There was one attempt on her life last year and at least half-a-dozen threats. But N. Suki Premila, the then Taluk Supply Officer of Vilavancode in Kanyakumari district, stood her ground. The 38-year-old woman who embarked on a mission to prevent smuggling of ration rice was chosen for the ‘Kalpana Chawla Award for Courage and Daring Enterprise’ this year.

During her stint in Vilavancode, Ms. Premila intercepted a large number of vehicles heading to Kerala and seized 110 tonnes of rice and 20,000 litres of kerosene meant for public distribution system. Besides surprise checks, she organised raids based on specific intelligence inputs.

Threats did not deter her from intensifying operations against rice smugglers. In 2012, an attempt was made to eliminate the official.

“I was travelling in a jeep when a speeding lorry tried to collide head-on. My driver swerved and averted the collision…an ‘attempt to murder’ case was registered by the local police,” she said. On one occasion, she said a lorry sped through barricades even after Revenue officials signalled the driver to stop.

“We chased the lorry for at least 40 kms and managed to intercept it along the State borders. Our suspicion was that the lorry was smuggling rice…but it had 1,500 kg of explosive substance.”

Released on bail, the lorry driver came to her office and warned of dire consequences if she pursued the case. Ms. Premila is now the Tahsildar (Flying Squad) in Kanyakumari district.

“Over a period of time, I got used to threats. I am happy receiving the Kalpana Chawla award and hope this will motivate other women officials to perform and excel amid constraints,” she said.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa presented the award that carries a cash prize of Rs. 5 lakh, a gold medal and a citation to Ms. Premila as part of the Independence Day celebrations here on Thursday.