In a minor reshuffle of IAS officers, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala appointed a young officer T.V. Anupama as District Collector of Alappuzha in August 2017.
Five weeks later, the government found itself in a sticky situation, thanks to two back-to-back reports filed by the new collector with the Revenue Department, endorsing the charge of encroachment and conversion of land in violation of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act by a resort owned by Transport Minister Thomas Chandy. The rest is history.
The minister tried his best to stick on and even went to the Kerala High Court with the request that her inquiry report be quashed. The court not only refused to oblige him, but also came down heavily on him with strong strictures for filing a petition against his own government. The minister’s fate was sealed.
It was not the first time that Anupama, a native of Ponnani in Malappuram district and a holder of B.E. (Hons) in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from BITS Pilani, Goa, had taken on the high and mighty.
“There is a greater good in things we do as civil servants. I have chosen this field so that I can serve a larger population and work in diverse fields,” says Anupama, who secured the fourth rank in her first shot at the UPSC examinations in 2010.
She had always nurtured the dream to become an IAS officer and was ready to try again if she failed in her first attempt.
That tenacity was evident once she joined the civil service: she seemed always ready to question and tackle the faults in the system.
In 2014, soon after her appointment as Food Safety Commissioner, she got a CITU leader arrested on the charge of demanding ‘ nokkukooli ’, the money paid to union head-load workers to simply watch the loading or unloading of goods.
Anupama’s stint as the head of Food Safety Commissionarate was action-packed. She conducted multiple raids across the State, took food adulterators head-on and banned a number of products, including several popular brands.
Wrath for her work
The grit of the IAS officer has helped expose high levels of adulteration and rampant use of pesticides in vegetables and fruits bought from neighbouring States, triggering a healthy food campaign in Kerala. In a way, Kerala owes a lot to Anupama for popularising organic farming practices. However, her work earned her the wrath of food adulterators and the pesticide lobby.
“Whether as Food Safety Commissioner or Collector I serve the people and their interest and well-being is my top priority. I follow the rules closely. The important thing is to apply the rules properly and I am least bothered about the impact of my decisions on my career,” Anupama told The Hindu .
She carried over the splendid work shown as Food Safety Commissioner first to the Social Justice department as its Director and then to Alappuzha. As District Collector, she is once again proving her mettle, which was evident from the handling of the crisis arising from Cyclone Ockhi. The district administration led by her ensured proper rehabilitation of the affected people and played a crucial role in bringing the missing fishermen back safely by coordinating the rescue efforts.
She had won praise by launching ‘Sevana Sparsham’, a grievance redressal programme, and is getting ready to launch a ‘hunger-free’ district project with the help of the State government to provide quality food free of cost at least once a day to the needy.
Each of her actions should reinstate the faith of many in the capabilities of the bureaucratic system.