The more challenges I faced, stronger I emerged: Neela Satyanarayana

The more challenges I faced, stronger I emerged: Neela Satyanarayana

Mental discrimination is always there... not surprising there’s never been a woman chief secretary in the history of the state, says Maharashtra’s first election commissioner Neela Satyanarayana.

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Neela Satyanarayana

EVEN AS women bureaucrats are breaking the glass ceiling to attain key positions in the government sector, which is evident from the rising number of women IAS officers, there is still some hesitance to handover key positions to women officers in government service.

Having been in the system for the last 42 years, the journey has been no less than a struggle and it is increasingly difficult for a woman, as they have to keep proving their efficiency all the time. If you are given a plum posting, you are expected to prove yourself every minute while for a man, it is much easier.

The “mental discrimination” is always there when a woman is given a prime position and therefore, it is not surprising that there’s never been a woman chief secretary in the history of the state.

I am a 1972 batch officer and have been associated with this field for the last 42 years and there has been several ups and downs. There are posts that are not given to you because you are a woman and there are positions where you have to repeatedly prove yourself because you are a woman.


During my tenure there were a few women officers in the field and it was on sheer merit that key postings were given. Fortunately, once trust is developed and you have been able to prove your mettle, then there is no looking back.

It has taken over 20 years to rise above gender discrimination in the heavily-male dominated system and now with more women officers being given plum posts, they are proving that they are no less than men in any field.

When I was appointed the first state woman election commissioner, there was a huge hue and cry on whether I would be able to manage the position, however, I did serve my term well.

On hurdles posed by politicians, she said if you are firm, then you have to maintain your stand even if there is political pressure. It might upset you at that point but there is always the next mountain to climb and the next challenge.

I remember when I was serving as textile secretary I had put my foot down to have a policy that looks into the rehabilitation of workers of textile mills on the verge of shutdown. However, the political lobby shared a different opinion. I stood firm but due to a conflict in opinion, got a transfer to another department.
However, my confidence grew and I emerged stronger after this. I took on more responsible roles and was fortunate enough to hold key positions in revenue and home department and finally, that of the state election commissioner.

When there was a lot of opposition on my appointment, I was able to implement a good system and make it more voter friendly.