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First Stirrings

First Stirrings : Service above all

Starting as an engineer with the Public Works Department, Deo Dutt Sharma transited successfully to the IAS and now, after retirement, is an advocate and social worker

ALL his life he has been like a sailor on a ship called destiny, which invariably called at the right ports. A structural engineering topper from IIT Roorkee, specialising in the impact of earthquakes on buildings, the Indian Administrative Service was not even in Deo Dutt Sharma’s plans in the early 1970s when he joined the Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department (PWD) as an Assistant Engineer at Rae Bareli. Subsequently, he was promoted as Executive Engineer. As luck would have it, because of his outstanding career record, he was interviewed and found suitable by the UPSC to join the IAS in the 1985 batch of the UP cadre.

This was the beginning of an eventful ride for Sharma through the corridors of power as a newly appointed IAS officer. Starting as Joint Secretary in the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and Forest, he served as Deputy CEO, Greater Noida Authority, Additional CEO, Noida, Chairman and CEO, Noida Authority, Special Secretary, Panchayati Raj, Collector at Basti, Mathura, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad, Bijnor and Aligarh, Commissioner at Moradabad, Allahabad and Meerut, Secretary, Public Works, Secretary, Institutional Finance, Secretary, Rural Development and Managing Director of UP Roadways, before retiring as Secretary, Religious Affairs, Government of UP.

The stint as Secretary, Religious Affairs, was a fairly important landmark in his life. This department manages the affairs of the Lord Vishwanath temple and Vindhyavasini Devi temple in UP through the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust. One of the richest temples in the country in terms of offerings collected from pilgrims, the trust owns land and buildings in different parts of the State. As Secretary, Religious Affairs, his job was to prepare the budget estimate and get it approved. Some of the major initiatives during his time included renovation of the Kashi Vishwanath temple and provision of transparent hundis, installing cameras to prevent pilferage and to make the system of counting donations more transparent. As a result, the revenue more than doubled. Another step he took was to provide food to sanyasis and Sanskrit scholars.

“If our system functions well, there is no hurdle. Instead of blaming the political masters or bureaucrats, our country needs systematic planning and implementation.”

At the time he took over UP Roadways, Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and UP Roadways were at loggerheads. DTC buses were not allowed to ply in UP and, likewise, UP Roadways buses were not allowed into Delhi. This problem was solved through negotiations between UP and Delhi Government officials. Those were the days when drivers of UP Roadways were driving more than 12 hours at a stretch and were suffering from fatigue. He initiated a programme to get the eyesight of the drivers tested and issued instructions that no driver should work more than 12 hours. This reduced chances of accidents because of fatigue. Another major initiative he took was to improve the frequency and punctuality of bus services.

Similarly, his crowning glory as the CEO of Noida Authority was to get the Metro line to the city ahead of Gurgaon. At that point Haryana was lobbying hard to get priority over Noida for the Metro line. But in 2004 the deal was clinched when UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav got an assurance from the Union Urban Development Minister and the Noida Authority paid the money to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

“A city’s development depends on the speed of its traffic. If the traffic movement is fast, the development will be fast. In any city of the world this is a universal truth. The speed of traffic is directly proportional to the progress of development. We were quite fortunate to get the Metro. Once the Metro connects more areas of Delhi, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and Noida, the time of travel will shorten and the overall development of the NCR will take place,” he says.

“We need to have subways and overhead bridges so that there is smooth flow of traffic,” he adds. According to him, bureaucracy is the constant link between two successive governments. If bureaucrats do their homework properly, no government can or wants to stall development. “If our system functions well, there is no hurdle. Instead of blaming the political masters or bureaucrats, our country needs systematic planning and implementation,” he says.

His priorities in life were always clear; whichever post he held, he believed that he was a humble servant of God and wanted to help the poor and downtrodden the most. This was the greatest lesson he learnt from his mother, a simple housewife, and father, an employee of the State Bank of India. His mother taught him that like water, trees, the sun, moon and stars, God has given us this life to serve others without expecting anything in return. “My mother tells me even today that God has two sons, the farmer who grows the crop for everyone and the construction worker who moves out the day a building is completed. Likewise, you should live for the sake of others.”

After retirement in 2009, he is practising in the High Court. In addition, he is the working President of the Yoga Federation of India and also manages Anandmanas Trust, a philanthropic organisation. This is the third phase in his life from engineering to the Indian Administrative Services to law, spirituality and social service.

(As told to Neeraj Mahajan)

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