Robust in academics, vibrant in administration

IAS officer of the 1999 batch, Richa Bagla has carried forward her meritorious academic record to all the assignments she has been through so far. She believes that the feeling of having done your work sincerely and the positive results of those efforts are her real rewards. Little wonder, she was named among the top 50 bureaucrats for Honesty, Integrity and Impartiality to the core. 

There is no pillow as soft as the conscience. Conscience is a cognitive process that elicits emotion based on an individual’s value system and if this process is catalyzed by sound education and academics, you have a personality whose conduct and character become reference points for others to follow. Ms Richa Bagla, IAS of the 1999 batch and currently the Joint Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, is a luminous example of how good bureaucrats can be great spark plugs of good governance.

Ms Bagla has worked in multiple sectors of country’s development, economic and social infrastructure, project conception, development, execution, administration and appraisal and has excelled in donning all these robes. Specialized in Human Resource Management, Disaster Management, Rural/Urban amenities and administration, Project Execution and socio-economic infrastructure development, she has been named as among the top 50 bureaucrats in a nationwide survey by the Fame India, Asia Post and PSU Watch who have created new benchmarks of performance in public service. That speaks volumes of the meritorious service she has put in her two decades plus service with a promise of more to come.

This recognition has come strictly on her merits as the parameters for selection of these officers were: Effective governance, Sagacious decision-making, Responsible working, Professional attitude, behaviour with people at large and the ability to take quick and impactful decisions. But true to her nature, she remains down-to-earth and is cordial to a fault. Her school of thought is a classic example of what goes into the making of a complete officer.

Speaking in measured nuances and choosing her words as if to weigh their weight before uttering them, Ms Bagla uses her brevity to fill in on what spurred her to take up the civil services. “I was outstanding in school and college and did my graduation and post graduation in Zoology. The goal post was to become a doctor. But there was also this persistent urge to do something for the country. I had been offered a scholarship by reputed institutions but my quest for academics was to become a gateway for the IAS. I realized I could harness my academics to help people to access knowledge. Evincing interest in varied subjects was just the fillip this urge needed. Life sciences, Development, people’s problems opened my horizons to the fact that I could contribute to their development. The urban surroundings shaped and evolved my vision in deciding the blueprint of life.”

It is not difficult to seek why Ms Bagla scripted a success story out of each assignment that she handled with aplomb in 21 years. Before she took charge as the Joint Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, she worked as the CEO of the Khadi and Village Industries Board and was always focused on restoring Maharashtra’s pride fabric and winning the confidence of the handloom sector. Prior to that, she worked as Director Textiles, Additional Commissioner & Member-Secretary, Vidarbha Statutory Development Board, District Collector, Amravati and Additional Divisional Commissioner, Aurangabad. In each of these stints, she channelized her education and commitment with positive results.

Ms Bagla’s resolve steeled with every posting as she found in them an effective instrument of change, a dream that she nourished and cherished. “Twenty years down the line, my commitment remains undiluted. Each posting with its diversity is a sea of knowledge and an opportunity to learn. I am a round-the-clock learner. It has enabled me to glide through all the challenges and diversities. Of course, there were postings where it was an abiding pleasure to be associated with developmental activity. As CEO, Zilla Parishad, Sangli, I recall being part of the Implementation of development projects in rural area, in sectors of Primary Education, Health, Water and Sanitation, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Irrigation, Watershed, Wasteland development and Women empowerment. It was heartening to be part of self-help groups and transform the lives of resident tribals.

As Director Textiles, she was symbiotic in restoring the past glory of Indian handloom just the way Khadi was presented in a modern avtaar from its considered geriatric status to a world class brand through e-marketing. “I am happy I could bring visibility and appreciation to the Khadi while supporting the weavers’ community. Innovation played a pivotal role and as it eventually turned out, a game-changer. As hands-on in the field, I am happy to reflect that I have been able to contribute my bit in a positive way, as an officer and as an individual. Be it the challenging relief and rehabilitation work in Taloda sub-division of Nandurbar district; the Sanitation Campaign and Self Help Group empowerment as CEO, ZP Sangli; the seamless transition from Bombay Sales Tax regime to VAT administration in Aurangabad division, I could deliver and motivate my team to achieve higher.”

The officer believes that the positive results of her endeavours are her real rewards. “The real motivation comes from performing your duty and steering teams. The bottom line is institutions should continue with more vigour so that they become self-sustaining. I feel satisfied at making systems perform and deliver and in ensuring their sustainability, regardless of change in manpower. I have never felt any major hurdles at work. “I have been blessed with a supportive family and a great team at work, which has risen to the occasion when motivated to deliver. My approach has been to communicate effectively with all stakeholders all the time, do the day’s work well and try and do better than yesterday, every day. This helped me tackle all challenges at hand with a sense of composure and balance. I feel women have the innate strength to succeed at whatever they genuinely believe in and this success comes with persistence and hard work.”

Ms Bagla has compartmentalized her time frames to strike work-life balance. “I do full justice to my work and I am never pushed in any way, not even in these trying times of pandemic. I know it’s not easy for someone like me as a mother of two but then I take each day as it comes. Hanging out, trying and learning new recipes, watching movies, reading are some of the things we bond with as family on weekends and whenever time permits.”

There was time when Ms Bagla had fleeting thoughts of become a journalist. “Now that you ask me, I must say I love to write. My articles have been published in Pioneer and Hindustan Times. Wish I could write more.” Having left her mark in all that she has done so far, there is a strong reason to believe that she could have made a competent journalist too. Public administration’s gain might well be Journalism’s loss.