Artificial Floods, Traffic Management and Provision of Public Toilets are the Top 3 Agenda of the new DC
Born and brought up in Rajasthan, IAS officer Virendra Mittal is qualified as an electrical engineer from NIT Kurukshetra. He started his career with TCS, Gurgaon after which he appeared for Rajasthan Administrative Services and cleared it in the first attempt. During his training period in Rajasthan he cracked the IAS (2007 batch) and was allotted the Assam-Meghalaya cadre. His first posting in Assam was as assistant commissioner, Dibrugarh.Thereafter,he joined as SDO Civil, Nazira. He was in Guwahati earlier as Project Director (PD), DRDA Kamrup (Metro) and was thereafter posted as staff officer to the chief secretary. He later became the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Chirang, DC Sibsagar and DC Jorhat for around one and a half yearsbefore becoming the DC, Kamrup (Metro). Mittal,having taken charge as DC, Kamrup (Metro) on 26th February, exclusively talks to G Plus regarding his plans to better the public service delivery system in Guwahati.
Have you identified the major problems of Guwahati?
When I worked in Guwahati earlier as PD – DRDA, the major focus was on the rural areas of the Kamrup (Metro) district. What I feel, as a learned citizen,is that the major problem of Guwahati is artificial flood. In the days to come we will be trying hard to manage it well or avoid it altogether. The next is the problem of traffic management because the city is growing and it is becoming a big issue. On GS Road and other important arterial roads,I have seen the problem of parking and I am sure, with the help of the concerned agencies like GMC, GMDA and other agencies we will resolve this issue in the days to come. Third isthe problem of crime.I generally don’t deal with crime independently as it is looked after by the police.But if the development is such that we provide avenues to the people, they put their energy in positive works instead of negative things. The next problem is encroachment.Most artificial flood problems are because of illegal encroachment and that has to be looked into. We need to improve the work culture in our government offices, in the DC office, the circle offices -particularly the behaviour. In government offices, if the officials respond to the petitioners nicely they feel good.Not only the petitioners but everyone feels good if people talk nicely. So these are some of the issues that I will work on immediately.
Can you prioritisethe top three agenda you will start working on immediately?
Firstly, to address the issue of artificial floods, second, traffic management and thirdly to better the provisions of public toilets. I have seen that we lack public toilets.
Talking about toilets,daan toilets in Jorhat were appreciated by the masses. What was it and will you also implement it in Guwahati?
Daan toilet was an innovative concept which was introduced under Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) Gramin which was started on 2nd October, 2014 and the plan is that by 2nd October, 2019 India should become open-defecation-free (ODF). The survey for the beneficiaries was undertaken in 2012-13 and because of some reasons many of the beneficiaries were left out. There are many households which were bifurcated after 2012-13. The newly grown households and the ones that were left out don’t generally get the government benefit through SBM. I thought that to make the villages truly ODF, the provisions of toilets had to be made for both the omitted and newly grownhouseholds. I started the concept of daan toilet in Jorhat in July 2017. I donated the first toilet. The cost of the toilet in rural areas, as per the government’s model, is only Rs 12,000. We urged the capable and prospective donorsto come forward. In India we have a culture of daanpunya.Itis mostly done in mandirs,masjids and gurudwaras. We go to the sauchalaya(toilet) for the purification of the body and we go to the devalaya (religious place) for purification of the mind and soul. This concept struck the right chord with the people and they started donating. By the time I left around 530 toilets were committed out of which 300 have already been constructed.We don’t take money from the donors.We just show them the needy people whose namesare not on the government’s listand then it’s between the donor and the receiver.The donor gets an appreciation letter and man kishanti(peace of mind).
Talking about Guwahati, it has already been declared as an ODF district,but there may be some left out or newly grown households. I will check with the concerned department and then we will start here also.
Let me take another issue.The DC, because of various protocol duties, is seen busy welcoming many central ministers and other dignitaries. The trend is quite common these days. It also hampers public developmental work.How will you tackle this situation?
