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India’s first woman IAS officer dead

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Anna Rajam Malhotra, 91, joined civil services in 1951 and opted for the Madras cadre

India’s first woman IAS officer after Independence, Anna Rajam Malhotra, who served in the Madras State under then Chief Minister C. Rajagopalachari and at the Central government, died in Mumbai on Monday. She was 91.

Born Anna Rajam George in Kerala’s Ernakulam district in July 1927, she moved to Chennai after her schooling in Kozhikode to pursue higher education at the University of Madras. She later married R.N. Malhotra, who served as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from 1985 to 1990.

Ms. Malhotra joined the civil services in 1951 and opted for the Madras cadre. Though the interview board sought to convince her that the Foreign Service and the Central Services were “suitable for women”, she insisted on joining the civil service.

Set an example

In an interview to The Hindu in 2012, she recalled that Rajaji was in principle against women entering public service and was not keen to post her in the field.

“He was convinced that I would be unable to handle the law and order situation,” she said, adding that she had argued that she should be given a chance to prove herself. Much later at a public meeting, Rajaji had cited her as an example of progressive women.

Ms. Malhotra, who was trained in horse riding and shooting, was first posted in Hosur as a Sub Collector. During her tenure, she refused to issue orders to kill six elephants that had entered a village. Instead, she successfully managed the operation to drive the pachyderms back to the forests.

The officer worked under seven Chief Ministers and also with Rajiv Gandhi, when as an MP in 1982, he was in-charge of the Asian Games project in Delhi. Ms. Malhotra also accompanied former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on an eight-nation tour and had served in the personnel section of the Union Home Ministry.

First computerised port

She also successfully executed the construction of India’s first computerised port Nhava Sheva (Jawaharlal Nehru Port) in Mumbai as its chairperson.

Interestingly, when she joined service, the rules said, “In the event of marriage, your service will be terminated.” However, the rules were changed thereafter.

Paying tributes to Ms. Malhotra, retired Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer Santha Sheela Nair said: “She was a great lady and she was my role model. Whenever people appreciated me, they used to say my actions resembled hers a lot.”

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 10:59:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/indias-first-woman-ias-officer-dead/article24971462.ece

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