The Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO) is working as a catalyst for Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor by developing industrial areas, says Mugdha Sinha, MD, RIICO and Commissioner, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), in conversation with Kartik Sharma and Harshal Desai of Elets News Network (ENN). Excerpts:
You have been an IAS officer in Rajasthan for 18 years. How has been the journey so far?
My journey so far, can be best described as ‘one of continuous learning and simultaneous delivery’; ‘of motivating as a leader and contributing as a team member’. The diversity and nature of work has been both amazing and equally challenging, never a dull moment.
While implementation of government schemes, taking governance to the last man standing as District Collector in four absolutely diverse districts (especially in a State like Rajasthan where the civil society is very aware) gave me an insight into the aspirations of the common man and their expectations from the government. Working at the Centre in the Ministries of Textiles and Commerce gave me an international exposure to trade and industry, where I was involved in some crucial trade negotiations and policymaking.
I also consider myself fortunate to have worked as staff officer to the Hon Chief Minister in the State and also to the Union Commerce & Industry Minister in the Centre where I was exposed to the dynamics and nuances of policy making, enabling me to be an informed participant and contributor in an entire lifecycle process of democratic functioning from the grassroots to the policy making end of the spectrum.
“While specialisation allows you to work in a certain area efficiently, exposure to other sectors help you expand your experience and serve people from different walks of life.”
You have worked in four different districts of Rajasthan, what challenges did you face?
I consider myself lucky to have got an opportunity to serve in four very diverse districts, each with its own very unique character, composition and challenges. In Bundi, my first district, we leveraged its tourism potential and the civil society’s active involvement and enthusiasm by using the local Bundi Festival, documenting the 300 old baoris or stepwells in the district, highlighting its rock paintings and creating a buzz around tourism. Based on our work on Stepwells we got a budget of Rs 2 crores for renovation of stepwells in Bundi. The civil society’s active engagement created ‘Shiksha Aapke Dwar’ into a mass movement for enrolment of children into school. We initiated schemes like ‘Sarathi Yojana’ for helping needy individuals with aid in kind where no government scheme existed. Being a rice rich district, it gave me an insight into farmer’s issues and politics around irrigation and need for conversation and optimal utilisation of water.
However, my next postings at Hanumangarh and Sri Ganganagar also primarily agrarian like Bundi but with a different system of canal irrigation and problems of rich landowners with poor tenant farmers gave me interesting insights into inter state water issues.
“In Jhunjhunu district, we clamped down heavily on illegal mining, illegal extraction of ground water (since most parts of it were in dark zone)”
Since both were bordering districts to Punjab and Haryana, the law and order issues also assumed a different dimension, with challenges sometimes getting triggered from across the border. Implementing Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) scheme in both these districts required customizing them to the character of the district with premium on scarce land and hence we looked at innovative ways of using MNREGA labour for canal lining.
In Jhunjhunu district, we clamped down heavily on illegal mining, illegal extraction of ground water (since most parts of it were in dark zone) and also on encroachment of lands of SC/ST by land mafias, because of which I was transferred.
The districts require you to both lead by example as in cricket and to work as part of the team of officers as in football, what you do where depends on the demands of the situation.
Being a popular officer of the State, what advice would you like to give to young IAS officers?
Being part of the Indian Administrative Service is indeed a rare opportunity and I am extremely grateful for this chance and honour and I hope to strive continuously to make it worthwhile for generations to aspire to be here in the service of the people and the constitution of the country.
My experience of Jhunjhunu, has emboldened my resolve, for it validates that fairness, justice, truth and voice of people matter in the long run. I also believe that you can do every right thing within the ambit of rules and regulations and that both ‘honesty and efficiency’ can co-exist and must be given a chance and encouragement.
For those who look up to being in the Civil Service, I only hope you are here for the right reasons of serving the people as their trustee with full transparency, accountability, responsiveness and sense of responsibility. Because our dedication and commitment to what we call the people, is actually for the society of which we will be a part at the age of 60. So it is for us and everybody around that we strive and there is no ‘us and them’. If you understand that, the service will give you satisfaction and society will appreciate your contribution.
My talisman is a couplet I read on a temple wall in Bundi-“Jo apne pad se kaam karte hai, wo kabhie na kabhie bhutpurv ho jaate hai. Par jo apne karm se kaam karte hai, wo sadev abhutpurv rehte hai.”
Do not fear in the advancement of your duty; let your conscience and constitution of the country be your guiding light. As some one has said-
“Satya pareshann so sakta hai, parajit nahi.
Did you face any challenges being a woman officer?
An Officer is trained to be one. The faculties of mind, and heart and the many qualities becoming of an officer that we bring to our assignments do not have a gender. Therefore, if we continue to be anonymous (and let our work speak), professional, transparent, accountable, responsive, responsible, compassionate, and officer like at all times, people will continue to see us as one irrespective of whether we wear the pant or sari with bangles and bindi.
I say this because I have worked in two out of four districts where no women had served before as DC since more than six decades of independence and it did not matter that I was a woman because I was an officer first and always. The challenges are built around perceptions; break the perceptions and ceilings with your work.
You have worked both in the Central and the State government. How was the experience?
Like I said earlier, after having worked in the State for around 12 years I went on Central Deputation to the Centre and worked there for 5 years, and now am back to the State. Our system of service in the country has been so beautifully designed that an officer in his/her entire timespan in the job, is able to move seamlessly from implementation to policy; from state to centre; from one area of specialization to another, gathering both in-depth knowledge and aerial perspective across sectors that every new task turns out to be a value addition both for the officer and the assignment.
I have been extremely lucky to have worked in four very diverse districts and been exposed to work of three different Ministries-Textiles, Commerce and DIPP at the Centre. It was gratifying to work in staff positions of CM’s office and Union Minister’s Office; to rub shoulders with the common man and with International dignitaries all at the same time. With phenomenal exposure and learning also comes phenomenal sense of responsibility and I hope to offer this to the very people who have made it all possible.
Which sectors are close to your heart?
I love my WORK, whatever assignment be it. Every ‘new’ assignment is an exposure into a sector I have not had exposure to before and hence the novelty to understand its nuances is both challenging and refreshing. As for an opportunity to continue to specialize in the ‘same’ sector, give you a more in-depth and 360 degree understanding of the issue and perhaps with more time to nurture ideas and to take them to their logical conclusions, which is also very satisfying. Currently, I am doing the latter, having moved from Udyog Bhawan GOI to Udyog Bhawan GOR, I hope to leverage my previous experience to my current assignment.
You are now assigned additional charge as Commissioner of DMIC. How will it affect your work?
Commissioner DMIC is a full fledged and not additional charge and it synergizes perfectly with the work I do as MD RIICO, as we are both catalyst for industrialization and investment in the State. New opportunities under DMIC and experience of RIICO will be mutually beneficial to both organizations.