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‘Never Made To Feel I Am A Woman Officer’
In an interview with BW Businessworld, Rashmi Verma shares how her own journey has impacted the people and corporates alike
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Tourism secretary Rashmi Verma is undertaking large-scale changes in the department. Earlier in Textiles, and in Revenues, she was associated with landmark events, including the much-talked about Rs 6,000-crore special package for textiles. She shares with Suman K. Jha how her own journey has impacted the people and corporates alike.
Is it a man’s world?
I don’t think so. When you are in service and dealing with various challenges, whether you are a man or a woman secretary, there is hardly any difference. I have never felt that it is a man’s world.
In the past, you have handled Textiles, which came out with such an important package. What has the experience been like?
In Textiles, I realised one of the key problems that we were facing was that the value chain of the textiles sector was totally skewed. We were mostly exporting the fibre or the yarn rather than converting into fabric or garments. We faced adverse tariff policies followed by EU countries.
I worked with my team and I was also guided by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Chief Economic Advisor, Finance Minister, and we came up with this package. The whole purpose was to offset the disadvantage that our exporters were facing by reimbursing whatever tax they were paying to the government.
So, this made our garments more competitive in the key markets. In the following years, in garments, exports have been growing steadily.
When I took charge of Tourism, the biggest challenge was that even after so many years of pumping in so much money, we have not been able to create world class facilities in and around key monuments. I realised that it is not about infrastructure development, it is about maintenance.
So, we conceived this scheme called ‘Adopt a Heritage’ that will become more like ‘Monument Mitra’ and we offered it to the corporate sector. We are getting such a good response from corporate houses such as GMR, yatra.com, Dalmia, etc.
Before that, I was the Additional Secretary, Revenues, and that, in my opinion, is the most challenging job that I have handled. I was there for three years and I had my maximum satisfaction in that assignment. Because from the very beginning, I got involved in bringing about consensus between the state and the central governments on GST.
It was the biggest challenge handling states, Union Territories, interacting with their finance ministers, understanding their viewpoints and bringing them together on one platform and building a consensus among them to come up with certain solutions which finally led to resolution of many of the contentious issues. When I saw that GST was finally rolled out, this was one of the happiest days for me.
Why don’t we have a greater woman representation in the IAS?
When I joined the IAS in 1982, we had only 10 per cent women representation. Today it is about 30 per cent. So, there has been a remarkable difference. The reason we were only 10 per cent of the whole batch obviously at the Secretary level also the ratio is the same at 10 per cent. We were 14 lady officers in the batch and ultimately 8 of us reached the Secretary level.
You have interacted with a lot of corporates. What has been your experience in working with them?
I have had a very good relation with the industry both in the tourism and textile sectors, and earlier in revenue. And I have never found them looking at me as a woman officer. They come to me with their issues, problems and they have that confidence that I will be listening to them, understanding their problem, and taking initiatives for resolving them. It is about an equal interaction.