The ascent of Vini Mahajan, a 1987-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, to the top bureaucratic position in Punjab is a story of many firsts.
One, Mahajan is the first woman chief secretary of the state.
Two, she is the wife of Punjab Police chief Dinkar Gupta. This is the first time a couple is holding the top administrative and police posts in the state, and perhaps the first time this has happened anywhere in the country. Gupta, a 1987-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was appointed as head of the state police in February last year. He was empanelled by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) last month for the post of director general or DG equivalent at the Centre.
Three, this is the first time the chief secretaries of both Punjab and Haryana are women. In Haryana, 1983 batch IAS officer Keshni Anand Arora currently holds the top bureaucratic position. Anand Arora isn’t the state’s first woman chief secretary, though; that distinction goes to her elder sister Meenakshi Anand Chaudhary who was appointed chief secretary in 2005. Their sister, Urvashi Gulati, also served as the state’s chief secretary from October 2009 to March 2012.
Four, in 1995, Mahajan was the first woman IAS officer to be posted as deputy commissioner (DC) in Punjab.An economics graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, Mahajan also has a post graduate diploma in business administration from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta, where she was placed on the ‘roll of honour’ and later also received the ‘Distinguished Alumnus Award’. She served in Manmohan Singh’s Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) from 2005 to 2012, handling matters relating to finance, industry, commerce, telecom and IT. Her father, BB Mahajan, was also an IAS officer of the Punjab cadre.
Mahajan has been appointed as the chief secretary, superseding five IAS officers senior to her. They are: KBS Sidhu (1984 batch), Arun Goel, C Roul, Kalpana Baruah Mittal and Satish Chandra (all four from the 1985 batch).
Sidhu, the senior-most bureaucrat in Punjab, is due to retire in July 2021. Both Goel and Roul are currently on deputation to the Centre and Mittal is additional chief secretary, cooperation, in the state government. Chandra, who has three months left for retirement, is additional chief secretary, home.
Before being appointed as chief secretary, Mahajan was additional chief secretary, investment promotion, industries and commerce, information technology, governance reforms and public grievances. She served as the chairman of the celebrations committee for the 550th anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019. She succeeds Karan Avtar Singh who is due to retire on August 31, and who has been posted as special chief secretary governance reforms and public grievances.
People familiar with the matter said Singh’s exit was largely because of differences with senior ministers in the state, including finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal.
Mahajan will have more than four years as the chief secretary if she continues in the office till her superannuation in October 2024.