New Delhi: Among ways for IAS officers to reach the spotlight, Prem Prakash Meena, a 2018-batch Uttar Pradesh cadre officer, found the most unusual one last year — radio silence on TV.
During the Hathras episode that unfolded in September-October 2020, a video emerged of an Aaj Tak journalist accusing the local joint magistrate, Meena, of misbehaving with her over reporting the controversial rape and murder case.
In the six-minute video, the journalist accused Meena of threatening her over reporting the case. She repeatedly confronted him on camera, asking questions and seeking comments over his alleged misbehaviour.
Meena didn’t respond, at all. He just stood there quietly, with his mask on and head down, until the journalist walked away from him.
The video went viral on social media. While some applauded the IAS officer for staying patient in the face of ‘provocation’, others criticised his approach.
But in the year since this episode, Meena has found his voice.
Seeking to change his image, the IAS officer has taken to social media — posting tutorials for UPSC aspirants on YouTube, and updates about field visits on Instagram.
‘Officer by day, mentor by evening’ is how comments on his YouTube videos describe him. In these videos, Meena talks about current affairs for civil servant aspirants in the Hindi heartland.
“I have mentored around 100 candidates for UPSC across the country and the videos are for those who don’t have access to coaching centres and all,” Meena told ThePrint in an interview.
His Instagram page, where he has over 80,000 followers, also buzzes with routine posts on his work, among others.
Meena is currently serving as a sub-divisional magistrate in the Chandauli district of UP.
160 videos with 28k subscribers
Meena’s YouTube journey began in December 2020, when he started making videos on his inspections of gram panchayats, encroachment sites and solving property disputes.
His channel titled ‘Prem Prakash Meena, IAS’ has 160 videos now, with over 29,000 subscribers. Of these, nearly a couple of dozen are about his work while the rest are for civil servant aspirants.
“There are candidates who cannot afford the costly coaching fee that varies from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. I cracked UPSC without any coaching. Others can too. To reach out to them, I started making videos,” said Meena.
Asked about the logistics of making these videos, Meena said he has a team that edits and shoots.
A chemical engineer from Rajasthan
Prem Prakash Meena belongs to the Meena community, a scheduled tribe. He is a native of Alwar district in Rajasthan.
Meena is a chemical engineering graduate from Jaipur. He also did an M.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay in 2006. He worked in international oil and gas companies for around a decade, before deciding to switch tracks and enter the civil services, Meena told ThePrint.
“In 2014 I sat down to decide whether I want to continue this job for the rest of my life or not. With much deliberation, I returned to India in 2015 and started preparing for UPSC. Next year, I appeared for my first attempt and got a rank of 900. I could have joined as an IRS (officer). But within three months, I made a second attempt and secured 102 rank,” he said.
As an Indian Administrative Service officer, Meena was allotted the Uttar Pradesh cadre. He completed his training as a probationer in Basti, after which he was posted as a sub-divisional magistrate in Hathras.
‘Nyay aapke dwar’ initiative
Meena uses social media platforms Twitter and Facebook as well to communicate with the people in his district, and resolve their grievances.
“People can criticise bureaucrats for being active on popular social media platforms but it can help you deliver your work too. Why should someone travel 50 km to reach my office, when he can reach out on social media and get his issues addressed,” said Meena.
“With this mindset, I started ‘Nyay Aapke Dwar’ initiative where I got the doors of those who need justice,” he said.
‘Nyay Aapke Dwar’ (justice at your doorstep) is a dispute resolution initiative by Meena that was started from Basti. He continued this in Hathras and Chandauli too.
“When I saw that some cases were pending for the last 15-20 years just because an official’s visit was needed to speed up the process, I decided to go on to the sites of property disputes, encroachment and public nuisances,” he said.
“Once you bring all the parties together, the dispute can be resolved. So far, we have resolved more than 800 such cases which had been pending for years,” he added.