'Goof-ups too teach us a lesson!' Top electoral officer Meena on losing vote

'Goof-ups too teach us a lesson!' Top electoral officer Meena on losing vote
Teeka Ram Meena

"A Chief Electoral Officer could not vote because his name was not in the voters' list. How could such a lapse which normally occurs to a common man happen to an IAS officer?" A person asked me this question. Well, my answer is "I am also an ordinary IAS officer. Lapses can happen to me. If lapses happen, I will own them up and rectify."

I was born and brought up in a remote village in Rajasthan. Remote village means it was not like such villages that we have in Kerala. Electricity and vehicles had not reached our villages even in the eighties. 

I used to walk 20 km daily and swim across a river to study in a school. My first slip-up during childhood was losing a hero pen which was given to me by my brother and I had kept it as treasure. I lost the pen while swimming across the river. I never had such a sad day in my life.

Another misadventure was when my brother and I entered a cave in a bid to impress our friends. We went inside the cave while we were our grazing cattle. Within seconds we ran out at breakneck speed after hearing the roar of the bear. I was all of 10 at that time. The bear chased us and we climbed atop a tree to save ourselves. I still shudder to think about that episode.

Another slip-up in my list happened on my wedding day. I did not own a vehicle when I got married in 1978. A bicycle was taken on loan from a friend for taking me, the bridegroom, whose moustaches had not sprouted then. A cycle was a luxury in my village those days. I rode the cycle to the bride's house before any practice and fell flat on their premises.

We children used to get down into wells to search for ornaments and utensils which women used to lose while drawing water. One needs to hold the breath for some time for jumping into the well.

Once I jumped into a well. But it was only after taking the plunge that I realized that there was no water in the well. With my legs getting stuck in the deep slush, it was difficult to pull me out. I was saved after a great effort. Lesson learnt: overconfidence and excitement can be counterproductive at times. But I learnt lessons from each incident.

About ten years ago while on a trip to Madhya Pradesh along with my friends, I swam in Narmada river. While the target was to swim across to the other side, the current became strong midway. While other friends who were expert swimmers reached the other side, I somehow managed to return to the bank after a great struggle.

When I look back, I do feel that bravado had crossed the limits on such occasions. While being Malappuram sub-collector we carried out an adventurous operation in Nilambur area to check the smuggling of cashew nuts. We came across a gang right in the middle of a forest area. We stopped the vehicle and chased the smugglers.  I was the first one to reach the gang and intercept them. The other team members arrived after a long time. When my team members told me that it was wrong on my part to have run all alone towards the gang that I realised my mistake. Had the gang attacked me what would have been my fate? The only confidence I drew was from the stick in my hand.

In another episode,  I unearthed ration wheat fraud resulting in losses worth crores of rupees to the government exchequer. But I had to pay a heavy price for the daring act, quite literally. A minister wrote adverse remarks on my confidential report. I had to move the court to get those remarks expunged from the CR.

It could be seen as an adventurous act or a lapse in front of my subordinates. Perhaps such slip-ups make me compatible with civil service. One cannot help but indulge in such adventures for people's welfare.

But I am very particular that even if there are lapses, I shouldn't do anything that is illegal.

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