Iqbal Singh Chahal is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1989 batch of the Maharashtra cadre, who has held numerous portfolios in the state as well as the centre. Chahal’s work in implementing the “Mumbai Model” and the “Dharavi Model” as a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner during the COVID-19 pandemic earned him appreciation in India and abroad. He hit the headlines in August 2023 after the Bombay High Court summoned him over the BMC’s lacklustre attitude in repairing potholes in Mumbai.
Iqbal Singh Chahal was born on Thursday, 20 January 1966 (age 57 years; as of 2023) in Sri Ganganagar Rajasthan, India. His zodiac sign is Capricorn. From May 1978 to June 1979, Chahal attended the St. Joseph’s Convent Secondary School in Pathankot, Punjab. In April 1980, he enrolled at the Kendriya Vidyalaya No.1 (Army) in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, where he completed his high school in April 1981. Thereafter, he attended the Kendriya Vidyalaya No.1 AFS in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Later, he attended the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley. In 1987, he earned a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) honours degree in Electronics and Communication with a distinction at the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology in Patiala, Punjab. From 2013 to 2015, he studied Public Administration at Harvard University. He also did a course in administration at the University of Cambridge. Facebook – Iqbal Singh Chahal After completing his formal education, Chahal took the UPSC civil services examination and passed it. Thereafter, he reported at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand. As an IAS officer, he has attended numerous administrative courses at various academic institutions such as the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) in Hyderabad, Telangana, the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) in New Delhi, and the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) in Pune, Maharashtra. SUPREMO
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Dark Brown
Parents & Siblings
His father, M. S. Chahal, is a retired lieutenant colonel of the Indian Army. He has a brother named Rajender Singh, who is a businessman and lives in the United States of America.
Wife & Children
He is married.
His father-in-law, Ajit Singh Chatha, is a retired IAS officer and the former Punjab Chief Secretary.
On 9 July 1990, Iqbal Singh Chahal was posted at Nashik, where he assumed the post of Supernumerary Assistant Collector; he served in the post till 25 August 1991. From 26 August 1991 to 26 January 1993, Chahal served as the Assistant Collector at the Land Revenue Management & District Administration/Sub Divisional Administration in Maharashtra. On 27 January 1993, he was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Zila Parishad in Nashik. He remained in the post till 8 July 1996. He served as Aurangabad’s Additional Commissioner from 9 July 1996 to 7 September 1997. On 8 September 1997, he received a promotion and became District Collector (DC) of Aurangabad, a post that he held till 10 June 2001. On 11 June 2001, Chahal reported at Thane, where he served in the post of DC till 24 December 2004. He was posted to Mumbai on 7 January 2005. There, he served as the Joint Secretary in the Environment Department till 1 April 2005. Iqbal served as the DC of the Land Revenue Management & District Administration/Sub Divisional Administration in Thane from 1 January 2002 to 5 April 2005. He was appointed as the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Dharavi Redevelopment Project in Mumbai on 5 April 2005; he remained in the post till 11 May 2006. He served as the Vice Chairman and CEO of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority from 11 May 2006 to 8 August 2007. On 13 August 2007, he was appointed to the Prohibition and Excise Department as a Commissioner, a post that he held till 9 June 2011. He served as the Medical Education Department’s secretary in Mumbai from 26 August 2011 to 4 March 2013. On 2 May 2016, he was appointed as the principal secretary of the Water Resources Department as well as the principal secretary of the Government of Maharashtra. He served till 24 February 2020. In the Urban Development Department, Chahal served as the principal secretary to the state government from 24 February 2020 to 8 May 2020.
Chahal was appointed at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as its commissioner on 8 May 2020. His appointment came at a time when the country was suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a commissioner, he is accredited with devising policies that led to the control of the outbreak of the pandemic in Mumbai. Numerous beds were introduced via new makeshift hospitals, while private establishments also repurposed their COVID-19 units for government use. Around 800 vehicles were transformed into ambulances. His strategies were aimed specifically at 55 slums, notably Dharavi. The city enforced a strict lockdown while also extensively sanitizing shared bathrooms and conducting widespread COVID-19 testing. Additionally, a significant volunteer effort was launched to ensure that no one went hungry. In Mumbai, all positive test results were managed through dedicated “war rooms.” Not only were his endeavours praised by prestigious institutions like India’s Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court, but they were also acknowledged by foreign governments including those of UAE, the US, and the UK. He also recevied numerous accolades for his efforts.
Iqbal Singh Chahal was sent on a central deputation for the first time on 5 March 2013 when he was appointed as the joint secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA); he served in the MHA till 10 October 2014. As per sources, Iqbal Singh’s tenure in the MHA ended before time as he was shunted by the union government. ThePrint He served as the joint secretary of the Women & Child Development Ministry from 10 August 2014 till 30 August 2015. He served in the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Ministry as a joint secretary from 6 November 2015 to 26 February 2016.
