Parameswaran Iyer, who played a key role in the rollout of the Swachh Bharat mission, has been appointed as the new CEO of the government’s policy think tank Niti Aayog. He will succeed Amitabh Kant, whose six-year tenure ends on June 30.
The appointments committee of the Union Cabinet approved the appointment of Iyer, a retired 1981-batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre. His appointment as Niti CEO is for two years or until further orders and on the same terms and conditions as were applicable to Kant.
Kant — a Kerala-cadre officer and the man behind the ‘God’s Own Country’ campaign to promote tourism — took many initiatives to establish the fledgling Aayog as a test bed for the Narendra Modi government’s ideas and initiatives.
Iyer, who served as the secretary of the department of drinking water and sanitation, led from the front and in February 2017, he got inside a twin-pit toilet to empty it at a village in Telangana to help people overcome the taboo of cleaning toilets. PM Modi had termed his act as “remarkable” during one of his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programmes.
In July 2020, Iyer resigned as the drinking water and sanitation secretary, citing personal reasons.
Iyer had earlier taken voluntary retirement from the IAS in 2009 but made a lateral entry in 2016 to head the drinking water and sanitation department to help push the Swachh Bharat mission in rural areas. He has more than 25 years of experience in the water and sanitation areas, and is credited with implementing the Swajal programme.
A professor of management practice at IIM-Ahmedabad, he has written two widely acclaimed books — ‘The Swachh Bharat Revolution: Four pillars of India’s Behavioural Transformation’ and ‘Method in the Madness: Insights from my career as an insider-outsider-insider’.
Last year in June, the Centre had extended the tenure of Kant by one year till June 30, 2022. Kant has been the CEO of the Aayog since 2016. In 2019, his tenure was extended by two years by the Centre.
During his stint as CEO, Kant led several important initiatives, including the aspirational districts programme aimed at improving the state of the country’s most backward districts, which has won praise from global institutions such as the UNDP, and established Niti Aayog as the government’s leading think tank.
He also played a key role in several flagship programmes, such as Make in India, Startup India, the National Asset monetisation plan, which surpassed the target set for the first year, and the production-linked incentive scheme for 14 crucial sectors.