At a time when most women’s dreams were limited to finding a good match for themselves, Anna Rajam Malhotra broke the stereotypes associated with a woman to become India’s first IAS officer. She also became the first woman to hold a secretarial post in the Central government.
Anna had to face many prejudices for being a woman, and people constantly doubted her capabilities. She was even mocked by her female colleagues for making this decision, and soon she made history.
Anna cracked her Civil Services examination back in 1950, and was requested by the panel to join either Foreign service or Central service despite her merit. However, Anna stood her ground and was given a secretarial post instead of district sub-collector by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Anna was not just good academically, she also excelled at rifle and pistol shooting, and horse-riding. She did not wish her capabilities to be questioned for any reason. However, she still faced discrimination and was allegedly asked to not get married during her service tenure. The rule, which was applicable only for women, was removed a few years later.
Anna was born on July 17, 1927, in a village in Kerala. She was brought up in Calicut and had completed her intermediate education at Providence Women’s College there. After completing her graduation from Malabar Christian University in Calicut, she went to Tamil Nadu to pursue her Masters in English Literature from University of Madras.
During her service, elephants entered into a village, and Anna was pressurised to pass an order to kill them. However, she did not want to kill a harmless animal. Hence, she decided to take intelligent measures to send these elephants back to the forest. She was successful, leaving everyone thoroughly impressed.
It was during Anna’s service that the first computerised contained port was built in Mumbai, known as the Jawaharlal Nehru Port. She also assisted Nehru in 1982 during the Asiad Conference. She travelled with Indira Gandhi to eight States to understand the food production pattern despite her ankles being broken.
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