IT Department’s Notice And Allegation Made By BJP Leader Kamboj
In March 2022, a photo of the IT Department’s notice addressed to Iqbal went viral on social media. In the notice, it was written that Iqbal was to present himself before the department for questioning at the Scindia House in Mumbai regarding the department’s raid on senior BMC officials and contractors. The notice also sought information about the tenders issued in the designated timeframe. It required the particulars of the contractors who were granted each of these tenders, in addition to the records of payments made to them. Additionally, an explanation of the payment release process and the method of confirming finished projects was requested. In his defence, Iqbal said that the notice was not personally issued to him and such notices are issued by the investigating departments, which get answered at the lower level in the BMC. Hindustan Times In an interview, he said,
The notice is in circulation but I have not visited the I-T office even once. These notices come and get answered at appropriate lower levels.”
BJP leader Mohit Kamboj held a press briefing on 26 March 2022 in which he urged for an investigation to be launched into the corrupt actions of the bureaucrats in the municipal administration and asserted that Chahal possessed property in the United States. Kamboj also expressed his intention of bringing the matter to light to the Income Tax Department. He said,
I want to ask the IT department why no IT enquiry against the bureaucrats? All the proposals of the Standing committee are approved with the consent of the BMC commissioner. So I want to ask how much was the cut portion of Chahal in all the corruption? Why no action against Chahal for his role in Yashwant jadhav corruption?”
In his defence, Chahal lashed out at Kambojh and said that it was a malignant attempt to drag him into the then BJP-Shiv Sena tussle for power. He also urged Kamboj to not drag gazetted officers in the political war. India Today
Interrogated By The Enforcement Directorate (ED)
In August 2022, Kirit Somaiya, a BJP leader, filed a complaint in Mumbai against LHMS, a company accused of deceitfully securing a healthcare agreement from BMC during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FIR claimed that Sujit Patkar, a close associate of Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, was the owner of the said company. It was further stated in the complaint that LHMS had been previously placed on a blacklist by the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA), which later issued a notification urging municipal corporations in Maharashtra not to award any contracts to LHMS. Subsequently, in January 2023, Iqbal Singh Chahal was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for interrogation concerning the contract, which reportedly lasted around four hours. The Indian Express After the interrogation, Chahal, during a press conference, said,
I have explained to them the entire information I had and assisted them in the investigation. I also told them that if they require any more details in the case then we will be more than happy to help. When Covid started spreading in March 2020, BMC only had 3,750 beds. The WHO and the Indian government had alerted us that the number of patients will increase following which we were advised to create more field hospitals. In March 2020, the standing committee of the municipal corporation empowered BMC that expression of interest or tenders were not required and we could have simply asked for quotation and hire services but still we called for EOIs and then four agencies were given work.”
Summoned By A Magistrate Court for Issuing “Discriminatory Orders”
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mulund metropolitan magistrate summoned municipal commissioner Iqbal Chahal, former chief secretary Sitaram Kunte, and former additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani in response to a complaint lodged by Ambar Koiri. The complaint accused them of issuing biased directives favouring vaccinated individuals over those who hadn’t received the vaccine. Koiri, a member of a citizens’ advocacy group, had lodged a complaint demanding the issuance of “non-bailable arrest warrants” and legal action against the three individuals. The complaint alleged that they had implemented unjust vaccine requirements in various contexts, such as using local trains, with the hidden intention of benefiting vaccine companies. The complainant also argued that the order violated the fundamental rights of the unvaccinated citizens of India. Free Press Journal Following this, Chahal sought relief from the Bombay High Court, which temporarily halted the proceedings initiated by the Mulund metropolitan magistrate against the trio in November 2022. The Indian Express
Threatened With A Breach of Privilege Motion
In June 2023, Shiv Sena MLA Aditya Thackeray threatened Iqbal Singh Chahal of presenting a “breach of privilege motion” against him in the assembly for not reverting to a letter that Aditya wrote to him in April 2023 regarding a suspected Rs 263 crore scam related to a contract for street furniture installation by the BMC’s Central Purchase Department (CPD) in five zones of the city. The Indian Express Aditya also posted a tweet in which he accused Iqbal of being involved in corruption. Responding to Aditya’s allegations, Iqbal, during a press conference, refuted Aditya’s claims of indulging in corrupt and malpractices and said that all the contracts awarded by the BMC are awarded under the administrative procedure laid down by the authorities. Free Press Journal
Awards & Honours
- 12th Newsmakers Achievers Awards (2020)
- COVID Crusader Award (2020)
- Best IAS Officer Award at the Newsmakers Achievers Awards (2021)
- Honoris Causa by the Thapar Institute (2021)
- Excellence In Crisis Management Award (2021)
- Citizen of Mumbai Award by the Mumbai Rotary Club (2021)
- Visionary Award (2021)
- Iconic Achievers Award for outstanding contribution to Healthcare (COVID Relief) from WBR Corp (2021)
- Maharashtrian of the Year Award by Lokmat (2021)
- Qimpro Award and Qimpro Medal for Extraordinary Achievement in Covid Pandemic Management (2021)
- Mumbai Ratna for his role in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic in Mumbai (2021)
- Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, Punjab (2022)
- Spirit of Mumbai Award (2023)
- He is a polyglot and is fluent in speaking Hindi, Punjabi, English, and Marathi.
- In 2019, he won bronze medal at the Mumbai Marathon organised by Tata.
- In 2022, Minhaz Merchant published a book titled Iqbal Singh Chahal, Covid Warrior. The book highlights the efforts of Iqbal Singh Chahal while serving as the BMC Commissioner amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Iqbal Singh Chahal is an avid traveller and has been to many countries.