Probably one of the biggest attributes that define an inspiring leader is the way he or she handles the situation when everything goes south. The true test of leadership isn’t what you can do when you have all the time and resources. Rather, it is about what you can achieve with the limited time and resources at your disposal with a mountain of pressure. The stakes are even higher when the lives of people are at stake. A true example of impeccable planning and leadership is Mr. Iqbal Singh Chahal, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation Greater Mumbai (formerly Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation). An officer of the Indian Administrative Services, Maharashtra Cadre (1989), Chahal has established a new benchmark in ‘Crisis Management’ for the Government in general and the Administrative Services in particular.
Born in a family where his father served in the Indian Army, service to the nation has always been in Chahal’s blood. He learnt the importance of discipline in life at an early age. At the same time, owing to the several regions where his father was posted, Chahal experienced different cultures first hand and grew fond of the same. Before he could finish his higher studies, he had already changed 7 schools – an experience that he believed helped him tremendously to become more adaptable. Soon after his studies from Thapar Engineering College, in Patiala, he appeared for and cleared the prestigious civil service examination in his first attempt at a young age of just under 22, making him one of the youngest people to have ever cleared the exam. Over the course of his career, Chahal has served some of the most prestigious and critical postings. At centre, he formerly served as Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Women & Child Development and Ministry of Panchayati Raj. In his state cadre, he was the Principal Secretary in the Water Resources Department and the Urban Development Department of Maharashtra.
As Municipal Commissioner, MCGM, Chahal has been leading from the front and has played a decisive role in effectively arresting the spread of the COVID pandemic in one of the largest and most populous cities of the world – Mumbai. Now an internationally recognized crisis management leader, he exhibited original initiatives and drive to take bold and unconventional decisions to conceive, design and successfully implement a unique decentralized COVID pandemic fight model. The “Mumbai COVID Pandemic Fight Model”, as it is called today, consists of more than 26 different initiatives like Chase the Virus Policy, ambulances, doctors, jumbo field hospitals, unique partnership with 144 private hospitals, etc., each operating on auto-pilot mode round the clock. Taking cognizance of his efforts, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has applauded his Oxygen Management model operational at a time when the entire nation was under acute shortage of oxygen resulting in thousands of deaths daily. The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay has also praised the Mumbai Model of COVID pandemic fight. Being the architect of the Mumbai Model, Chahal was recently also awarded the prestigious Mumbai Ratna by the Governor of Maharashtra. Moreover, his achievements have had reverberations around the world that have inspired many policy makers. Recently, the Congress of the United States recognized his achievements and appreciated his work in handling the unprecedented crisis situation. Chahal shares his words of wisdom about public service, “Public life is difficult to deliver”. He then adds, “if you are highly optimistic, if you are highly positive, and if you have this kind of attitude, then you may partly succeed.”
The feats of Chahal in crisis management are not just limited to covid pandemic. He was elemental in completely reshaping the Water Resources Department back in 2016. This later resulted in Maharashtra, then a state with one of the highest number of farmer suicides, bagging the prestigious National Water Award for two consecutive years – 2018 and 2019, as well as the award for Best Irrigation Management State in 2020. Chahal has also shown exemplary and effective response while handling cyclone threat to Mumbai in June 2020 and May 2021. Thousands of people see him as their saviour and hero. Honouring his service to the nation and his effective management of unprecedented situations of crisis and panic, SpeakIn recently recognized Iqbal Singh Chahal’s efforts in the first edition of ‘India’s Distinguished IAS Officers’. He was conferred an award for excellence in Crisis Management.
Watch the full video featuring Iqbal Chahal highlighting his career, his personal life and some of his amazing achievements as a Civil Servant: WATCH HERE