Making every drop Count

As Banda DM, promotee IAS officer Hira Lal made the backward UP district shine on several fronts, 
reports Namita Bajpai 

Published: 12th April 2020 10:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th April 2020 12:12 PM   |  A+A-

Hira Lal

Hira Lal (R)

UTTAR PRADESH: On a chilly December night of 2018, a frail old woman was sitting on a charpoy in front of her house on the outskirts of Banda, shivering and cursing her poverty which couldn’t afford her a quilt a or blanket when someone wrapped a warm woollen shawl around her. “Kuan, kaun hain aap (who are you)?” she asked, startled by the gesture. “I am your district magistrate,” came the reply.

This was not a one-off act of kindness for Hira Lal who covered the woman with his own shawl, such humane gestures have been a way of life for him. A 1994 batch PCS officer who was promoted to the IAS in 2010, Hira Lal, now additional project director at Uttar Pradesh Aids Control Society, is a bureaucrat with many feathers to his cap. But his stint as the DM of Banda, the backward district in parched Bundelkhand,  stands out.

Plagued by multiple challenges such as water scarcity, perennial drought and malnutritio and deforestation, Banda witnessed a makeover when Hira Lal helmed the district administration from August 2018 to February 2020. After taking over as DM, the officer started addressing the issues one by one. With the aim to bring the district to the mainstream of development, his first endeavour was to conserve water for which he launched the drive ‘Bhujal Bachao, Payjal Badhao’ (Conserve ground water, enhance drinking water). 
During his two-year stint, Heera Lal created a record of sorts by getting 2,605 contour trenches built and also for holding 469 jan choupals engaging around 35,000 villagers on water budgeting and ground water recharge. He also got 2,183 hand pumps installed and 260 wells across 470 gram panchayats recharged — all that in just a month! This achievement went into the Limca Book of Records this February. His efforts resulted in accumulation of at least 1 lakh kilolitre of water annually.

However, Hiral Lal humbly refrains from taking all the credit. “The drive was supported by Water Aid India, Akhil Bhartiya Samaj Seva Sansthan, People’s Science Institute and students of the Mahatma Gandhi Chitrakoot Gramodaya Vishwavidyalaya,” he says. “If you can’t be a pencil to write anyone’s happiness, then try at least to be an eraser to remove someone’s sorrows,” is the motto that drives this unassuming government servant. His next initiative was to tackle malnutrition. He sought to enhance the awareness level of people followed by concerted actions to mitigate it. The district administration reached out to Unicef. 

“Central to the strategy was week-long ‘Bal Poshan Satra’ (child nutrition sessions) involving feeding demonstration and counselling sessions for mothers. Health authorities took care of clinical examination and treatment of identified Severe Acute Malnutrition cases. Other pillars included weighing campaigns, growth monitoring, creating awareness about home cooked nutritious diet and tracking of individual cases,” says Hira Lal, elaborating on the strategy.

Total 2.6 lakh children under five years of age were weighed across the district. Of those, 16,344 were identified as severely underweight and 2,840 as SAM. About  484 SAM cases and 1,676 underweight cases recoveredb completely. Hira Lal also brought about sweeping jail reforms in Banda and initiated start-up programmes roping in different departments to create jobs for youth. “Those initiatives were to give much needed exposure to youth,” he says.

While he received the award for being the best election officer from the UP governor as Banda registered best voting percentage in state during 2019 Lok Sabha polls,  Heera Lal created another record by planting 15,000  saplings on a single day in the district that is crying for green cover. Besides, he also initiated the phenomenon of ‘Ped Prasad’ by roping in religious sites like temples and mosques to inspire people for planting saplings.


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