RK Sharma, Additional Chief Secretary, Steel & Mines
RK Sharma, additional chief secretary with the steel & mines department has had an enviable service record in administration. As Odisha and the rest of the country applaud him for his role in spearheading the transparent mineral auctions process, we take a sneak peek into his erstwhile tenure as the secretary of food supplies & consumer welfare department.
It was Sharma’s timeliness and brilliant conceptualisation as well as execution of the subsidised Rs two per kilo rice scheme for which the incumbent Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is reaping rich political dividends. Apart from propelling the Naveen Patnaik led government to stupendous victory at the 2014 polls, the rice scheme has endeared him to an enormous swathe of the population in Odisha. And, ever since the roll out of the momentous scheme, Sharma has been the blue-eyed boy of the chief minister himself. But the historic achievement is not trumpeted or amply publicised. Sharma himself is an old school bureaucrat, a quiet workaholic and a closeted performer who shies away from grabbing credit for all his achievements. He also instinctively avoids the media glare unlike many of his peers in the bureaucratic circuit. But his introverted traits take not a morsel away from his enormous pie of achievements.
Sharma took the mantle of steel & mines secretary in December 2014. The position was a hot seat then as Odisha’s mining sector was prodigiously discredited. Scams and loot of mining wealth had become the banal talk in the corridors of power and elsewhere. The common man’s perception of mining was sullied. A sweeping order of the Supreme Court had led to closures of scores of mines. Mining being a lynchpin of Odisha’s economy and the biggest contributor to the state’s non tax revenue basket was in the doldrums, leaving some of Odisha’s top ministers and bureaucrats in consternation. But Sharma kept his chin up, stayed collected and composed. As the new auction regime kicked in, he quietly but effectively prepared the state for transparent award of mineral resources. The practice of freebies and pulling strings to gain favour for a mining lease died out.
The next shocker also came from the Supreme Court, in August 2016. In an unprecedented pronouncement, the apex court ordered the Odisha government to collect 100 per cent compensation from the erring miners who had overproduced mineral ores to the detriment of the affected people and the environment. This time too, Sharma exuded his tough mettle; his department was unsparing in mopping up the penalty from the miners. Most of the lessees conformed to the order. Yet there were miners who remained obdurate and urged Sharma to adopt leniency. Sharma ruled out any laxity. In fact, at one of the industry sponsored conclaves, he categorically denied to condone the faults of miners. Rather, he announced the state government will be coercive in its actions and take to confiscating properties and freezing bank accounts of the defaulting miners. And, true to his word, the coercive measures have already kicked off.
These days, Sharma is hooked to the task of auctioning new as well as lapsing merchant mine blocks. Auction formalities as well as award of Letters of Intent to the successful bidders will be completed before the end of calendar year 2019. With Sharma at the helm, all can hope the process to go on seamless, without hitches.