The hallmark of a true leader is the service they provide and the empowerment they bestow to the people they serve. Defined by a career focused on contribution, Dr. Malini Shankar of MDM 1991 is an exemplary servant-leader.

Dr. Shankar joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1984. She was assigned both by the government of the Maharashtra state and the Government of India (GOI), to several positions that required efficient field management and implementation, policy making, and regulatory responsibility. Dr. Shankar was also empanelled by the GOI as Additional Secretary, and later Secretary to the Government of India.  

In her capacity as a leader under the IAS, Dr. Shankar has served in key positions that work to empower India’s citizens. Dr. Shankar’s policies and projects have created positive impact on as many as 110 million people in the State of Maharashtra. As Project Director of the World Bank-assisted Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation Project in Maharashtra, Dr. Shankar implemented an approximately USD 180 million project that covered 540 villages and two urban agglomerations in the Indian state. This sanitation project was the first such integrated program in the country, where Dr. Shankar gave extensive training and motivation to project members in the fields Project Management, Efficiency, and Delivery. The success of this project and the effect on public health and environmental cleanliness was such that Dr. Shankar came to be referred to as the “Swacchata bai” or the “cleanliness woman”.

As Collector and District manager of the Nagpur District, Dr. Shankar became widely renowned for streamlining the government’s incentive program for micro, small and medium enterprises, which could avail of financial assistance based on their investment and employment. However, this incentive program was notorious for its sluggish speed, with turnaround times commonly exceeding one year. With the implementation of an online transfer program, Dr. Shankar was able to accelerate the transfer of funds to as short as 24 hours. Within the first year of her program alone, over USD 90 million was disbursed to over 400 companies.

Dr. Shankar was also appointed to the post of Principal Secretary – Water Supply and Sanitation of the Government of Maharashtra, where she contributed significantly to making clean drinking water available to rural towns and remote villages. By creating reform-based incentives to motivate municipal bodies to better manage their water systems, and by introducing and standardizing a series of metrics for monitoring water, Dr. Shankar was also able to identify problems with water supply, in particular with local strongmen. Because of this success, Dr. Shankar was also the first IAS officer to head the controversial Irrigation and Dam Management division of the Water Resources Department in 35 years. Beset by inadequate results, project cost overruns, and a lack of accountability, Dr. Shankar brought some much-needed order by creating systems for project oversight and accounting for water resources management. She also spearheaded the E-Jalseva Initiative, an online planning system for water resources which not only addressed the difficulties of supply and demand logistics, but also assessed financial and legal compliance from bulk water users, such as industries, power plants, and urban municipal bodies.

Apart from her achievements in the water sector, Dr. Shankar also improved the lives of seafarers, improving the quality of education at 130 maritime institutes, and fiercely negotiated for USD 26.1 million to clean up oil spills at Ennore Port, South India.

This multi-faceted success and unending dedication to put her skills at the service of others makes Dr. Shankar more than worthy of the title of “leader”.