It is less than a year. Exactly on 3rd July 2019, an article was published in Greater Kashmir Op-Ed page, “Jehangir Chowk- Ram Bagh Flyover – Team work does it all” by Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner/District Development Commissioner – Srinagar. Appointed on said assignment in February 2019, he had time to see the project, check lacunaes/mismanagement and get everything fixed to subsequently finish a major part and throw it open to public. He even had time to pen down the said page mentioning the details about the efforts put in by a team of dedicated planners and executioners who despite all odds managed to complete the project languishing for many years and subject to inept delays. That was Shahid Iqbal Choudhary (SIC) then, probably having time to sit, think, meet, execute and also write.
Exactly a month later, August 2019, SIC was in a completely different situation. The aftereffects of that situation were yet not over that this man found himself in another crisis situation.
Covid 19 happened, turning everything topsy-turvy. With Covid 19 came a very big responsibility for SIC as Chairman District Disaster Management Authority,Srinagar, to manage the disease as a disaster and ensure people and caregivers stick to the administrative demands in letter and spirit. There also was a change of guard as his visual and verbose superior got elevated and his new superior gave SIC full authority to be at the forefront and at the helm of affairs. He had to see the whole of Srinagar, a capital area, a major district, the center of policy making on many fronts, administrative and otherwise. His actions and decisions were to be emulated by other district heads and an eye on him was from many a quarter, be it Delhi, or Jammu.
And SIC has lived up to the expectation of one and all. For last many months we do see him everywhere, on roads, in office, on virtual meets, on social media (twitter, FB), on TV channels, in newspapers, and some erring subordinates may be seeing him in their dreams as well.
He has so much to manage, seems unbelievable, from roadside vendors, to shops, to schools, to colleges, to bakers, to interviews, to Covid 19 protocol, to lockdown/s, to ensuring SOPs, to social distancing, to enforcement of restrictions, to containment, to quarantine centers, to ensure cooperation, to movement passes, to door to door audit, to revenue records, to state subjects/domicile, to transporters, to handlooms, to handicrafts, to Delhi, to prisons, to jailed or house-held politicians, to ex- gratia relief, to buses/planes ensuring return of Kashmiris from outside, or evicting people from other places stranded here and lately to ensure smooth opening and monitoring of the sectors in social, private, industrial, farming sectors. On top of all this, he must also be on the management of many a department and committee that would have even taxed him more.
The Jehangir Chowk-Ram Bagh flyover seems to have a bad omen attached, it never saw what it was meant for – the traffic at its maximum as situation never ever allowed so. But this man is loaded with things that must be jamming his nerves as well as his mind. How can a person do so much that is not a routine stuff but that involves assessment, submission, decision, execution, redress, and accountability? He has few positives on his side to see him going. With no politicians this time around he has a free hand to deliver.
More so he has a passion that he got after meeting erstwhile President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, where he had mentioned that one has to bend the rule to achieve his target. That has been his principle in every decision in administrative service since.
Well he may have bent one to get the flyover done, but may have to bend many to do what he is all up to currently. Also as he had mentioned in his article “Choosing Civil Services as a Career” (GK on 14th March 2015) the approach has to be professional only then one can contribute religiously to the service of humanity through the public administration. And this is what SIC is doing to a large extent. For a minuscule of work as compared to what he has achieved in these last 8 months, Shahid Iqbal has been awarded in 2015 for Excellence in Public Administration and that may be another reason for his enthusiasm.
As DDC Bandipora in 2018 he may have had moments to put on boxing gloves and knock few off, but presently with the load he has on hand and in head he may himself be knocked off by the time he reaches home. How much can a man bear or work is what one should learn from this man, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, presently much more than a District Magistrate /Deputy Commissioner/District Development Commissioner/District Collector/Chairman DDMA Srinagar and head of endless committees.
To end, let me pick up a line from his article that the point of this write-up is not to assert a claim or brag about his feat/s but is to recognize and appreciate the mammoth work that a young 39-year-old versatile is doing.
Dr Muzafar Maqsood Wani is a Consultant Nephrologist, SKIMS, Srinagar