Former Chief Secretary S. Malathi, who took voluntary retirement from government service in August last, succumbed to cancer at a private hospital in the city on Sunday morning.
She was 57. She is survived by her daughter Dhanya, mother S. Rajam, brother S. Madhavan and sister Mythili Bhaskaran.
In July 2003, Ms. Malathi was diagnosed with cancer of the breast. She immediately underwent medical treatment, which was effective for sometime. For five years between 2006 and 2011, the disease did not cripple her functioning, even though it relapsed. She held the posts of Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, Home Secretary and Vigilance Commissioner before becoming Chief Secretary on August 31, 2010.
After the assumption of office by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in May last, Ms Malathi was posted Additional Chief Secretary/Director of Economics and Statistics. Her batch mate Debendranath Sarangi succeeded her as Chief Secretary.
Widely respected for her administrative capabilities, uprightness and integrity, Ms. Malathi belonged to the 1977 batch of the Indian Administrative Service. She was barely 23 when she joined the service. In her 34-year-long service, she held various posts, including Collector of the erstwhile North Arcot district (1987-1989), Additional/ Special Secretary in the Finance Department (1993-1994) and Secretary of the Municipal Administration and Water Supply (MAWS) Department as Secretary (1996-2001). Her stint in the MAWS department was noteworthy as she presided over the execution of several development projects in the urban areas of the State. She considered her performance in the MAWS department most fulfilling.
A native of Thanjavur district, Ms. Malathi was the second woman to become Chief Secretary, the first being Lakshmi Pranesh (December 2002-April 2005).
Ms. Malathi was not known to be an extrovert though she was an extremely warm person. She would not go out of the way to court publicity but never refused to meet mediapersons. She was candid about her battle with the disease. After contracting the disease, she wrote a few articles, both in Tamil and English, about her experiences as a cancer patient. Her main prescription was: “be positive”. She used to say that she woke up every day in the morning, happy to be alive and to do a good turn during the day. The last few months must have been painful. About a month ago, she sent a message to this correspondent that she was in and out of Apollo Hospital for treatment.
Summing up her personality, M.F. Farooqui, a colleague and Additional Secretary in the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, regards Ms Malathi's integrity in official and social behaviour and her intellectual superiority as remarkable. Noting that she struggled a lot in life, Mr. Farooqui adds that “she always held on to what she considered right.”