Ex-NITI Aayog staffer dies in London cycling tragedy

Indian student Cheistha Kochhar met with a fatal accident in London last week while cycling back home. Cheistha, a former associate at the public policy think-tank NITI Aayog in India, was 33 and was pursuing her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics. Amitabh Kant, the former CEO of NITI Aayog, expressed sorrow over her untimely passing through an online post, recalling her vibrant spirit and academic pursuits.

“Cheistha Kochar worked with me on the LIFE programme in NITI Aayog. She was in the Nudge unit and had gone to do her Ph.D in behavioural science at LSE. Passed away in a terrible traffic incident while cycling in London. She was bright, brilliant & brave and always full of life. Gone away too early. RIP,” Amitabh Kant said in a post on social media platform X.

Cheistha’s life came to an abrupt end as she was struck by a garbage truck while cycling, with her husband Prashant, a software engineer, only a short distance ahead. Prashant, upon hearing the collision, hurried back to find Cheistha critically injured. Despite the swift arrival of police and paramedics, Cheistha succumbed to her injuries at the scene. The involved lorry, suspected to be a waste collection vehicle, remained at the site, with the driver cooperating with the ongoing police investigation, reports said. As of now, no arrests have been made, and inquiries continue.

Cheistha and Prashant were married for just over a year.. Her father, Lt Gen Dr. SP Kochhar, along with her elder brother Raghav, rushed to the UK upon receiving the tragic news. Originating from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, Cheistha had previously resided in Gurgaon before relocating to London with her husband in September, embarking on a four-year doctoral program in organizational behavior management, fully funded through a scholarship at London School of Economics.

Cheistha Kochhar

Amitabh Kant, the former CEO of NITI Aayog, has shared an image when Cheistha Kochhar used to work with the think-tank

Before pursuing her Ph.D., Cheistha was involved in various roles, including her tenure at NITI Aayog’s Nudge Unit for behavioral sciences and her contributions to the Center for Social and Behavior Change, which is backed by Ashoka University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her academic journey commenced with studies in economics at Delhi University, followed by stints at University of Chicago, Ashoka University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Described by her father as not only intelligent and diligent but also empathetic, Cheistha’s positive demeanor left a lasting impact on those around her. Her commitment to her homeland was unwavering, with aspirations to return to India following her education abroad. According to her LinkedIn profile, Cheistha had served as a senior advisor at India’s National Behavioral Insights Unit within NITI Aayog from 2021 to 2023. (With TOI inputs)

Roy Walsh

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