Thiruvananthapuram: I had a very tough life in childhood. I was born in a very poor family comprising six brothers and sisters.
In those days there was no irrigation, no electricity, no trasport facility. Our hamlet comprising of 15 to 20 villages was very close to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Since childhood we watched tigers, cubs moving around in the area, attacking our cattle and posing threat to people. Our agricultural fields were too close to the forests.
Most villagers carried sticks which was useful when confronted with wild animals. When we go in jungle we fight with the sticks. So the fear factor was not there. That is how we overcame fear. Your personality becomes little fearless.
I spend the childhood in forest, fields and banks of Banas river. While only my elder brother used to attend school those days, the other siblings used to be with parents tending to cattle including 40 cows and other works in the field.
At 7 I was sent to school which was nearly four km from my hamlet. It was a one room school with children mostly sitting on a mat under a tree. After completing fifth standard, I joined the UP school which was is in another town Khirni. Reaching school was a tough task as we had to cross a river and then walk eight km. It used to be really tough during rainy season when the river was in full fury.
My parents were keen to make a doctor and wanted me to take up science subjects. There was no science college nearby so I had to join a institution in Swai Madhopur district headquarters.
I cleared the pre-medical test but did not pursue science stream. I was keen on civil service and took up arts with political science, history and sociology being my favourite subjects.
I got married at the age of 15 years and my wife was around 14 years. But as per our tradition even though the marriage takes place early, husband and wife see each other only after attaining the age of 20 years. After completing BA, I came to Delhi in 1983 and it was the time when we started the family life.
Later took admission in DU and did MA in political science. Got selected in Group D service and joined Delhi government. During that period my wife used to agricultural work and had no idea about what I was studying. We were hand to mouth because the produce was less and didn’t fetch much money. It was my mother who used to churn milk and work in the fields. Her hard work held us in good stead. It was tough life but very pure life.
In the second attempt I got in to railway service. But it was in the third attempt in 1987 I got into IAS. Kerala cadre came through lottery. I came to Kerala along with my wife Dholi and two daughters. She didn’t knew English hence faced lot of difficulty initially. But she picked up Malayalam fast.
The career in Kerala began in 1989 as Assistant Collector Kollam.
S.M. Vijayanand was collector and T.P. Senkukar was SP. They gave good training and helped me a lot and their families were big support to my wife as we lived in the quarters in Thevally.
Later moved to Perinth-almanna as sub colector and spent one and a half years. Thereafter joined as sub collector Cheng-annur. In 1992 I was posted as director civil supplies but could survive there for only seven months. I stopped allotment of wheat to millers which was being done flouting all rules. The then food and civil supplies minister T.H. Mustafa got wild. But I stood my ground and objected to the practice of giving away ration wheat which had high amount of subsidy to millers as it was meant for the poor people.
The minister wrote adverse remarks on my Annual Confidential Report. I was chucked out. The then chief minister K Karunakaran threatened to suspend me. “Meena you have gone mad. Karunakaran blasted me like anything. I told him that mad people have to be dealt with by only mad person."
Mustafa wrote all nonsense on my ACR. The IAS association comprising K.M. Abraham, Vinod Rai, Gopalkrishn Pillai and S.M. Vijayanad defended me. But the government didn’t do anything. Then A.K. Antony became the chief minister. I still have a letter that was written by D Babu Paul to Antony. Paul and myself went and met Antony and requested him to expunge the adverse remarks from the ACR.
But he said the then chief secretary Ramacha-ndran Nair was not sending the file to him. If the CS is not putting up a file then what are you doing here as CM, Babu Paul got angry and left the room in a huff.
“Come Meena there is no hope from this man,” he said. It was a very bitter experience. The new government came in 1996 under E.K. Nayanar. And one of the very first decisions of the new Cabinet was to expunge the adverse remarks from my ACR. C.P. Nair who was the chief secretary then, came to my room with the GO with so much happiness. Meena I want to give you a gift this is the GO I thought I should deliver it to you personally.
After that they posted me as collector Thrissur in 1996. We worked well for the peoples plan along with Thomas Isaac, C. Raveendranath, K. Radh-akrishnan, A.C. Moideen and S.M. Vijayanand. I had good rapport with them.
The second part of the story began in Thrissur when the CPM fellows fell out with me. We raided the godowns of a prominent toddy dealer. The owner was put in jail by me. The family which runs transport company now, were in toddy business earlier. They had a very big manufacturing unit in Irinjalakuda. Me and B.S. Sandhya who was the then SP raided the godown and seized 1.50 lakh litres of illegal and spurious toddy.
Most CPM, CPI, Congress leaders were close to them. They were angry with us. Why you conducted the raid without our permission, without consulting the government. I told them there was no need for Collector to seek permission for raid against spurious toddy.
I was given punishment transfer Wayaad. I didn’t join because there was school facility for my kids. I went on leave to Rajasthan for 45 days. I thought they will change the decision. I wanted posting in Secretariat and didn’t wish to continue as collector. But after I returned, they asked me to join as collector. They caught me in one file. There was a mistake committed by district panchayat and sub collector while sanctioning a project. I was accused of failing to protect the government’s interest and approving the scheme wrongly.
The IAS officers association took up the matter with CM Nayanar and the suspension was revoked within a week.
Subsequently I went on deputation to Centre in 2001 joined Planning Commission and two years as director in PMO.
In 2014, I was posted as general observer in Pulwama during J and K polls, spent 28 days during which our convoy came under attack thrice.
Amid all the controversy and ups and downs, Meena is happy that he could discharge his duties impartially. His eldest daughter Sumita is a Rajasthan cadre officer posted as deputy director Rajashan and the second daughter Sonia is a 2013 batch IAS officer currently posted as Director Tourism Rajasthan. She is batch mate Sreeram Venkataram. Another son and daughter are pursing courses in JNU Delhi.