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Chandana Khan IAS

Interview Date : 10-12-2010

She adores art as much as she does her work,be it cooking, singing or anything creative.Wondering who it is? Yes, it is none other than the dynamic Chandana Khan, who has created a special place in the heart of Hyderabadis.

In her work schedule from tourism to education, she has explored her inner-self and has done a great work. She has expressed herself on the canvas for all to see. The Career Guide met this multifarious and multifaceted lady administrator Chandana Khan. Here are a few excerpts:

Where and how did this journey begin?
Way back, when I was in my late teens,I observed my cousins who were in rural service.During those days, becoming an IAS officer was considered prestigious. Looking at my academic performance, my cousins encouraged me to appear for the civil services exams. They were of the opinion that it was the ultimate career choice and I grew up with that thought. I used to visit my cousins who were posted in rural areas, looking after various programmes to uplift the downtrodden. I was an active spectator observing their operations against the rustic backdrop. In fact, the countryside scenic beauty was too splendid to ignore, and this is where I picked up the paint brush. It was a picture perfect beauty visible from the balcony of my cousin’s home. Unable to ignore this, I began painting directly on the canvas.Since I had formal training in arts, I took to painting like fish to water. We grew up in an ambience that appreciated and encouraged art. It was not just a matter of pride but a key component to build a creative personality.I explored different media like oil painting,mural etc. Shantiniketan was the hub of art.

Didn’t you think of pursuing art at this point?
I did, but my parents and well wishers didn’t want me to stop here, which landed me in the IAS ultimately! Art was my best  companion throughout my IAS training period. My first posting was at Vishakapatnam where I spent lonely evening with palette and brush! Spiritually, as seascape unfolded before my eyes, inner dimensions were opening up within me. Thankfully I have a very good  circle of art lovers and artists who taught me to experiment with different strokes and styles.In one of my paintings, the tree trunk has a granular look which gives a 3D effect. Some one named it ‘mural on canvas.’ In that painting, I just used my fingers as brushes and sprinkled it; it is a controlled and skilled movement. I have done more figurative paintings and moreover
we have been taught to perfect the form first and then take liberties to distort it. Ultimately it is the artist’s vision that reflects on the canvas, though he sees many things,but he depicts his version ONLY!

How did you come to head Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan?
The best part about the Administrative Services is that one has to handle different postings. I was initially offered a job at RBI,in Kolkatta, and was tempted to take it up,but I landed in Andhra Pradesh and in Tourism.I should say my artistic skills came forth again,and that was when our team came out with Shilpakala Vedika. I discovered art and craft of Andhra and promoted it in a big way in all the Tourism posters. Like Cherial scroll paintings of Warangal, Nirmal and Kalamkari and Puppets of Anantapur.On the whole tourism unleashed the creativity
in me; we had to constantly think of different ways and themes to draw tourists to AndhraPradesh.

How did you get into the shoes of an Andhraite? As you say, it had been a culture shock to you, moving to Andhra?
Today, I can proudly say I am more of an Andhraite than any resident here. I have toured the entire length and breadth of the State, lived with people, learnt their ways and absorbed the culture. I went to Rajahmundry,Srikakulam, Kadapa as sub-collector, JointCollector and Collector. This is how I picked up the nuances of Telugu.

What are your milestones?
District Postings are very satisfying as the results of the programmes implemented are quick. It is a responsible and commanding position as one is empowered with all the necessary tools and rights to implement the same for the benefit of the people. Nobody would question us if we said it is mandatory to start a school or a hospital, it is done, as it is the final verdict. Since we have been trained to look beyond the culture difference,communal prejudices et al, it was not very challenging to move through rough terrains.

What gives you maximum satisfaction?
What gave me maximum satisfaction was women empowerment in rural areas. Even today it is heartening to see number of adolescent girls in rural areas denied basic education and taking care of their siblings and the ailing grandparents. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan brought new light into lives of all these girls. Our core focus is on getting all these girls to schools. If I am allowed to put my feelings in a poetic way, I can say that though I do not have time to paint on a cloth canvas, I am occupied throughout the day in a most meaningful way trying to paint the national canvas of the country! I would also like to add that the Government itself is functioning like a huge NGO, we are all enablers to make this movement called education pick up momentum. This is joy of giving.

How about the deliverables?
Principal deliverable is a primary school within a kilometer of any and every habitation. We are building 5000 additional classrooms and residential schools for girls called Kasturba Balika Vidyalayas all over the State (The scheme will be coordinated with the existing schemes of Department of Elementary Education & Literacy viz. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL) and Mahila Samakhya (MS). It does not sound very optimistic when I say that the literacy levels in the state are very low. AP is below average in Adult National Literacy and between the below average literacy there is a gender gap 63% (male) 55% (female). In the entire world, 30% of the non-literates are in
India. By 2010, we need to bring literacy rate to 80% in AP and it would be a continuing programme. The Saakshar Bharati programme will be rolled out in 19 districts of Andhra Pradesh and included in the initial phase. We are opening adult literacy centers to be mostly
run by the Panchayati Raj system.We have volunteers to teach the programme.

 How can we strengthen the primary education and make it more value-based rather that career oriented?
I cannot talk much about Higher Education as I deal with it, but I can certainly say, all the so called concept schools and competitive study centers are looking at a very small percentage of the youth and training them in the ‘learn to earn’ concept only. There is hardly any focus on country’s needs, like how to instill service to nation into them? Once we are able to do this, all the education schemes at grass root levels will pick up momentum.I think parents and teachers must realise the value of arts and instill art appreciation in students along with core subjects.

Are your programmes moving at desired pace?
We have an ambitious aim of seeing that every child in the State is enrolled in school, two years from now, i.e. by the end of 2012. It is a concerted effort as we are synergising with rural development and self help groups.

Do you take the help of NGOs for this? How do they pitch in?
Many NGOs in Hyderabad run our schools, of which I have visited a few. Aman Vedika in Dilshuknagar is one such NGO. We fund them.

How do you face criticism?
We take it openly; personally I would like the media to highlight positive traits and happenings too.

We heard you are a writer and poetess too?
Yes, I have written three books in Bengali.