Veterinary doctor-turned-IAS officer, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, 34, who has been selected for the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration, is well-known for his innovative ideas that not just go a long way in solving problems but also set new trends in responsive administration.
Choudhary has made a world of difference to the residents of Kathua district as the Deputy Commissioner with his simple solutions like using digital technology to facilitate interface between people and officials.
Project Sahayta is one of his first initiatives in Kathua under which computers with video conferencing facility were installed in 24 government offices in remote areas. It was also publicised that public delegations visiting these offices could contact him through this facility at the Kathua district headquarters once a week. He then launched Project Hidayat for skill development.
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In September 2014, when Pakistan resorted to unprovoked heavy shelling, Choudhary pressed the entire state machinery into action for shifting 17,000 residents from border areas to camps.
As Reasi Deputy Commissioner, he had initiated a voter awareness programme called Jashn-e-Jamhuriat; resulting in an unprecedented rise in turnout from 43 per cent to 81 per cent during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the district.
Revenue officials, who issue route permits to Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes for their move to highland pastures during summers, were roped in to spread awareness on voting. The tribes delayed their journey and made a dramatic difference to the turnout on election day.
Simplification and streamlining of administrative systems is his another strong suit. Choudhary designed an e-Panchayat system that put the process of preparing muster rolls of workers online. This not only reduced the time required for collection of data, it also made MGNREGA more profitable for the panchayats.
This had an impact on the lives of 58,000 families living in the militancy-affected areas of Gulabgarh and Mahore. “Choudhary shifted service delivery from the block headquarters to the village panchayats,” said Shafiq Mir, Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference, an apex body of Panchayat organisations in the state.
Choudhary took the help of the District e-Governance Society and the Department of Rural Development Department and Panchayati Raj to give easy digital access to the panchayats by providing them tablet computers with internet connections for generation of demand and e-Muster Rolls. Three V-Sat Hubs were also created for areas in Gulabgarh not having mobile connectivity.
Hailing from Rehan, a village near the LoC in Rajouri district, Choudhary was the first Gujjar from Jammu and Kashmir to get into the IAS in 2009. A veterinary surgeon, he had earlier qualified for Indian Forest Service in 2005 and served as a forest officer in the Valley.
Success, however, has not come easy. “I had to trek nearly 16 km every day to reach the nearest school where I started learning English alphabet in Class VI at the age of 12,” said Choudhary.