1987 batch IAS officer

Vini Mahajan takes over from Karan Avtar Singh, who has been made special chief secy, governance reforms. Her husband Dinkar Gupta is Punjab DGP.

CHITLEEN K SETHI 26 June, 2020 5:14 pm IST

Chandigarh: Vini Mahajan, a 1987-batch IAS officer, has been appointed the new chief secretary of Punjab, replacing Karan Avtar Singh of the 1984 batch who was due to retire in August this year.

Mahajan is set to remain in the post until her retirement in October 2024.

Her appointment has led to several firsts in Punjab’s administrative history — she is the first woman to become chief secretary of Punjab, and marks the first time both Punjab and neighbouring Haryana’s chief secretaries are women. Haryana’s current chief secretary is Keshni Anand Arora.

Mahajan’s appointment as the state’s top civil servant is also significant because her husband, Dinkar Gupta, a 1987-batch IPS officer, is Punjab’s director general of police. He was appointed to the post in February 2019.

Superseded many to become chief secretary

Vini Mahajan has superseded several senior officers to get the chief secretary’s post, such as 1984-batch IAS officer K.B.S. Sidhu, who is due to retire in July next year, and 1985-batch officer Satish Chandra, who is set to retire this September.

Others she superseded include 1985-batch officers Arun Goyal, Kalpana Mittal Baruah and C. Roul, all of whom are currently posted in the central government on deputation from Punjab.

Mahajan’s batchmate Vishwajeet Khanna, too, was being considered for the chief secretary post; he is due to retire in June 2021.

Last year, when her husband Gupta had become DGP, he too had superseded several senior IPS officers.

Career at a glance

Mahajan is an economics graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, where she earned a place on the roll of honour.

She has held prominent positions in Punjab, and served in the Prime Minister’s Office during the tenure of Dr Manmohan Singh from 2005 to 2012.

Mahajan is the only Punjab cadre officer currently in the state who is empanelled to hold a secretarial position with the central government. She had so far been the additional chief secretary, investment promotion, industries & commerce, IT and governance reforms and public grievances.

She has also played a crucial role in steering the Punjab government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis as chairperson of the Health Sector Response and Procurement Committee.

Mahajan’s father, B.B. Mahajan, was also an IAS officer of the Punjab cadre — the 1957 batch topper and well-known for his integrity. Mahajan senior held important positions, including Punjab’s finance commissioner, before retiring as food secretary, Government of India.

Karan Avtar Singh’s new role

Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has not waited for Karan Avtar Singh to end his tenure as chief secretary, instead appointing him special chief secretary, governance reforms.

Sources in the government say this has to do with the fact that Singh was embroiled in an ugly controversy with Punjab’s cabinet ministers recently. The face-off between state Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Karan Avtar Singh seems to have cost the latter his position.