Triumph Trigger: Conversation with City Administrator Dr. Abhijeet Chaudhari

Yogesh Gole

Often, a small incident can change the course of your life by making you realize that you are destined for greater things. One such trigger occurred in the life of the new Municipal Commissioner/Administrator of Municipal Corporation of Aurangabad, Dr. Abhijeet Chaudhari, when he was a student. Participant in a speech contest on the theme “What do you want to be?” he gives a speech sharing his dream of becoming a doctor.

Teacher Jawale Sir asked Abhijeet, “Why doctor? Be a collector.” It was then that Abhijeet, a native of Bhusawal in Jalgaon district, discovered public service and the prestige associated with being a collector. He went on to realize his potential by becoming an officer in the IAS.

Q: Please tell us about your academic background.

A: I come from a family of doctors, both my parents are doctors. I am a medical graduate from KEM Medical College, Parel. During the internship, I had to take one last call about whether to go to graduate school in medicine or go to public service. I consulted officers and my superiors. I felt strongly that what I wanted in my life would be better achieved if I opted for public service. In my first attempt, I got into IPS in 2010 and was appointed Karnataka cadre. I wanted to improve my performance, so I made another attempt and got into IAS in 2011. Luckily, I was assigned to the Maharashtra cadre.

Q: What would be your advice for aspirants? How did you prepare for the difficult exam?

A: Choosing public service just because someone advises you to do so or you are inspired by watching people in high positions is not good. Think carefully before deciding. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Have a strategy of what you will do if you couldn’t do it after spending years preparing. I myself had decided to try only three times and if I could not pass, I would opt for the PG in medicine.

In 2009-2010, we had two optional subjects. Medical science was a natural choice for me and I took political science as another option. If you chose an optional subject because it gave results to someone else and you don’t like the subject, it will be boring and you won’t be able to study it for long. I had chalked out a daily schedule of what I was going to read on a particular day. I studied in Delhi.

Q: What was your experience after joining IAS?

A: Very rewarding! My first assignment was as an intern in Osmanabad and Nanded. During this brief period we work as tehsildar, BDO. As an assistant tax collector at Kinwat, I learned about the issues of the tribal areas. The most interesting mission was that of administrator of Mahur Devasthan of Renukadevi. We could improve the functioning of the devsthan and the facilities for the devotees. Sansthan’s income has actually increased from a few lakhs to Rs 4-5 crore. As Managing Director, Aurangabad Zilla Parishad, I started a “ZP at your doorstep” initiative in which we visited villages and solved the problems of the peoples on the spot.

During my three and a half year tenure as District Collector in Sangli, we conducted polls in the Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha, dealt with two severe floods in 2019 and 2021 and of course the Covid pandemic. I learned to manage things, to stay calm and to mobilize teams for disaster management.

Q: What innovative experiments have you done in administration?

A: In Kinwat, the tribes collected honey from the jungle and sold it to traders. We provided them with machinery, training and a packaging facility, developing the Kinwat Honey brand which is still going strong.

As a Bhandara collector, I have developed an integrated processing unit for tusser silk cloth.

Q: What is your assessment of the situation in Aurangabad?

A: A lot of good work has already been done here. Trying to improve the water supply situation would be my number one priority. Strengthening society itself is important. The e-governance project must be completed. Even now, many systems are operated manually. Soon I plan to launch a uniform grievance module where citizens can complain online about issues such as blocked drains, uncollected waste and street lighting. There will be plans to escalate the issue to higher authorities if not resolved. The recovery of taxes, the development of green spaces, and the development of a new Development Plan are also on my agenda.

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Melissa C. Keyes