A BUREAUCRAT WHO FINDS RECREATION IN HIS WORK

Mr. Vijay Singhal, IAS

With a meritorious academic record behind him, Mr Vijay Singhal, an IAS of the 1997 batch, finds it gratifying to synthesize his technical skills and administrative skills. His mantra: A strong fitness regimen will lead to mental fitness

Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul. And merits are judged not just by one’s qualifications but in the manner one uses them. Going by that barometer, Erstwhile Thane Municipal Commissioner Mr Vijay Singhal should stand as its true leitmotif. The Agra-born, 1997 batch IAS officer has a glittering CV that has gold all over it – literally and figuratively.

A gold medalist civil engineer from the prestigious Roorkee IIT and M.Tech from IIT Delhi, he also has a Master’s in Public Service Policy & Management from the King’s College, London. Having served a series of stints in his capacity, he draws justified pride that he has been able to apply and blend his technical expertise with the administrative responsibilities his work entails.

Like some of his illustrious contemporaries, Mr Singhal has little regrets that he did not chose to go with spheres that seek out his basic qualifications as an engineer and makes out a logical case why he stood vindicated when he opted for civil services. “At the UPSC interview it is an expected question. Knowledge never goes waste. You can apply it anywhere. I speak the language of work. As an engineer, I have harnessed my technical proficiency and made it compatible with my administrative obligations. In my municipal tenures, I have handled issues relating to civil infrastructure, Storm Water Drainages, Bridges, and Roads etc. I ardently believe that being technically well-qualified enables you to offer best solutions because your grasp and tackling of such issues is quicker, efficient and better.”

His role as a competent and expert disaster manager came to the fore when he was the Collector at Jalgaon where he has successfully handled as many as seven natural disasters — ranging from drought, cyclone, hailstorm, floods, Chikungunya and Bird Flu – in a span of 10 months. Bird flu hit Jalgaon district four times in 2006, but Mr Singhal warded it off successfully each time.

While Mr Singhal has given a meritorious account of himself wherever he has served, he finds immense satisfaction in executing and taking to fruition the River Linking Project that won plaudits from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration and the words of appreciation from then President Mrs Pratibha Patil are like the piece de resistance in his career so far. “This is where your technological know-how is a distinctive advantage. A Collector would have handled the administrative part of the river linking project but being an engineer I could get the irrigation staff to understand its nuances and was better equipped to execute the technicalities. The successful completion of that project, probably the first of its kind, has spawned similar projects elsewhere. It was well received in New York where he gave a presentation on it.”

Mr Singhal spells out the cutting edge one derives by being a technical expert. “As an expert it is you who drives the project rather than being driven by consultants involved. You save on time, money and energy-consuming processes. That’s exactly what happened during the River Linking Project. That was time when there were floods in Nashik but barely 250 kms away in Jalgaon there was little water. The project conceptualized and executed by me ensured equitable distribution of water. It was idea whose time had come and I was happy to complete it in just two years.”

He recalls how his engineering knowledge stood him in good stead during his stints in the municipal bodies in Kolhapur and Mumbai — the Integrated Road Development Project in Kolhapur district and Solid Waste Management where the waste was brought down from 9000 tonnes to 7000 tonnes in just two and half months. It brought down government expenses by 25%. The e-governance took a quantum leap when online services that were just 12-14, went up by more than 70.

Mr Singhal is one of a kind in the sense that he finds leisure in work. “I relish my work. It gives me a high and when you enjoy your work, pastimes become secondary. Like everyone else, I am also a family man. Good music soothes me and holidays are rejuvenating. But I don’t really miss out on them as also things like reading or writing. When work is what you soak yourselves in, everything pales into insignificance. Having said that, I love all outdoor activities and sports, especially Tennis, Badminton et al. Gymming is a special passion, not to build body, but to be physically fit. A fit body is a forerunner for a fit mind and as a responsible officer, it’s my biggest pre-requisite since mental fitness means increased efficiency and reflexes.”

Mr Singhal is a staunch votary of Time Management. “You have just 24 hours in a day. They can’t be extended to 48. I do not agree with the thought that one has not enough time. If you wish, you can. Handling exigencies needs sensible time management and time is money. You can still squeeze time out from your work – howsoever voluminous — to follow your other instincts and passions.  It is all about the way you respect time”

The test of merit is success. Mr Singhal has both and has many in the pipeline.

Honoured by then PM Manmohan Singh
Receiving one among the many accolades