Chandigarh: Haryana has a new chief secretary ahead of the assembly polls this year, as 1983 batch IAS officer Keshni Anand Arora takes over from D.S. Dhesi, who superannuated Sunday.
Arora, who was serving as additional chief secretary and in-charge of the revenue department, is the youngest of three sisters, all Haryana-cadre civil servants. Her elder sisters Meenakshi Anand Chaudhary and Urvashi Gulati also retired as chief secretaries of the state.
Arora was the second-ranked entrant into the 1983 batch of the civil services, and has served in various positions, most notably the deputy director general of the UIDAI in Chandigarh when the Government of India was focusing on Aadhaar registration across the country.
She holds the record for being the first woman deputy commissioner of Haryana in 1991, when she took over the reins of Yamunanagar district.
“My prime emphasis will be on implementing the flagship schemes of the government of India and the state government. Secondly, I will focus on good governance and increased transparency. I also intend to ensure inclusive growth in development,” she told ThePrint.
A family of top civil servants
This is the only family of civil servants in India which has had three sisters making it to the top post in a state.
The sisters’ father, Dr J.C. Anand, was a teacher of political science at Panjab University, Chandigarh. All three were taught by their father and post-graduated in political science. Anand encouraged his daughters to join the civil services.
Meenakshi, a 1969-batch IAS officer, was chief secretary from November 2005 to April 2006, while Urvashi, a 1975-batch officer, served in the position from October 2009 to March 2012.
Arora is due to retire in September 2020, and is expected to serve as chief secretary for more than a year.
Only one other woman has served as chief secretary of Haryana — Promilla Issar of the 1972 batch.
Arora’s 25-year-old engineer daughter Shruti made it to the 118th rank in the UPSC exams last year, carrying forward the family legacy.
As additional chief secretary for revenue, she implemented several e-governance projects that helped increase the stamp duty and the collection of registration fee in the state. Haryana registered an all-time high 33 per cent increase in stamp duty and registration fees in just one year during her tenure as revenue secretary (2017-2018).
Arora is also credited with introducing the online teachers’ transfer policy in Haryana, which was a first-of-its-kind initiative. The policy was aimed at bringing transparency in the highly contentious exercise that reeked of corruption and favouritism. The policy that she made was later replicated in several other states in India, with Punjab introduced an improvised version of the policy last week, and Uttar Pradesh proposing to do so.
‘Great can-do spirit’
Sumita Misra, a 1990-batch IAS officer from Haryana who is joint secretary of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, gave the family kudos for their contribution to Haryana and the cause of women IAS officers.
“Women IAS Officers have long played an important role in contributing to Haryana’s development story. The most impressive & inspirational example is that of Mrs Meenakshi Anand Chaudhury, Mrs Urvashi Gulati and Mrs Keshni Anand Arora,” Misra said.
“Each has made wide-ranging contributions during their long and distinguished careers.”
Misra praised Arora in particular for exemplifying a “great can-do spirit, a unique pragmatism and people connect that brings remarkable results in implementing new projects and improving service delivery”.
“As far as the top echelons of government are concerned, the glass ceiling stands well and truly shattered in Haryana, a state where otherwise gender equality remains a challenge. I am sure that Mrs Arora will give both lustre and direction to Haryana’s growth and development, while imparting an added impetus to social development and women’s issues,” said Misra.