Dr A.K. Verma took over as joint secretary in the power ministry in 2014. Given the scope of the job and the government’s sense of urgency, he has found it challenging and exciting. His three main focus areas are rural electrification, improving the discoms’ financial health and promoting energy efficiency.
Many experts believe that the government’s Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) to aid ailing discoms has a better chance of succeeding than the previous financial restructuring plan, mainly because this time, the state governments are on board. “UDAY has been brought in for the operational and financial turnaround of our discoms. We believe that only a multi-pronged approach will work. We are aiming to reduce the cost of power, lower the interest burden on discoms and improve operational efficiency,” says Verma.
Verma acquired an M.Sc. in physics and then joined the Indian Forest Service in 1986. He also obtained an M.Sc. in forestry. Although he grew up in Bihar, he spent most of his active working life in Gujarat (and speaks fluent Gujarati). “Working in Gujarat is exciting and fascinating,” he says. “You see the results faster. People there are receptive, responsible, vigilant and resilient.”
He was member secretary of the Gujarat Ecology Commission and has managed the World Bank-aided Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project as project director in Gujarat. In fact, his dissertation thesis on Indian Environmental Diplomacy: Focus and Framework, written during his post graduate programme in Public Policy and Management at IIM Bangalore, serves as a reference point in the field of environmental diplomacy. For about eight years, he was been a member of the consultative group constituted by the government to look into matters pertaining to the Commission on Sustainable Development and the United Nations Convention for Combating Desertification.
For Verma, work is not a chore; he enjoys it. “If you are not passionate about your work, you cannot excel,” he says. In his leisure time, he likes to read – literature, science, contemporary politics – but of late has found little time for it. He manages to listen to music and do yoga in the mornings with his wife Snigdhaa. “I haven’t written as much as I would have liked to over the past five to six years,” he says. “Once I retire, I plan to write much more.” W