It will be tackled well because now I will plan accordingly so that development is not hampered.It has just been two days that I have joined. I will develop and chalk out a plan that I will stick to unless I am called for an important meeting.There will be time for the public also.They can come and meet me. In my postings prior to this, I was available to public through WhatsApp, through any medium of communication. I will take 15-20 days to settle down in Guwahati and there will be no problems.
Many say that the DC’s office has converted into the Nazir branch of the state government and the DC is the event manager for arranging festivals on fire-fighting mode. The same does not happen for the public service delivery.These festivals affect the same. How will you resolve this issue?
This is not only true for Assam.If you go to any state, the DCs are very busy because the entire government is there.A lot of coordination issues are there. This is also in adherence to the desired protocol. Many a time when dignitaries are visiting,the DC is required. But I want to assure you that in the days to come you will see me trying to balance everything so that people don’t think that this is just a Nazir branch. We have to do everything - the protocol duty, organising events, because these are the government’s programmes and not the DC’s personal programmes. But in the next three months you are going to see a lot of change.
There is no citizens’ charter in the DC office. I don’t know whether you had it in Jorhat but will you make one in Kamrup (Metro)?
We will definitely. Next week we are planning to know all the problems of Guwahati. I will chalk them down and then we will start working on them.
You are an electrical engineer and hence considered tech-savvy. The Kamrup (Metro) district administration claims to be digitally upgraded.But whenever people request for NOCs for land transfers and other services, the requestsare not processed online. It is also alleged that there are nexuses which do not allow service delivery digitally in Kamrup (Metro) district administration. What will be your strategy?
I have also heard and read in newspapers and this will be part of my agenda. In my previous posting we were doing it online.So it can be done here. It is the capital so it has to be done here in a better manner. I have already started discussions on this matter with my officials and maybe in a couple of days you will start seeing the change.
As a DC you are heading the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) and also the Regional Transport Authority (RTA).The traffic scenario in Guwahati is known as a disaster with city buses plying without following any norms, parking chaos in the city and many more. How will you resolve this issue?
This is very much in my agenda and you will see the change soon.
Many Guwahatians are also complaining about the walking zone. A major arterial road is converted into a walking zone creating huge traffic congestion. Will you do something about it?
I will also go and take a walk. I will examine why this decision was taken because if the decision was taken there might have been some kind of discussion and I will need to know about it. Let me just understand and examine the issue.Only then I will address the issue. If required, I will have discussions with the concerned stakeholders.
Many beautification works in the walking zone are allotted to private parties but it is not known whether there were any tenders floated for such works. What is the budget and who is spending? It is raising various questions.
I will look into it.
Corruption still prevails in this (DC’s) office. If you visit the circle offices, all the mondols have unauthorised persons working under them as assistants. Who gives the salary? There are petition writers in the DC office who are only expected to write petitions.But they are seen loitering everywhere in the office and meeting higher officials. There are middlemen in the office creating nexuses between the officials resulting in corruption. It is alleged that from lower level workers to ADC level officers, corruption prevails here. What will be your stand on it?
I will try to reach out to everyone, to the lowest level of the governance in my district.When everyone will have an approach towards me it will automatically be curtailed. If I meet them saying something like this is happening they will have the confidence to come up and complain to me. One more thing I want to request through G Plus is that public should also come forward. At times what happens is that when they come just verbally they give a complaint but when we ask them to give in writing they refrain and back out. The public also needs to take a stand because there should be a proof. We can’t just act on a verbal complaint. I am speaking per the CVC (central vigilance commission) guideline. My request to the public is that they should come forward and they can give us in writing so that we can act upon that. We are committed to provide transparent, objective and prompt governance.
How accessible will you be to the public?
If am in the office anyone can come and meet me. People can also be in touch with me through WhatsApp. In Jorhat, people used to send me complaints through WhatsApp and I used to immediately act on it.
Tell us about your hobbies and your family.
I have a mother, wife and a daughter. My wife is a doctor but presently she is a nursing mother so she has taken off from her job.Our baby is one and a half years old.
My hobbies are to talk to people, eat nice food, listen to good music and I can sing songs in reverse. I can immediately reverse anything.Your name Rahul will become Lahura.(Smiles)
- In Conversation
- Deputy Commissioner
- Virendra Mittal
- Guwahati News
- Civic Problems in Guwahati