An IAS officer of the 1956 batch, INTACH chairman S.K. Mishra speaks to Manisha Jha about his long stint in various capacities and his goal of getting Delhi declared as a World Heritage City.

From being a self-confessed “black sheep” in his family to winning the prestigious Padma Bhushan this year for high order service as a civil servant, chairman of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage S.K. Mishra (76) has come a long way.

Born in Kanpur to a family of academicians and educated at Allahabad University, Mr. Mishra was admitted to the IAS in 1956. His innings as a civil servant saw him occupying several plum posts including that of Principal Secretary to former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar and three Chief Ministers in Haryana apart from various other positions in several ministries. He also played a key role in setting up the National Institute of Fashion Technology and the Surajkund Crafts Mela.

His association with INTACH began in 2000 as its vice-chairman and since 2004 he has served as chairman in an honorary, non-salaried capacity.

Recounting his experience in dealing with top political bosses in his career, he says: “Contrary to expectations my experience with politicians has been very good and I have enjoyed their full support. I feel that if politicians are convinced about the bureaucrat’s commitment and integrity then he wins his support.”

Having spearheaded INTACH through various milestones including the recent celebration of 25 years of its foundation and signing of a MoU with the Delhi Government to develop heritage routes and a supporting infrastructure around famous monuments in the Capital, Mr. Mishra now opens up on his future goals for the organisation.

“Our long term goal is to get Delhi declared as a World Heritage City, but it is an uphill task requiring special legislation and infrastructure development. We need to keep working on it. Besides this project, my personal dream is to set up a heritage conservation institute with professionally trained faculty dedicated to the different fields in heritage. I would also want to see INTACH being given the role of principal advisory to the government on all issues relating to heritage, conservation and environment.”

Expanding and strengthening the different chapters in INTACH beyond the existing 140 throughout India and tapping corporate sector for funding heritage projects are also challenges Mr. Mishra plans to work on in the near future.

Outlining his vision for INTACH, he says: “Apart from focussing on developing infrastructure for famous as well as lesser known monuments in Delhi, I want to engage a young INTACH volunteer core to visit villages and cover rural areas and spread awareness about our rich heritage and get them involved in its conservation efforts.”

“I do not want heritage to be just monument-centric as it should also focus on people and have a socio-economic objective. It should help people raise the quality of their lives. In next four to five years I envisage that heritage too would become as important an issue as the environment,” he added.

Heritage aside, Mr. Mishra’s passions also include reading, travelling and bird-watching. Though especially fond of reading biographies and detective fiction novels, one of his all-time favourite author happens to be P.G. Wodehouse.