From building bridges for children to go to school in Jammu and Kashmir to an early warning system in Gujarat that has brought flood casualties to zero, from upgrading district hospitals in Chhattisgarh to a village in Himachal Pradesh where a garbage dump is now a park — such transformative change scripted by the District Magistrate was celebrated at the first The Indian Express Excellence in Governance Awards Wednesday evening, a biennial event that celebrates the finest work done by DMs across the country. Click here for the full list of winners
As many as five Union Ministers were present to celebrate the awards — Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said that while an “audit of performance” is important, a good officer can “make miracles”.
Apart from Gadkari, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan; Union Minister of Law, Communications and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad; Minister of State (Independent charge) PMO Dr Jitendra Singh and Union Minister for Railways, Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal were the special guests at the event.
The awards were handed across 16 categories ranging from Agriculture to Education and Technology to Women Development. The winners were chosen from 249 entries received from 84 districts in 24 states.
In Pictures | Honouring the finest District Magistrates in India
“Good governance and development are two important agendas for the government… And regarding good governance, the role of the District Collector is very important. The award will motivate the District Magistrates to do good work, who are backbone of our administration. This will change New India, that is the dream of our Prime Minister. The administrators need positive attitude, out-of-the-box thinking, a fast decision-making process and team work. And if one officer is good based on his performance audit, he can make miracles… social consciousness, team work and fast-tracking decision-making are very important,” Gadkari said.
Paswan described the awards as “a motivation for administrators to do better work”.
“A district magistrate… goes to areas where the poorest live and solves their problems. Any social change can take place with a synergy of heart and mind. The Minister can only make policies and give suggestions but the it’s the DMs who have to implement. There is act, fact and tact. How to tactfully implement polices is the job of DMs,” Paswan said.
Prasad said DMs have become the “focal point of good governance and delivery”.
“The political administrative structure of India, conventionally, four posts are very important — the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, the DM and the inspector. They epitomise the power structure.But now the DM is his new avatar, has become the focal of good governance and delivery. And the delivery, under the leadership of Prime Minister in the last five years, has taken place with the same set of rules and bureaucracy… What is important is to create the right working conditions,” he said.
Jitendra Singh said he is associated with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) “and Express has done what we would be doing”. “We do have arrangement of awards but certainly the assessment done by your means would be accepted with greater objectivity and greater credibility,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Viveck Goenka, Chairman and Managing Director of the Express Group, said that “this evening is the fruition of an idea born three years ago”.
“The question was: What is the responsibility of the Express in doing justice to the sweeping change around us? Of course, one way is to keep raising the bar in the newsroom by doing more investigative stories and explanatory journalism. But what is our responsibility beyond the newsroom? Can we find a way to record change, by listening to those who script it? Young Indians who have brought realistic idealism to their professionalism and refuse to give way to cynicism and despair. And the answer was the biennial Indian Express Excellence in Governance Awards,” he said.
“By celebrating the work of DMs, the first significant soldier of governance. By celebrating the work of men and women, who could have used their intellect, to seek fulfillment in an ever increasing market of lucrative opportunity, but who opted instead to bring the gains of freedom, governance and development, to the most vulnerable of their fellow citizens. Because district is the basic unit of our administration. It is where the IAS, learns what each of these letter stands for, Indian, Administrative and Service,” Goenka said.
The winners were selected by an eminent jury, headed by former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha and comprising Wajahat Habibullah, former chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and the first Chief Information Commissioner of India, Nirupama Rao, India’s Foreign Secretary from 2009 to 2011 who was also India’s Ambassador to the United States and China; and, K M Chandrasekhar, former Cabinet Secretary.
KPMG, the knowledge partner for the awards, conducted a thorough check on the parameters of innovation, impact, implementation and people participation for all the entries. The shortlist was then verified by reporters and editors of The Indian Express by field visits and an audit after which the jury chose the winners. The categories include: Agriculture, Education, Health, Implementation of Central schemes, Technology, Woman Development, Child Development, Inclusive Innovation, Agriculture, Skill Development, Entrepreneurship and Energy.
Jury chairperson Justice Lodha said: “It was a delight to the jury to recognise the great work done by DMs. The jury assessed and evaluated the projects on the touchstone of five Is: idea, innovation, impact, implementation and improvements. We were benefited by inputs given by KPMG…these projects were subjected to rigorous ground check…today we need DMs who think out of the box and come out with robust solutions for complex problems. It is high time government is decentralised and it is the Collector’s office that becomes the nerve centre of action.”
Anant Goenka felicitated each of the special guests.
Giving the vote of thanks, Nxt Gen Infinite Datacenter MD and CEO A S Raj Gopal said: “It’s a big honour to be associated with this idea. Public service improved the world around us…the real reward is not the award itself but the enrichment and fulfilling meaning that it gives to oneself.”
The award was presented by NxtGeN Infinite Datacenter. The other sponsors include: ICICI Bank, Runwal, ICFAI, Yashoda, Volkswagen and Madhya Pradesh government. Associate partners are Kesari Tours, Detox India, Namami Gange, NALCO, Indian Oil, MIDC, Joy e-bike, Bharat Petroleum and Petronet LNG Limited.
Earlier, welcoming the award-winners and the guests, Raj Kamal Jha, Chief Editor, The Indian Express, said: “We bring you these stories of success because at The Indian Express, if journalism is about shining light in dark places, it is also about looking for things that glow on their own — and show the way…For us, sustaining the national conversation means going out in search of voices that may not get heard in the noise of our talking.”