Diana Jue-Rajasingh

Interview #2 with Bharat Lal Meena and Bandhs

Posted in Fulbright, India, Traveling by Diana on October 9, 2012

Sorry about the massive delay in updating. Things have been busy, and research is moving along.

This photo was taken a few weeks ago at the Karnataka Secretariat in Bangalore. Steve and I were here to continue our interview with Bharat Lal Meena, who’s now in charge of the entire state’s agriculture. It was my first visit to the Secretariat, which Steve describes as “the halls of power.” They seemed a bit dusty to me. But of course, the interior of Bharat Lal Meena’s office was spotless. That distinction between what is “mine” and what is “everybody else’s (which really equals nobody’s)” is quite evident in all places around the city.

The interview was mostly about Pilikula Nisargadhama, a jungle resort outside of Mangalore in western Karnataka. Meena helped spearhead the project, and he was able to get local leaders to become involved and to take ownership of it for sustainability — a topic that has been coming up in my more recent discussions with other active IAS officers (gotta institutionalize that organizational change). I’ll be making a site visit to the resort at the end of this week with another Fulbrighter, and hopefully we’ll be able to see some tigers.

Since it’s been awhile since the interview, I can barely remember other topics that we talked about (it’s all on video and voice recorder, thankfully, but now I need to sit down and transcribe it). To me, the most memorable aspect of the discussion was that it took place during a bandh. And this was the first bandh I had ever experienced in India.

What is a bandh? It’s state-wide shut-down for political reasons. And I mean, literally, Bangalore is shut down — shops, restaurants, public transportation — that which create public life — are closed from 6am to 6pm for fear of being heckled by the political party that supported the bandh. This day’s bandh was a protest against national diesel price increases and the allowance of foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. Just last week, there was another bandh protesting against sharing local water sources with another state. Although bandh days are free holidays, they’re such productivity killers.

Anyway, that Bharat Lal Meena wanted to talk during a bandh was quite telling of his own management style. He has the apolitical nature of the ideal IAS officer: able to remain effective even as political tides ebb and flow and able to work across political parties to get things done.

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