How IAS officer Snehil Kumar silenced cynics with perfect demolition

How IAS officer Snehil Kumar silenced cynics with perfect demolition
Sub-collector Snehil Kumar Singh being welcomed to the office by his colleagues after successfully completing the Maradu flat demolitions.

Kochi: Young Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Snehil Kumar Singh was the centre of attention after he was given the crucial task of demolishing the residential buildings at Maradu in Kerala's Ernakulam district. But in about 100 days after taking up the mission as the nodal officer, five towers were brought down with precision by two firms engaged for the task. In the process the engineer-turned-civil servant silenced cynics who doubted whether the Supreme Court order to raze them could be so easily executed amid protests and legal challenges by the evictees of the posh apartments. Another concern was razing the apartment complexes without endangering nearby properties.

The residential high-rises named Holyfaith H20, Alfa Serene (two towers), Jain Coral Cove and Golden Kayaloram - were razed on Saturday and Sunday to comply with the court order over violation of Coastal Regulation Zone norms.

Snehil, who is the Fort Kochi sub-collector, talks to Manorama about the problems, allegations against him and how his team could pull off the mission successfully.

Actions speak louder

Right from the beginning, there were complaints, especially from the local civic body, that the bureaucrat was not answering the questions raised by the local people, mediapersons and the Maradu Municipality. However, Snehil has a clear answer to this allegation.

"I know Malayalam. I can understand and speak in the language when necessary. However, I cannot argue in this language.

"When talking to people, who come with lot of apprehensions, you need to speak to them convincingly. My Malayalam is not good enough for that. There were also several instances when my words were misunderstood. But I had spoken to the municipal councillors about all aspects of the planning in advance. I have not hidden anything. I don't know why the allegations were still raised," he explained.

Team effort

Snehil, however, does not take the full credit for the successful mission.

"The technical committee and the agencies, tasked with the demolition, did their job well. That was the reason behind the successful mission," he explained.

"The government made me the nodal officer and put me in charge of the flat demolition. I don't think my age was an obstacle. I also took advice from various agencies, the collector, and city police commissioner about the demolition," the young official explained.

Crucial decision

Each building was pulled down without any glitch, proving the clear planning, skill and professionalism of the demolition team comprising both Indian and overseas nationals. Snehil said that picking the agency for the demolition was the most crucial decision.

"Edifice Engineering and Vijay Steels were the best options available for the task. With the demolition expert A B Sarwate too joining the team, we could make a fool-proof plan," he added.

Task ahead

The IAS officer said that all measures would be taken to resolve the problems faced by the residents near the demolished flats.

Prior to demolition, Snehil had claimed that not even one house would be damaged. When asked about what gave him confidence to say so, the official said: "That's not my courage. The method for demolition was finalised after holding several talks and conducting studies. The demolition experts had assured me that there were very few chances that the demolition using controlled explosion would go wrong.

“Studies were held on the likely impact on land and water during demolition. We were fully confident about the experts,” he noted.

Now, that the flats are demolished, what is the next task for the IAS official? "Several files have piled up on my table. Need to check those," the young official quipped with a smile.