The residents of the West Jaintia Hills District (WJH), West Khasi Hills District (WKH) and now the residents of Shillong, all have come to love and admire the brilliant, hardworking and humble IAS officer Arun Kumar Kembhavi whose out-of-the-box ideas have improved not just their lives but their prospects as well.
Who Is Arun Kumar Kembhavi?
The 33-year-old Kembhavi is a 2011 batch IAS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, presently posted as the Registrar of Cooperative Societies and Director of Rural and Community Development in Shillong.
Born in Bijapur, Karnataka, he is a mechanical engineering graduate who worked at Accenture in Bangalore for 18 months before clearing the coveted UPSC exams. After completing his training, he opted for Meghalaya upon finishing his one year service in Assam.
E-Governance in West Jaintia Hills District
When the officer took charge of the Jowai headquarters of WJH district in July 2015, Kembhavi introduced the concept of e-governance, using social media platforms to directly involve the residents in the affairs of the public administration. This initiative is the first of its kind in the North Eastern Region, as reported by The North East Today
The people could send their complaints as texts, pictures or videos through WhatsApp on a BSNL number, 9436394363 that was personally carried by the young DC himself. He would read all the complaints, forward them to the relevant authority on WhatsApp groups he created and the matter would be solved within minutes, or a few days depending on the severity of the problem. He also used other platforms like Telegram, Facebook, Hike messenger along with normal SMS to redress the complaints. Only phone calls were barred.
There has been some keen discussion in the social media regarding the supposed “wine store” in the Officers’ Club…
He not only reduced the amount of time taken in solving the complaints and the lengths of the queues outside of the government offices, but he also reduced the amount of paper usage with his innovative idea.
Using this system, he solved issues related to Public Distribution System, electricity, water, garbage collection, noise complaints after 10 PM, illegal sale of liquor, road conditions, etc.
“The People’s District Commissioner”
Kembhavi removed the concept of visitor slips and prior appointments from his office; people could quite literally barge in and meet with him as long as the officer was in the office.
He also conducted monthly meetings of all the departments he was in charge of on every 2nd Tuesday of the month. He would conduct surprise visits to his district to check the work being done personally. He took an active interest in the lives of the people he was given charge of.
One major change he initiated was the training of job aspirants in the state. Strict monitoring during exams using videography, arranging different sets of question papers, swiftly declaring the answer keys and results, and also helping the students get scholarships, helped create more qualified candidates.
Kembhavi also conducted training to sensitise people on livelihood activities, including organic tea cultivation, apiculture, horticulture, fishery, poultry, piggery, rainwater harvesting, pottery etc. He initiated the work required for creating a tourism industry in the district. Introducing 4G connectivity to tackle the bad cell reception in the region, is another achievement of the officer. It is no wonder that the residents lovingly gave him the name, “the People’s DC”.
Transfer to West Khasi Hills District
It was a rude shock to the residents of West Jaintia Hills (WJH) district to learn about the transfer of the brilliant officer who had transformed their lives. However, a lathi charge against the KNGCSU students in 2016 brought a lot of criticism to Kembhavi, and he was transferred to WKH district in Jan 2017, halting many crucial projects he was about to undertake.
Many WJH residents poured out their dismay on the Facebook page of the IAS officer, sending their best wishes for his prospects.
The officer continued to work just as hard for the people in WKH district, even inviting IIM Shillong students to the district for Career Counselling for high school and college students. He discussed sustainable development models like community managed tourism and resource management with professors from IIM Shillong.
Both WJH and WKH districts have been only a whispering distance away from winning the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration in consecutive years. He was once again transferred from WKH district after a 15-month service as the district’s DC.
Rural Community Development
As the Registrar of Cooperative Societies and Director of Rural and Community Development in Shillong, he has again gained the respect of his fellow employees by cycling to work every day.
Shillong is one of the worst cities in the country regarding its traffic jams. Kembhavi, an officer who leads by example, bought himself a cycle first thing after joining the Secretariat. It saved his time and encouraged others around him to ‘maybe’ consider the greener alternative of transport.
He is now working towards improving the conditions of the roads in Shillong and creating lanes for cycling to improve road safety for cyclists.