At a time when the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) government in Uttar Pradesh is battling anti-incumbency and has been cornered by the opposition on failing law and order and other issues, a mix of veteran and young bureaucrats is a comforting solace for the four-year-old dispensation.
With some path-breaking work in various government sectors, departments and districts, these young and doer officials have in fact endeared themselves to the most bitter critics, who concede in private that they have "to an extent stalled the downslide of the SP government".
Leading the pack is 1988 batch IAS officer Navneet Sehgal, who holds multiple charge and has somehow managed to work with aplomb. As principal secretary (Information and PR) he is being credited with countering the negative publicity faced by the state government in regional publications and channels. A senior BJP leader who rarely misses a chance to attack Yadav admitted to IANS that Sehgal was indeed a "formidable roadblock" for them.
Once the blue-eyed official of former chief minister Mayawati, he is also the CEO of the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) which is executing the Rs.15,000 crore ($2.2 billion) Agra-Lucknow Expressway which is on track. And, as principal secretary (Tourism), he is credited with the makeover of the hitherto moribund department.
Veteran hand Sanjay Agarwal, a 1984-batch IAS officer, is another reason for the chief minister to smile. The power sector under Agarwal, who is the principal secretary, has also seen a major turnaround with the setting up of many new projects.
Kanpur-based industrialist Ronak Tandon has lauded the government for the work done in the power sector.
"Kanpur probably had the worst power scenario in the state and it now has 24x7 supply," Tandon said.
Lucknow district magistrate Raj Shekhar is another much talked- about bureaucrat, who, through his 24x7 work has endeared himself to the people. From freeing several acres of government land of encroachment to recommissioning the sewage treatment plant (STP) that had been closed for the last four years to creating Whatsapp applications for the people, he is another example of a doer.
Raj Shekhar told IANS that he "enjoyed" his work, "especially when people appreciated it" and he was "able to make some difference to their lives".
Parthasarthy Sen Sharma, a 1994-batch IAS officer, who is secretary to the chief minister, is an acclaimed author - his latest novel "Love side by side" has won accolades - doubles up as secretary (Unconventional Energy) and has done some good work in the sector. The state's strides in the sector were also praised by late president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Ashutosh Niranjan, posted recently as district magistrate (DM) of Gonda, has created ripples in the media with his pro-active approach towards good governance. With dozens of raids across departmental offices, fair price shops, godowns and schools, he has set the clock right in a district known for political interference and goons.
So much has his work been appreciated that all employee unions have given him in writing that they will work an extra hour on week days.
There are other officials too who are trying to make a difference. They include IAS officer Kinjal Singh (DM Faizabad); IPS officer Shalabh Mathur, the Kanpur police chief; and IPS officer Kamal Saxena, the home secretary, who too are leaving their mark.
Will these few "good men" impact the state assembly elections in early 2017? Watch this space!