Sr IAS officer Ashwani Kumar to oversee MCD unification process

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Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Ashwani Kumar will take over as the special officer (SO) and Gyanesh Bharti as the commissioner of the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which will begin functioning from Sunday, according to an order issued by the Union home ministry on Friday.

The two officers will oversee the functioning of the civic body until a process to redraw the Capital’s municipal wards is completed and elections held to the house of councillors for the reunified MCD, which was split into three in 2012. The election is likely to take time since the process could take several months.

Both, Kumar and Bharti, will take charge of the MCD from May 22, the day term of the three corporations – South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), North DMC and East DMC comes to an end. A separate notification issued on Wednesday formalised the merger of the three corporations effectively from May 22.

Delhi government spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

A 1992-batch IAS officer of union territory cadre, or AGMUT, cadre, Kumar was the principal secretary of Delhi government’s public works department (PWD) and the director of vigilance until he was transferred to Puducherry in November 2017 where he held the post of chief secretary till Friday. His tenure in the national Capital was marked by friction with the elected Aam Aadmi Party government. The controversies began with his appointment in August 2016 when Kumar was first appointed as the PWD secretary, a move that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal criticised the Centre and the L-G for since, the AAP government alleged, it was done without seeking the CM’s advice.

In June 2017, Kejriwal wrote to the then chief secretary MM Kutty asking him to initiate proceedings of “dereliction of duty” against Kumar over improper and delayed de-silting of drains. The officer had then hit back, saying “negativity and a squabbling” does not help address civic challenges.

In another case, Kejriwal tasked Delhi government’s think tank, the Dialogue and Development Commission, to identify the reason the Barapullah Phase-III project was delayed. The commission prepared a 14-page report blaming Kumar.

In October, 2017, the Delhi Assembly’s committee of petitions summoned Kumar for allegedly misleading a house panel on the issue of desilting of drains. He later secured a stay on the order from the High Court.

Bharti, also a UT cadre IAS officer from 1998 batch, has been the commissioner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led south Delhi municipal council (SDMC). He earlier served as secretary of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) in 2009-10 and as deputy commissioner and deputy secretary in the unified MCD between 2005 and 2008.

It was under Bharti that the SDMC went on to file an FIR against AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan after SDMC mayor asked him to do so.

The BJP-led government at the Centre decided to reunify the three corporations, arguing that a unified MCD will be more efficient. The move was made at a time when the election commission was expected to announce the schedule for civic elections.

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