NAME: TEEKA RAM MEENA
OCCUPATION: CIVIL SERVANT
FATHER’S NAME: JAI RAM MEENA
FATHER’S OCCUPATION: FARMER
From the forests of Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur to the office of the secretary to Kerala government’s planning and economic affairs department, Teeka Ram Meena’s life has followed a fascinating trajectory.
As a child, Meena used to help his parents by taking the family-owned cattle to graze in the jungles of the Ranthambore National Park. “My village Pura was cut off from main cities and there were no roads. My father was a farmer with a small piece of land. My three brothers and two sisters had to help our illiterate parents. It was a hand-to-mouth existence,” says Meena over the phone from Thiruvananthapuram.
But Jai Ram Meena wanted a different life for his children. Influenced by a speech on the importance of education by Jawaharlal Nehru, Jai Ram decided he would send at least two of his six children to school. That was all he could afford.
Meena, the youngest, and Ratan Lal, the eldest brother, were the chosen ones. “It was a one-teacher primary school. When it rained, I would use a jute bag to protect myself (and the books). On brighter days, the school was held under a tree,” Meena says. He had to travel 10km to attend middle school. That included crossing a river. When he was 12, his teacher gave him a booklet with English words and their meanings. “I learnt no English in school or in college till my BA. I studied the book whenever I took our cattle for grazing. That opened up a new world to me,” Meena says. It’s easy for him to remember the name of that teacher: “Manmohan Singh,” he says. He waits for a bit and adds, “… Sharma. I visited my village recently and touched his feet.”
Inspired by Ratan Lal, who joined the Indian Police Service (he is now retired), Meena opted for civil services. He got through in his third attempt and was posted in Kerala “since there were no vacancies in Rajasthan then”.
The assignment as sub-collector in Malappuram district was difficult because Meena— who got married when he was in class X—did not speak Malayalam. But after spending at least 15 years in the state, he now speaks the language fluently.
From 2000 to 2007, he was posted in the Planning Commission and the economic advisory council of the Prime Minister. “I am not trained in economics. But I got an opportunity to work with people like the current Reserve Bank of India governor D. Subbarao, Prime Minister’s economic adviser C. Rangarajan and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Now that I am back in Kerala in the planning department, I can use that expertise for my state,” Meena says.
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