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Babu boost to energy dream

Patna, Nov. 23: An IIT engineer-turned-bureaucrat has been catapulted to the helm of the energy department today to turn Nitish Kumar’s power promise into reality.

Sandeep Pondrik, the 1993-batch IAS officer of Bihar cadre, has long been respected for his turnaround of the highway network — a major achievement of the Nitish government — in the capacity of road construction department.

During his last Independence Day speech, Nitish promised that power would reach to every village by 2015. Bureaucratic circle in the state thinks that today’s decision is just another step to achieve the same.

“Pondrik happens to be an electrical engineering graduate from IIT and the state government wants to use his expertise to improve functioning of the energy department,” a senior government officer, considered to be part of the chief minister’s inner circle, told The Telegraph after a notification to the order was issued by the general administration department.

The senior officer, however, maintained that it never meant that the outgoing principal secretary of energy department, Ajay V. Nayak, was not performing.

Nayak had to undergo coronary artery bypass graft surgery and senior officers thought that it would not be appropriate to put him under pressure of huge workload in the energy department.

Another senior bureaucrat said age factor and track record also weighed in favour of Pondrik who proved to be someone delivering at crunch. “Pondrik is just 44 years old while Nayak is 10 years older than him. Given his age, the new secretary can be asked to take the kind of pressure of an energy secretary,” he said, adding that Pondrik had made a mark when he was posted as inspector-general (prisons) in 2007.

Even R.K. Singh, as road construction principal secretary, used to praise Pondrik when they both worked in the same department. Although Pondrik, then road construction secretary, was quite junior to Singh, it did not deter the elder bureaucrat to give him more responsibility.

According to the notification, Pondrik will also hold the additional charge of excise and registration departments. He used to be secretary of these two departments before the Friday transfer.

A.K. Chauhan, the principal secretary of vigilance department, has been transferred and appointed principal secretary of labour department. Chauhan would be replaced by Ajay V. Nayak as the vigilance department is considered to be less stressful with the Bihar police vigilance wing carrying out most of the assignments.

The other transfer made effective today was that of education department principal secretary S. Shiv Kumar, who will now be an additional member of the revenue board.