot of polling booths where I believed that because of their access, there could be problems, those were one of very peacefully conducted elections in Pen under my supervision. The second most important assignment for me in pen was acquisition of land for National highway. From Panvel to Mangaon national highway phase – I was getting critical, I joined the meeting shared by the Divisional commissioner on which he was depressed about the progress done for land acquisition. The responsibility to acquire land was assigned to me. I read the entire NH Act of land acquisition and then started working on it. Out of the 78 villages, on 77 villages, land acquisition was completed. When I began the land acquisition process there were issues of structures, there were over 1100 structures being erected on the entire patch and it wasn’t an easy area. It was not just a village, four towns came under it. Carrying demolition there was a tough task. We demolished around 1187 buildings in 4 tehsils. From Panvel to Madgoan there were 12 religious shrines in our way, infact Padaspe was one village where a Shakti temple and a Mazaar was closely located. I was informed that I may demolish all structures but will have to leave the Temple and the Mazaar untouched respecting religious feelings. However, I went there and convinced people and it was removed easily very peacefully. Then I was CEO Zilha Parishad, Palghar for just a short term of 15 months, Palghar being a rural and tribal area, it gave me insights of their conditions which are life changing. There, I tried a lot to do at core issues, like health & nutrition, education and women issues. Palghar being close to Mumbai fortunately we got a lot of support from Government and CSR, lots of Anganwadis were made digital, supplementary nutrition were provided to the Childrens, in just my 15 months’ time I was able to convert 1500 schools into digital with the help of MLA funds and CSR. We were the first Zilha parishad to declare a women budget, it was a gender budget where every schemes were dedicated to women. One more issue was that of toilets. Only 53% to 100% free for open defecation in just 15 months’ time. The first tribal district to become free from open defecation in my tenure.
What is the assignment given to you at MCGM as a DMC (special)?
-As a DMC – special, I look after licensing department, shopping and establishment, advertising, Deonar abattoir, market department of Municipal corporation, veterinary health department, additionally I have been given charge of law department which is a challenging department because there are around 70-thousand plus cases in several courts of law. Then after the month of November I was given charge of removal of encroachment, now I am handling BMC Special, law department & the removal of encroachment out of all these three I have been given a few assignment which I personally monitor; in others there are head of departments. One was ease of doing business for shops & establishment, in past few months we would make this entire registration online to remove all kinds of documentary hurdles which were there. Recently, the World Bank team has done the inspection, we hope that Mumbai will get better marks. Then the Deonar abattoir modernisation is on way, it is a very big and ambitious project. It is Asia’s largest Abattoir and we are aiming to make it Asia’s modern Abattoir too. Another assignment is of textile museum, so these kind of assignments are been given to me.
How do you take this opportunity in your career while working as a DMC, MCGM?
-This is a very good opportunity for me because I am getting an Urban exposure of Mumbai, India’s most Urbanised city. Above that working under leaders like Ajoy Mehta sir, every day when I get an opportunity to discuss a file or subject with him I get to learn many things, that is something I consider myself lucky and fortunate that I have got, So, I am sure that this experience of working in BMC will take me up and with MC sir’s insights I will be able to understand the issues better.
Traffic is the major problem for the Mumbaikars, peak time traffic is worst. According to you what initiative can be taken for smooth functioning of traffic in peak hours?
-Already, MCGM is in its development plan for its city has mentioned something called parking authority. This Parking authority is going to come up in our city which will monitor everything on street till off street parking. The moment when the authority will come into picture there will be every possible avenue of parking in the city of Mumbai will be acquired under it, all these kinds of decisions can be taken once there is a law related to parking and one authority which will look into it and a software solution which will be there in the coming Parking authority in which you can book a parking too. There is one big issue in Mumbai that is of junk old vehicles, I took a joint drive with the DCP, Traffic, 15 days drive in which we would see 745 vehicles which were completely abandoned, so the parking authority is going to come up with a permanent solution for it.
Are you ever influenced by any Political pressure in your work?
-Whenever I got calls from them it was only for some genuine legal work. I have faced morchas during removal of illegal encroachments by the political people.
How do you see working under a senior bureaucrat like Ajoy Mehta sir?
-I was born in the year he got into IAS. I find myself fortunate that I am working under him, he works like a team and he is very clear what he wants from his officers. We get to learn a lot from him.
What are you expectations from Maharashtra Government for your department?
-Corporation is kind of insulated from the Government, hardly have we got to interact like other corporations may be doing. I could have a few meetings on encroachment issues or plastic ban etc., but our corporation is self-sufficient, we have a lot of budget. Working in Municipal Corporation we don’t have to look up to the government very often.
Whom do you consider as your Role model?
-In my family my father is my role model and in bureaucracy V. Radha madam, my mentor and Manisha Verma madam, I have learnt a lot from them.
How do you spend your leisure time?
-I prefer spending time with my child, also love reading, painting and travelling.
Which sports do you like?
-I like indoor games like chess, carom etc.
What suggestion, advice you would like to give to the new students who aspire to become IAS or IPS?
-My first suggestion for them will be don’t join the service just for sake of earning money, if you have feelings for your country and your people. If you feel that the status of women is not up to mark or you can feel a lot can be done for uplifting of tribal or animal welfare and many more issues, if you feel for issues and bring some better change for the betterment of the society then only enter this service.
What advice you want to give to your co – workers at the corporation?
-I just want to tell them that whatever we do in our work, every file which we sign we should consider giving justice at its core, as whatever we are doing is actually leading towards justice to someone, so it is something that everyone should keep in mind, some people who are into these corrupt practises never realise that life is too short so we should not do something for which we have to be ashamed off. Live for Job satisfaction by serving people not only for luxury.
Say No Plastic
“Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. Chosen by this year’s host, India, the theme of World Environment Day 2018 invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health.While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences. Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use.
Nearly one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes collection systems, which means that it ends up clogging our city streets and polluting our natural environment. Every year, up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans, where it smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife. The plastic that ends up in the oceans can circle the Earth four times in a single year, and it can persist for up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates.
Plastic also makes its way into our water supply – and thus into our bodies. What harm does that cause? Scientists still aren’t sure, but plastics contain a number of chemicals, many of which are toxic or disrupt hormones. Plastics can also serve as a magnet for other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides.