For the city’s new municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta, it was a homecoming of sorts as he returned to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation where he served as joint commissioner in 1998-2000. The 1984-batch IAS officer takes charge at a critical juncture, with political parties of all hues slamming the civic administration for the error-ridden draft Development Plan 2034.
Mehta (55) assumed charge at the BMC headquarters on Monday, replacing Sitaram Kunte, whose tenure as commissioner was to end on April 30. Apparently unwilling to wait another week, the state government has picked Mehta for the high-profile posting just four months after he took charge as principal secretary of the Environment Department.
Mehta, widely considered by bureaucrats and officers in other departments he has worked with as a disciplinarian and workaholic with an authoritative style, is also an avid reader and enthusiastic swimmer. He is a civil engineer with a masters degree in business administration and a degree in law. His immediate past assignments have mostly been in the energy, agriculture and information technology sectors. But Mehta is not new to the urban development space, having served in the BMC earlier and as municipal commissioner of Nashik from April 1990 to March 1992. He also worked as collector of Ahmednagar district between March 1992 and 1995.
A senior state government official said, “Mehta would be the perfect fit as municipal commissioner, especially at a time when the CM has scrapped the draft development plan and a revised version is to be readied in a short period.” Sources said this was one of the primary reasons that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who himself portrays an image of taking decisions with speed, picked Mehta for BMC’s top post.
Officials from the environment department say that even within his short tenure as principal secretary, environment, Mehta significantly slashed the number of pending proposals awaiting environment clearances or a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) nod. “No file would lie on his desk for more than a day,” an official working with the department said.
Mehta’s most illustrious assignment so far is said to be the decade that he spent in the energy sector between 2005 and 2015, first as the managing director of the state’s power generation company and then the head of its distribution arm – the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL). The state moved from a situation of power shortage to energy sufficiency during this period, with the load shedding minimized.