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Inspirational Women: Nidhi Choudhari | Indian Administrative Service

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Nidhi

Tell us about yourself, your background and what you do currently

I am an IAS officer presently posted in Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). I have served as Chief Executive Officer of Zilla Parishad, Palghar and as Assistant Collector, Pen Sub-Division in Raigad District before joining MCGM. Before getting into IAS in 2012, I have served as Manager in the Reserve Bank of India for over 5 years and in Indian Audit and Accounts Service for a year. It has been more than 11 years since I joined the public services and have tried to do justice to my profession with utmost sincerity, ethics and efficiency.

Academically, I have done Post-Graduation in three subjects mainly Public Administration, Rural Development & English Literature. Reading, Writing and Painting are my favourite hobbies.

I come from a small town of Rajasthan namely Didwana. There were no English medium schools & colleges hence I have studied in Hindi medium till Post-Graduation from Government institutions. This is only to stress that parents should neither over-stress on Medium of Education nor on expensive commercially run private schools.

Tell us about any current projects or initiatives you wish to promote

I have joined MCGM very recently and am yet to understand the real horizon of work. Am very excited about working in India’s largest Municipal Corporation and hope I will be able to contribute towards the betterment of the city of Mumbai to my best capacity.

Before joining MCGM, I was able to contribute in providing Individual Household Toilets to over 1 lakh people in Palghar as CEO, Zilla Parishad in Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and could make 6 tribal blocks free from open defecation. It was not an easy task as the district was recently formed and geographically it is spread in urban, coastal and hilly terrain, which made the task even more challenging. A total 1500 schools of Zilla Parishad were made digital to provide quality modern education to tribal children. Palghar being a new district, it was considered necessary to connect with people through website, FB, Twitter and thus all social networking portals were developed to increase interaction with public. We were also successful in declaration of 97 new PESA villages which will benefit the tribal population in these areas. Notably, Palghar Zilla Parishad became first to release Gender Budget.

Palghar district being a tribal district has been in focus for child malnutrition and related deaths. I therefore, tried in my capacity as in-charge of rural health administrator and women & child development , to improve the condition of Public Healthcare facilities and Anganwadis. It was very rewarding and satisfactory personally when number of child deaths reduced significantly from last year.

As Assistant Collector, Pen I was fortunate to be assigned the land acquisition of National Highway 66 (Mumbai-Goa). During my short stint, I could complete land acquisition of 77 out of 78 villages, pay compensation to affected persons, remove over 1000 residential and commercial structures including religious structures without any law & order situation. This has been personally very satisfying experience for me.

What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?

I come from rural background. My mother is a home-maker while father served as Class-III employee in Water Supply Department of Government of Rajasthan in Nagaur. My education has been in government schools and colleges. In Nagaur, there was a clear gender divide in terms of access to education, employment and resources when it comes to girls. Child marriage was rampant in my community and therefore, the fear that I won’t be able to complete my education always loomed large. Also, there were no avenues to access information about higher education, government jobs etc. Hence, breaking gender barriers in my family, community and society was the biggest challenge at hand when I was getting education. I have seen women who had firm belief that women are inferior to men. Son preference, dowry, ghoonghat (veil system) was so deep rooted in their psyche that there was open acceptance from women for female feticide, domestic violence, dowry etc. I had to fight this psyche to complete my education, make my career, make choices for marriage and this has been immensely challenging.

What has been your greatest achievement personally?

People consider success in terms of awards & achievements. To me, standing up against social evils despite limitations has been my greatest achievement so far. I was able to overcome challenge of child marriage, gender discrimination, dowry, caste system etc. There were times when it appeared that I wouldn’t be able to complete schooling without getting engaged/married as was happening with most of my school friends but I could overcome it. Despite coming from a very small town, I had guts to choose my career and my life partner. Breaking barriers of caste is what I consider as my greatest achievement. I appeared for UPSC after having a child which was not easy yet thanks to support from my parents and spouse, I could crack UPSC and get into IAS.

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?

I always loved writing & public speaking. I had compulsion to get into a secured government job to be able to make key decisions of my life on my own. Hence, I preferred to get into RBI and then into IAS which is my dream career as it gives ample opportunity to bring changes in the lives of people. I joined with very specific purpose to be able to contribute towards women empowerment.

Yet, if I weren’t doing what I do now, I would have preferred to devote my time for writing on social issues especially relating to women & children. I definitely would like to retire from life as an author.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My parents have been my biggest inspiration. In a society where birth of girl child was considered a burden, my parents could stand up for us against societal norms and taboos. Thanks to their right upbringing of daughters, I could join IAS and my younger sister became first female IPS officer from the district.

My mother has been a pillar of strength in our lives. She never forced her religiosity, her superstitions relating to menstruation, her beliefs regarding men-women upon us. She allowed us to open our wings despite societal taboos trying to clip them.

My father brought me a moped on securing first rank in class X in the school. This appears normal for big towns and in today’s times, but when I was studying in Class XI, I was the only girl in the entire Tahsil of Ladnun (Nagaur) who used to ride a moped. Likewise, after completion of Class XII, he brought a personal computer at home which to our times and in our days was beyond belief as hardly any parents were interested in giving girl’s choices and resources for higher education. My parents are real heroes of my life.

What does the future hold for you?

I live my life as if there is no tomorrow. Hence, can’t precisely comment about future.

India has an untapped reservoir of talent in its girls and women. I wish future of India will be built by tapping the feminine force and I will try to contribute towards that.

Any Message for Women

I am groomed by my own decisions and that leaves me with no regrets. I wish all women the courage to make informed choices. I wish them to dream, to dare and to do what they desire and decide on their own.

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