Dr Shalini Rajneesh, Principal Secretary of Planning, Programme Monitoring & Statistics, Government of Karnataka shares her life’s journey and philosophy in this candid chat with Sudheer Goutham of Elets News Network (ENN). The Service I am in allows me to do so much for others. My mantra is to lead every day of my life as if it is the last one and make the most out of it, she says.
You are a senior bureaucrat working on various development projects which touch multiple lives in a positive way. What inspired you to pursue Civil Services as profession?
The inspiration was right at my home, my father, who was an IAS officer. I grew up watching him provide relief to all the people who visited him with so much pain. I realised that you can be a contributor in any aspect and capacity in your life by joining this Service. Hence, there was no second option for me.
That’s really inspiring. Please share some insights about your father and some of his contributions towards the society.
My father was one of the refugees coming from Pakistan during the partition. He used to study in a tent in one of the refugee camps under the streetlight. He was passionate towards his studies and also focussed and motivated towards his goal of becoming a professional and contributed towards the society. In the year 1962, he joined the Provincial Services of Punjab. In 1978, he got promoted to the IAS.
That is indeed motivational! What are the driving factors which keep you going?
I think it’s my gratitude to God almighty for bestowing me with everything that I could have asked for. The best way to repay is to do something for others. The Service I am in allows me to do so much for others. My mantra is to lead every day of my life as if it is the last one and make the most out of it. All forces of the Universe help me achieve my motto for life. That’s what keeps me going!
How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
My idea to balance personal and professional life is to forget about work once I am at home. My husband is also an IAS officer; hence both of us lead a busy lifestyle. We have a daughter who is in 9th Standard. I try to spend as much quality time with my family as possible. Sometimes I cook for them, help my daughter with her study, go out with her among other activities. I accept I cannot spend much time with my family members but I try to compensate as much as possible. At the end of the day, what satisfies me the most is the fact that my family members don’t have any complaints against me and are supportive about me and my profession.
Tell us about a typical day in your life.
My day starts as early as 4 AM. After waking up, I meditate and exercise or practice yoga for three hours. That is the most peaceful time of the day as there is nobody to disturb you. I also read and brush up my knowledge during those early hours. After that, we leave for our respective offices and come back by 6.30-7 PM. That is the time reserved for our daughter. We do not have TV so that we can spend quality time with each other. We generally discuss on various topics, share ideas etc. I retire for the day by 9 PM, before that, I do some meditation.
Please mention some of your achievements within your service which gives you immense satisfaction and pride.
I had initiated the project of online registration for organ donations. That has been a first of its kind initiative in India. The project is linked with Aadhaar which ensures the credibility. The student community was extremely motivated with the project. We organised various campaigns and awareness programmes which made people believe that there is indeed life after death, where one can live through the donated organs and save up to eight lives. My father had donated his body and organs when he left for the heavenly abode. I and my family members have also pledged to donate organs. I am glad that people are rising above the existing notions and superstitions and coming forward.
Apart from that, I would like to mention about the e-Hospital programme initiated in Karnataka. Along with that, we have the Health Assurance programme. We were the first state to provide universal health coverage, even before the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
I must also thank my entire team who also works with same passion and zeal which makes such successful initiatives possible.
What is your perspective or definition of the term ‘innovation’?
For me, innovation refers to thinking out of the box, practicing something which has not been done before by anyone else. With such thought you are able to find out solutions to problems that is hampering your way. Take for example, the issue of malnutrition. Despite various programmes and huge investments, 36 percent of the children lack the basic nutritional requirements which hamper their growth. Innovation is to introspect on where we are going wrong and to find out the right answers and solutions to problems which lack the right way out.
Apart from your wonderful work that you are doing, you have also authored several books in English and Kannada. Tell us more about it.
I wish to document the experiences I go through and preserve it for the future generation. I have not just written about my work, but also about subjects like personality development. I am a Masters in Psychology and I find that the youngsters often lack confidence and develop maturity. My book talks about developing soft skills and personality. Similarly, I wrote a book on marital harmony. This book talks about how small issues between a couple can be tackled through simple adjustments or understanding. I have been writing columns in newspapers and magazines as well.
Share some unknown aspects about your husband, who is also a senior IAS officer.
He is not only my husband, but my teacher as well. He has taught me the nuances of Kannada language and enriched my vocabulary. Unlike me, he has an introvert personality. But he has really imbibed the concept of innovation. Even if I share my anxiety or problem, he offers me an instant solution. That indeed is innovation!
You are quite active on social media. What is your thought on the role of social media in our lives?
Generally people have the notion that IAS officers are out of their reach. To break the notion and be more accessible to the people, I make it a point to be an active member of social media. It also acts as a common platform for interaction with the people which adds value to my work and service towards them. I also receive regular feedback and valuable ideas through the social media platforms.
Do you believe in planning in advance or going by the flow?
I believe in dreaming about what I want. My vision is that, nobody should suffer from the perils of poverty in my country. What can I do to achieve this goal? Maybe I can’t do everything, but with my limited resource and power I can plan accordingly and steer the change. I try to ensure more people are involved and able to contribute towards the dream. I make teams, discuss with them and use social media to do so. This is a snowball effect which further contributes towards fulfilling my dreams.
What is your message for our readers and the citizens of India as a whole?
Each one of us should be proud of our country in terms of the rich culture and heritage that India has to offer. At the same time, we must be aware about the challenges such as poverty, illiteracy. All of us have to be instrumental in alleviating and mitigating the challenges. Your job does not end with voting and bringing the government to power. You have to act as partners to the government, which you have elected. You have to provide innovative solutions and cooperate in every way to bring the changes you want to see.