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Thursday, October 29, 2020

UP’s new information dept chief was crisis manager to two former CMs

Apparently brought in by the state government, which is facing fire over the Hathras death and alleged gangrape case, to firefight the crisis, Navneet Sehgal played similar roles under two previous governments.

Written by Maulshree Seth | Lucknow | Updated: October 4, 2020 8:23:17 am
Navneet Sehgal

Navneet Sehgal, the 1988-batch IAS officer given additional charge of the state Information Department as Additional Chief Secretary in the latest bureaucratic reshuffle in the state this week, is no stranger to being close to power and serving on relative sidelines under a new government.

Apparently brought in by the state government, which is facing fire over the Hathras death and alleged gangrape case, to firefight the crisis, Sehgal played similar roles under two previous governments.

Known for his “network” in bureaucratic circles, not just within UP or in other states but even abroad, Sehgal comes from Chandigarh and is also a chartered accountant.

Read| Addl Chief Secy of Uttar Pradesh Info Dept shunted out

Picked by then Union MoS Akhilesh Das Gupta in 2006 to be his private secretary, Sehgal first came into limelight in the bureaucratic circles when he was chosen by then UP CM Mayawati as Secretary to the CM. Many were surprised when Mayawati publicly praised him along with fellow IAS officer Durga Shanker for their work. It was rare for a politician – especially Mayawati, who was otherwise known to be tough with officers – to publicly praise a bureaucrat.

By 2012, aside from being Secretary to CM, Sehgal was also handling key departments such as State Urban Development Authority, Urban Development, Estate Department (which handles all government properties), Energy. He was also chairman/MD of UP Power Corporation Ltd and CMD of the State Industrial Development Authority.

In UP bureaucratic circles, it was rare for an officer to be given so many significant responsibilities together, that too of Secretary rank, sources said.

But after the Akhilesh Yadav government came to power in 2012, Sehgal, like most officers close to the previous CM, was put on ‘wait list’. He was eventually given charge of Religious Affairs Department, considered a side posting. According to officers, Sehgal came up with fresh ideas for developing religious places across the state, and promoted the idea of “religious tourism” – some projects on which work is still going on were proposed at that time.

Just before 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Akhilesh, then looking to promote “Brand UP”, decided to make Sehgal head of the Information Department, giving him additional charge as Principal Secretary. Within months, he was given additional charge of State Highway Development Authority and made CEO of the newly formed UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority. He was also made additional resident commissioner in New Delhi.

In 2015, Sehgal is learnt to have played a significant role in organising an investors’ meet to promote “Brand UP” in different parts of the country, and organising Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Agra.

When he met a serious road accident in 2016, Akhilesh visited him in hospital and met his family. Later, then Governor Ram Naik also met him – a rare gesture for a bureaucrat.

Post-recovery, he was given charge of the state Tourism Department along with existing responsibilities and made director general, Tourism. He was also entrusted with the Sports and Youth Welfare Department.

In 2017, as the Yogi Adityanath government came in, Sehgal was again put on the wait list in the first major administrative reshuffle in the state. All his posts were given to Awanish Kumar Awasthi, who was on central deputation before that. Awasthi is the officer Sehgal replaced on Wednesday’s reshuffle as Additional Chief Secretary, Information.

In 2017, Sehgal was given charge of Khadi and Village Industries Department and in July 2019 additional charge of MSME, where he worked on promotion of the state government’s ambitious “One district, One Product” scheme. During lockdown, the department acted as a link in connecting returning migrant workers with employment opportunities.

During his initial years, Sehgal had served as district magistrates of significant districts, including state capital Lucknow, Ayodhya, Prayagraj, etc.

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