BENGALURU: Rajender Kumar Kataria, MD of Karnataka State Transport Corporation, was born in Mitrion, a village in the outskirts of Delhi. He has seen “the struggle for small things”, such as long walks to school or long waits for a ration card. Kataria decided he wanted to be part of the administrative system and make a change. He was assigned to the Karnataka cadre and his first posting was in 1998, in Mangaluru, as Assistant Commissioner.
Your first day...
I was excited to be part of this premier service. I met senior bureaucrats, had meetings with my officers and came to know that there were two big issues there. One was law and order and the other was land encroachment.
Fond memories at work?
When I was the Deputy Commissioner in Panchkula in Haryana, we carried out a massive demolition drive to clear the Shimla-Delhi highway. We were travelling through that highway, years later, and stopped at a dhabha. The owner didn’t know me and talked of a DC who cleared the highway. A stretch that used to take eight hours, he said, now takes five. That man said this DC was a “terror”. In Chikkamagaluru, I was gheraoed for bringing down 600 illegal buildings on MG Road. But years later, when I went back, 80 people were waiting for me with bouquets. With better roads, their property value had gone up. Encroachments are not easy to handle... you could face litigation, political bosses may not like it.
How do you deal with bad political bosses?
I haven’t had to deal with with anyone that bad. If you are very clear about what you can do and cannot, they get the message. It is our duty to assist and guide the political bosses, in the larger public interest... it is tough.
The best boss?
Kharge (Mallikarjun Kharge)... I was Private Secreaty to Kharge when he was the Union Labour and Employment Minister and later Railways Minister. He is honest and will not do any wrong, neither will he let you. It is very rare.
You forget your hobbies in this field. But I run 50 km a week... 10 to 11 km a day. I participate in 10 K runs and half marathons. Then I read, and love photography, especially wildlife photography.
Dealing with corruption?
I am not saying that there is no corruption, but the system functions because of devoted people. I dismissed more than two dozen senior officers in the last two years. When you take a tough decision against a top fellow, it gives a clear signal.