Vibha Puri Das


Born in a family of academics in a small town in western UP, Vibha Puri Das started her working life as a Lecturer in Political Science, in 1974. After two years of teaching, she joined the civil service. As a member of the IAS, allotted to the Uttar Pradesh cadre, later, after the bifurcation of the state in 2000, to the Uttarakhand cadre, she served in diverse assignments with distinction, both in the state and Union government.
Vibha Puri Das completed her stint of 37 years with government, in December,2013, having worked as Secretary Government of India, for over 4 years, in the Ministries of Human Resource Development, and Tribal Affairs. She also served as District Magistrate and Collector Dehradun in the years 1987-89.
She has an abiding interest in social justice issues. She has worked with and alongside multilateral agencies, on issues of child labour, food safety, human rights for underprivileged.
She works as Electricity Ombudsman, an appellate body for grievance redress in Uttarakhand. She is presently associated with development organisations in Dehradun and elsewhere in different capacities, eg. Himmothan Pariyojana, Latika Roy Foundation, Sustainable Development Forum, Uttarakhand, the Bhasha Trust, Vadodara, and Aide et Action, France.


What inspired you to join the Civil Services?

The answer may seem very trite, but more than 40 years ago, career choices were limited and the aspiration to contribute positively to public good in whatever way possible was strong. It helps that civil service had a very positive public image.

Would you like to share with us any one experience that you had whilst rendering your service that you still cherish?

There are many experiences that I cherish. To mention one, which I remember vividly, pertains to my first posting. I had visited a village where a quarrel over a piece of commons in the shape of a hollow in a fertile valley of a mountain district, needed adjudication. I was convinced about the injustice of allowing one party to monopolize a piece of land which received plentiful monsoon rains and which enabled a bounteous paddy crop for the community. While at the time of my tour I was unaware of a judicial order restraining any change in status quo, I did learn of it before formalizing my own inspection note and order. Knowledge did not persuade me to change my impetuous mind. The government counsel rendered counsel to no avail. I had the adamancy of youth, clear that locally verified facts couldn’t be controverted by a judicial order. Predictably, a contempt of court order followed. I had to, under legal advice, which I then could not ignore, render unconditional apology, but not before having gone and personally explained to the judge my valid reasons and insisting on the rights of my order. Small consolation that before the next monsoon, the stay was vacated.

How have you been able to develop as a person owing to Civil Services or working for social organisations?

How I have developed is not an easy question since it is difficult to imagine what one would be, without something that is part and parcel of life as I have known it. But I do think the variety of job experience that a career in civil service enables, together with the phenomenal opportunity to take up public causes as a part of everyday life, is a terrific learning and growing. From district officer, to chief executive of a major PSU, to an urban/industrial development authority, to a policy functionary at the state or central Government levels, are all in a day’s work. But the most important feature, is the opportunity to see , understand and hopefully do something about the lives and aspirations of ordinary people. This growing, in appreciating people far removed from one’s own life situation, in being able, even partially, to place others’ priorities ahead of one’s own, and to know that in this wonderfully diverse, beautiful, country, full of surprises, there are gems in every corner, in all groups, marginal agricultural farmers, weavers, construction labour, teachers, fellow administrators and countless others. This realization, if truly learnt, is the most valuable learning.

What is your opinion on the RST Forum being included in Valley of Words Festival which is a tribute to RS Tolia?

I am very happy to learn about the RST Forum being held as part of VOW. Dr R.S. Tolia was a visionary leader of Uttarakhand. Remembering him is an important part of operationalizing his legacy. Such a Forum will bring thought leaders to a common platform to foster a dialogue on sustainable development in mountain areas, and hopefully will also become an annual feature of Dehradun calendar. The fact that IMI is also collaborating with this Festival is most encouraging as this will enable a pan Himalayan link up, something Dr Tolia, the progenitor of IMI and SDFU, and indeed countless other institutions, would have delighted in.

What is your opinion regarding the Art and Literature Festival? What are you looking forward to in it?

Dehradun is unique as small towns go. It has a cosmopolitan character and an art and literature festival is vital to address the urgent need to restate our plurality and diversity and celebrate it in this town which is also the capital of Uttarakhand. I am sure Valley of Words while bringing people of letters from different parts of the country will also showcase the munificent talent of the state and bring us face to face with the best.

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