Chief Minister put it on the record on the floor of the assembly that “I have worked with six other Chief Secretaries and Mr. TT Dorji has been a trendsetter among all. He is one of the most dedicated officers I have ever worked with. We will miss the presence of this vision-oriented dedicated officer who has worked for the state to his full potential and with full commitment. I want to thank him for his services to the State and its people”.
In his first interview after retirement with isikkim, Mr. Dorji shared his experience in government, his post retirement plans and his vision for the state.
Q: 36 Years in the Public Service. How has the journey been?
A: The journey has been very interesting and educative. When I started my career in 1974, my first posting was in Shillong, Meghalaya, where I did my District attachment as an Assistant Commissioner, as Sikkim was at that time in a transition period. My experience in Shillong helped me to understand my work and responsibilities which gave me a lot of confidence when I took over as the District Development Officer of East District, Gangtok in the year 1976 which marked the beginning of my career in Sikkim.
As the DDO I was responsible for initiating and implementing all the rural works in the East District, under the newly set up Rural Development Department. This was an interesting experience as I was able to tour the entire District and interact with the panchayats and the people living in the rural areas and understand their problems and difficulties and try to assist them by meeting their basic requirements. Subsequently with every additional responsibility and work assigned to me made my work, a very interesting learning experience.
Q: What were the major challenges that you faced as a bureaucrat?
A: As a Bureaucrat, one has to try and understand the government policies and to see how best the policies and its objectives could be implemented at the grass root level. It is also very important to ensure that the people know and understand the importance of the government schemes/projects and also how to excess and take maximum benefit out of it. At the same time we need to ensure that the projects are implemented in a proper manner.
Q: As a Chief Secretary what are your major achievements?
A: As the CS, my main focus was on ensuring a responsible administration and that there was proper coordination among the different departments. In addition to ensuring a responsible administration one of my major priorities was in ensuring that the NH 31A, the main access route into the State remained open throughout the year and there was a smooth flow of activities in the state irrespective of the bandh calls and the monsoon damages. On this issue I must admit that we did receive a lot of understanding and help from the Central Government, who at our request with the tacit understanding of the West Bengal government stationed Central Paramilitary Forces along the NH31A during the bandhs and also undertook the work on improving and widening of the National Highway.
Q: Any projects that you initiated and are proud of
A: In my administrative career I had served in different departments where I had the opportunity to undertake a number of projects with my colleagues in the Departments. While in the Animal and Husbandry and Veterinary department, we worked on the Indo Swiss Project, aimed at improving the cattle breeding programme in the State, to enhance milk production. We also tied up with Venkateshwar Hatcheries of Pune to improve our Poultry production and in this process we were able to expose our farmers in the rural areas to new concepts and technologies, to improve their economic conditions.
In the erstwhile Education Department we worked on streamlining the department, and looked at the importance of vocational education as an alternative for weaker students. Thus we were able to establish the two polytechnics the Advanced Technical Training Centre at Bardang and Centre for Computers and Communication at Chisopani, under the World Bank assisted Techaid III. It was during this period that we were able to firm up on the agreement signed with the Manipal Group and obtain the necessary permission for the establishment of the Sikkim Manipal University, and start the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology.
I spent the major part of my career in the Election and Finance Departments, where I conducted three General Elections, and worked on stabilizing the financial position of the state. I still remember the time when I took over the Finance department in the year 2001, the annual plan size of the state was just Rs. 200 crores and this year the Planning Commission has agreed to a plan size of Rs.1400 crores for the current financial year appreciating the good governance in the State and the rapid economic development taking place. While recollecting my years in the Finance Department, the resolution of the long standing Income Tax issue in 2008, was, I feel, our major achievement. This was only possible because of the excellent team work of the officers representing the State and the unstinted support we received from the Chief Minister, who constantly monitored the progress of the discussions and advised us during the critical periods.
Q: As a chief Secretary which was the toughest decision that you took?
A: Touch wood, I never had to take any decision which I consider as forced or taken under pressure. As an administrator one needs to ensure transparency at all levels and accessibility at all times.
Q: In 36 years of your services you worked majorly with two Chief Ministers, how were your relations with them?
A: I enjoyed a very cordial relationship with both the Chief Ministers. However working with the present Chief Minister was a totally different experience as it was during this period that a lot of innovative ideas were introduced by him in the State’s developmental process, due to which the State has earned the distinction of being a happening State. The State’s developmental perspectives focussed on harnessing its own natural resources, empowerment of its people through capacity building programmes and protecting and conserving the rich biodiversity of the State. All credit goes to the Chief Minister for the phenomenal transformation that has taken place whereby the planning process has become more focussed, realistic and people centric leading to all round socio-economic growth, fostering a healthy spirit of people’s participation in the development of the State.
Q: You got the thumping of MLA’s on the floor of the house and CM himself appreciated your work a lot. This is something unique as not many bureaucrat end up their career in such momentous way.
A: Honestly speaking, I really do not know whether I deserved all that. The Chief Minister and the government have been very kind in appreciating my work, and in the end, that is all that matters. After a long innings in the government getting such kind of appreciation for the kind of work I enjoyed doing is something I will cherish all my life.
Q: Till few days back you were the CS. Sitting on one of the powerful position but after your retirement you again become a common man? How you are coping up with sudden change?
A: See, things are different in Sikkim compared to other states. In Sikkim, ours is a close knit society and one cannot afford to forget one’s social responsibilities. In Sikkim not much adjustment is required, except the fact that I now have more time for the family and doing things that I have always loved doing like reading, listening to music, etc.
Q: Never felt like going to centre on deputation handling bigger responsibilities.
A: In Aug 2009, when I was empanelled as a Secretary in Government of India, I did have an urge to go on deputation to the Centre, wanting to experience the administrative responsibilities in Delhi. But later as I looked at the options available, I felt I could contribute more to the State by staying here as most of my colleagues were serving as Secretaries in Government of India and extracting work and projects for the state from them would be much easier for me. Had I gone to the Centre I would have no doubt be looking at a larger scope of work but then my contribution to the state would have been minimal. So I have no regrets.
Q: One of the major challenges in front of the government is to ensure better opportunities to the youth? What were your efforts to provide them with better employment opportunities?
A: Unemployment is a phenomenal problem effecting all States and nations across the globe. It is an issue that all developing nations are trying to resolve, but it requires immense effort and a strategy that will have to be undertaken and sustained over a long period. The State government is conscious of this phenomenal problem and has adopted a well planned strategy to tackle this issue. A sustained effort has been undertaken to improve the educational standards which has resulted in the improvement in the literacy levels. While there has been an increase in the number of Institutions of higher learning in the State offering different disciplines, the State has also initiated the Capacity Building programmes to develop different skills in the younger generation to provide them with a variety of employment opportunities. The capacity Building programmes have been further improved upon and to ensure that this programme has a wider reach covering even the rural areas, Livelihood schools have been set up in each and every Constituency offering technically sound and popular skill development courses. This has resulted in improving the confidence of younger generation who are now in large numbers moving out of the State in search of employment and successfully finding employment in and outside the country in different disciplines.
Q: What are your plans after retirement?
A: I have presently been appointed as the Economic Advisor to the Government. So I will still be in touch with the State government’s many developmental programmes and I would also be having more time, to travel around and see and analyse the effect of these programmes in the State.
Q: Any message that you would like to give
A: The only message I would like to share with all my friends is to be focused, be happy and to love and enjoy what you do.
It was pleasure talking to you Sir and thanks for giving your time.