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Tough job in hand for the new expenditure secretary

April 29, 2016 10:28 IST

When Ashok Lavasa was made the environment secretary in September 2014, his mandate was equally tough: pave the way for simpler, faster and smoother clearances of infrastructure projects and bring efficiency in government functioning. 

 
 

Ashok Lavasa, the new expenditure secretary, has his job cut out: rein in wasteful spending and boost the government’s finances. 

This may seem a difficult task, given that the Seventh Pay Commission and One-Rank-One-Pay are set to add to the burden on the exchequer.

But Lavasa, a 1980-batch IAS officer from Haryana, is cast in the mould of people who do not shy away from challenges.

When he was made the environment secretary in September 2014, his mandate was equally tough: pave the way for simpler, faster and smoother clearances of infrastructure projects and bring efficiency in government functioning. 

Within a year, Lavasa managed to cut the time required for environment clearances from an average 600 days to 190.

Although environment experts point out that this has come at the cost of degrading the environment through increasingly liberal norms, his achievements cannot be entirely overlooked.

During his stint, he helped the environment ministry tighten oversight on various sectors.

Foremost among these is the 24x7 monitoring of severely polluting industries across the country.

Under him, the green ministry also notified new rules for disposal and recycling of electronic, medical, construction and hazardous wastes.

Lavasa will replace Rajan Watal, who retires on Saturday, even as the budgetary process is yet to be finally completed.

In contrast to Watal, Lavasa does not shy away from engaging with the media but has carefully avoided building a public profile, unlike some other senior IAS officials, even as he has handled many a hot potato for the government, including the high-pressure Paris Climate Change negotiations.

Significantly, under him the ministry took part in the COP21 conference which culminated in the Paris Agreement that set an over-arching target of keeping emissions growth in control so that global temperature rise remains below 2 degree Celsius by turn of the century.

A student of the Belgaum Military School with a Master's in English from Delhi University, Lavasa began his career as a sub-divisional officer at Mahendragarh in Haryana.

He is a nature lover and an avid photographer who loves going on retreats with his wife and also a photographer, Novel Lavasa, to the Himalayas.

The couple has showcased photos clicked by them in exhibitions in the country.  Besides travelling, Lavasa enjoys old hindi songs, especially those by K L Saigal.

Before taking charge of environment ministry, he had been the civil aviation secretary and prior to that he worked as joint secretary for power and home affairs.

He was involved in revising the aviation policy to facilitate regional and remote area connectivity.

Besides, he put together a policy for no-frills airports as well as for flexi-use of airspace.

Lavasa will be replaced at the environment ministry by Ajay Narayan Jha, a 1982-batch officer of the Manipur-cadre.

Subhayan Chakraborty
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