Rajiv Kumar takes office as chief election commissioner ahead of polls for president and vice president

Rajiv Kumar takes office as India’s 25th Chief Electoral Commissioner at Nirvachan Sadan in Delhi

Photo: ANI

New Delhi: Former Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar took office as the 25th Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) on Sunday and the first big task ahead of him will be to organize the President and Vice President elections, which are scheduled under little.
Kumar said the Commission will follow the proven methods of consultations and consensus building to bring about reforms and will not hesitate to take tough decisions, according to a statement from the Election Commission (EC).

Elections for the positions of President and Vice-President are to take place in July-August. The 2024 Lok Sabha polls and several assembly elections will also take place under the watch of Kumar, whose term runs until February 2025.

Kumar had been on the polling panel as election commissioner since September 1, 2020 and was appointed to the CEC on Thursday. He succeeds Sushil Chandra, who resigned on Saturday evening.

According to the EC statement, after assuming the charge of the CEC, Kumar said he was honored to have been given the responsibility of leading one of the finest institutions endowed by the Indian Constitution – the institution that strengthens our democracy.

He said a lot has been done over the past seventy years by the EC to give citizens free and fair elections, ensure the purity of voter lists, prevent abuse and improve the quality of elections.

“The Commission will follow tried and tested democratic methods of consultation and consensus-building to carry out any major reform,” he said.

He affirmed that the EC would not hesitate to make difficult decisions.

Kumar also said that technology will further become the primary instrument for streamlining processes and practices to ensure transparency and ease of voter services for better election management and operations.

Kumar is known among his colleagues and juniors as a hard-working leader with a hands-on approach and a penchant for honesty and integrity.

In his previous assignment as financial services secretary and finance secretary, he worked to promote transparency, technology and the protection of hard-earned money from the poor and vulnerable sections of society, said two senior officials who worked with him.

An official recalled that many wrongdoers in the financial sector space have faced the law’s wrath in its quest to clean up the banking system plagued by NPAs.

Some of the big names who braved the heat were Chanda Kochhar, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Kapil Wadhawan, Rana Kapoor and Dheeraj Wadhawan among others.

Kumar proved himself even during the most difficult times of COVID-19 when he was appointed Chairman of the Public Business Selection Board (PESB) in April 2020.

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Despite the lockdown and restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, more than 40 selections were made in just two months through the virtual and physical interview process, another official said.

Some of the reforms undertaken during his two-and-a-half-year tenure as Financial Services Secretary demonstrate that the consolidation of the banking sector has been undertaken on a massive scale while equal attention has been given to promoting financial inclusion with the objective of “banking the unbanked, financing the unfinanced and financially securing the unsecured”.

A digital pipeline, which served as a platform for transferring record direct benefit transfers under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana during the COVID-19 period seamlessly, was laid under it.

The technology platform, created to get a loan sanctioned online by a bank in less than an hour, is being expanded to bring the ease of banking to the post-Covid world.

The passage of the Unregulated Deposit Schemes Prohibition Act 2019, which provided much needed protection to poor depositors against the threat of illicit deposit schemes and an amendment to the Banking Regulation Act to strengthen powers RBI’s regulation of multi-state cooperative banks to avoid PMC Bank as frauds were part of efforts to isolate gullible depositors.

During his regime, the bank deposit insurance coverage was increased five times to Rs 5 lakh per depositor.

Prior to joining the Ministry of Finance in September 2017, Kumar was a Settlement Officer (EO) in the Ministry of Personnel.

To foster transparency in the bureaucracy, he played a key role in designing a 360 degree evaluation system for the promotion and appointment of senior civil servants during his time at the Ministry of Personnel.

Kumar was also instrumental in streamlining the promotion and appointment process carried out by the Cabinet Appointments Committee (ACC), they said.

He was also a member of the task force for the restructuring of NITI Aayog and based on his report, the current structure of the public policy think tank was approved.

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