Women In Construction: Vijayalakshmi Prasanna Bidari
She feels immense pride to be recognised by her father’s name — but that hasn’t stopped her from crafting her own identity. Vijayalakshmi Prasanna Bidari, daughter of Shankar Bidari, the Karnataka police officer renowned for his hunt of dacoit Veerapan, was the all India IAS topper of 2001, motivated by her “straight-forward, brave and humane” father to choose the civil services. “Being his daughter, I believe in challenges, difficulties and opportunities,” she says. Indeed, there have been plenty of these in her career. She has served as assistant commissioner, Guwahati (Assam); followed by assistant commissioner, Hingoli (Maharashtra); CEO, Zilla Parishad, Sindhudurg ; Collector, Sindhudurg; member secretary of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women; managing director of Maharashtra Women Development Corporation; and director IT, Department of IT, Government of Maharashtra; before assuming her current post as Commissioner, Kolhapur Municipal Corporation. She shares her journey in conversa- tion with SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN.
In your current position, what does your role involve?I have been working as the commissioner of Kolhapur since July 2011. My role involves monitoring the entire city administration in terms of physical infrastructure like roads, electricity, public parks, health, education, sanitation and sewage treatment plant. We also handle a lot of resource generation like water tax, property tax, licenses, etc. As a commissioner, I give building permissions and deal with issues of FSI, slums, encroachment removal, dilapidated buildings, etc.
Tell us about ongoing projects in Kolhapur.At present, 49 km of roads have been completed on PPP basis through IRDP (Integrated Road Development Project) and another 39 km is being built under the Rs 108-CRORE Nagarothan scheme. We are doing storm-water drains at a cost of about Rs 80 crore for one-third of the city. In addi- tion, we are building two sewage treatment plants, one 76 mld and the other, 17 mld. For the next 30 years, till 2045, we have planned the water supply for the city. This is a Rs 360 crore project under Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT), and if funded and executed in two years, Kolhapur will be among very few cities that can promise its citizens supply of water for the next 35 years. Further, to preserve the heritage of Kolhapur, we are working to renovate the Mahalakshmi tem- ple and the entire Khaasbaug maidan and Keshavrao Bhosle Natyagruha, built by Shahu Maharaj around 100 years ago.
How is Kolhapur today compared to 2011?The IRDP project has improved infrastructure and there has been progress in the Nagarothan project. Also, local body tax (LBT) was introduced after I came in and we were the first corporation in Maharashtra to start the capital value based system of property tax. Further, we have renewed the town planning department, wherein a building’s height, earlier limited to 25 m, has been revised to 35 m. With this, FSI can be applied more effectively. There was also a resolution for 0.33 per cent extra FSI on payment of premium and we tried to reduce the time period for building permission to 60 days. As for sewage treatment, we are setting up the 76 mld plant.
What other areas would you like to address?Solid waste management is a big challenge. After I stepped in, we took around 10 RCs and 300 container and cycle rickshaws to improve the col- lection process. There was just one waste dumping ground so we advertised for a waste-to-energy, to be executed on BOT basis. The tender is at the final stage and I wish to see it through. The other area is public parks. The city has around 60 parks, many of which lack resources as well as priority. We want to encourage public participation here.
With regard to PIL against LBT and the new property system, how do you solve the problem?The introduction of anything new can give rise to apprehensions. In the case of LBT, we took more than 8,000 personal hearings, and for property tax, 4,000-5,000 personal hearings. My entire team and I met people in individual hearings and tried to explain how the new system works. We have exceeded all revenue targets set in the budget for 2012-2013. Transparency is the key.
How do you maintain your work- life balance?Managing one’s personal and profession life has always been tough for women. However, having grown up with a working mother, I have always learnt to respect that and believe my family will understand when I fall short of time for them. I have two children, an eight year-old daughter and four year-old son, and my husband Prasanna is an IPS officer. Since I am associated with a city corporation, most of my work is limited within the city and I am able to spend quality time at home.
Who has been your role model?My biggest motivation to come into civil service was my father. I did my engineering studies and realised that rather than sitting in a cabin, I wanted to inter- act with people. Through my father and his friends, I saw a lot of public life and thought this would be more satisfying. Today I am here and have no regrets.