Diana Jue-Rajasingh

Interview #1: Bharat Lal Meena, IAS

Posted in Fulbright, India, Traveling by Diana on September 18, 2012

This morning, we had our first interview with our first IAS officer, Bharat Lal Meena. Meena is currently the Principal Secretary for the State of Karnataka’s Department of Agriculture. Given that elections are fought and won (or lost) based on agricultural policy and action, Meena is in an important spot. The decisions he makes in this leadership position will affect literally millions of farmers.

I first met Bharat Lal Meena when he was the Commissioner for the Bangalore Development Authority, and there’s some type of drive in him that motivates him to keep going in the civil service despite the red tape and the pressures from above (political bosses) and below (angry citizens). Not that we want to distill principles down to the individual level — which is not a principle at all — but we do want to understand how folks like Meena have been shaped, encouraged, and motivated to act where other men (and few women) prefer to keep comfortable by doing nothing. Then we want to know just how he brings change to multiple stodgy, somewhat stifling organizations whose previous managers wanted to keep the status quo.

Today we talked about his childhood journey and his motivations to join and sustain a career in civil service. Unlike some of the other officers, Meena comes from a disadvantaged background and grew up in the poorer state of Rajasthan. A lot of these experiences push him to make the most of any position he’s in. And within these positions, he knows how to manage . Although he may not have the technical expertise for urban development or agriculture, he understands how to incentivize, encourage, or move people to get things done (his degree in political science, he says, helped him to understand power). This includes working with vested interests in the form of politicians and industry, community members (whom he helps organize behind the scenes so that they apply the right pressure on the local government; Meena excels at coalition building), and his own staff, whom he is usually not allowed to fire.

For better or for worse (well, likely the latter), politics and bureaucracy are inextricably intertwined. In this context, a successful manager knows when to press on and when to let go so that people benefit and so that he/she doesn’t get moved to a new position in the boonies. And that is a lot harder than it sounds.


2 Responses

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  1. sudhakara naik said, on March 13, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    keep interacting with more and more people rendering selfless service in this selfish dominated land .creative,constructive, visionary will motivate and bring in lot of hopes in the cultured educated people and dedicated and devoted people living in the rural village of self sufficient BHARATH. -keep it up

  2. Ramesh said, on January 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    You do visit to MANGALORE city and see some of the initiative of Mr.Meena. But, Mangalore city is lagging behind in urban development, SWM, low cost housing etc

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