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OP Rawat
Vice chairman
Posted: Monday, 13 Feb 2012 at 10:38 PM

Fit to

be CS

Om Prakash Rawat radiates solidity and integrity. A 1977 cadre IAS officer of additional secretary rank, he is among the few in the state bureaucracy who has a wholly unblemished track record despite having held virtually every key post in his 35-year-old career. Quite apart from being twice attached to the chief minister’s secretariat, he has run the agricultural, industries, and water resources departments as well as women and child development. But it was his stint as principal secretary (SC, ST & OBC welfare) between 2007-09 which earned him the President’s award for implementing the Forest Act in letter and spirit. It was his finest hour.

Now even as he hopes to move to Delhi for a short deputation within a few weeks before his superannuation at the fag end of 2013, he has managed to bring in a a number of seminal changes in his current assignment with the Narmada Valley Development Corporation (NVDA). This despite impossible odds. Recruitments ceased after 1988, ie. three years after the formation of the NVDA. With the result that staff strength is down from 4,000 in better days to around 2,700 though the budget has soared from Rs 200 crore to Rs 1400 crore. “First we had the capacity but not the money, and now its the reverse.” Availability of resources has multiplied exponentially but competence is virtually extinct. This is in sharp contrast to the private sector where the influx of talent is growing in geometric progression. Hence, the frustration.

The corporation, says OP, has substantially been run with the help of retired personnel, especially at the top rung. There are chief engineers who served as AEs for 29 years before being kicked upstairs despite their obvious lack of experience and ability. “Most had never seen a dam being constructed much less ever read a map in their life”.

Imagine the predilection of a body which in its own words was specifically formed “to prepare a detailed plan for exploitation of water resources of the Narmada river and its tributaries. Also to undertake major engineering works to harness the river and its tributaries for the purpose of irrigation, power, navigation and other development besides implementing ancillary engineering works for the distribution of water for irrigation, industrial, domestic and other purposes.”

Which is why, he argues, the NVDA’s achievements, should be judged in the light of its glaring limitations. The participatory irrigation projects at Mann (Alirajpur) and Jobat (Kukshi) have been a resounding success, achieving a cent per cent potential utilisation for a second year in succession. “Nowhere in the country has this happened.”

Together, they were among the 29 projects identified in the original Narmada masterplan. Maan irrigates an area of 15,000 hectares spread over 53 villages of Dhar district. The beneficiaries: 7,851 families. Jobat, on its part, waters 9,848 hectares of 24 villages in the Kukshi tehsil of Dhar: The beneficiaries: 2450 families.

Another achievement, burbles OP, has been the virtual eradication of malaria and water borne diseases in the entire Amarkantak-Alirajpur belt thanks to the MoU with the National Institute of Malaria Research.

But the sweetest, he says with a chuckle, has been the near eclipse of the Narmada Bacchao Andolan (NBA). Behind it is the efficient implementation of the land acquisition and rehabilitation policies. Now all land requisitioned is formally pre-approved by the gram sabha, and the details of the R&R package worked out to the last details. This is the single biggest reason why the NBA movement stands punctured. “They have been rendered jobless.”

A strict disciplinarian both in his private and public life (“Yoga keeps me physically fit and mentally calm”), and a true karmyogi, OP doesn’t seem to be unduly bothered at being overlooked for the top job despite being the best equipped. But you can’t help feeling that he’d have made a fine chief secretary.
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