It is almost every year that you hear about some girl getting into IAS after struggling hard with her financial conditions, don’t you?
Every Indian dream of being an IAS officer! And when everyone’s dream collide with each other, it gets harder to get the job. It is one thing to conquer your dream job and a completely different story to lead the way to make a dream come true. Mrs Anna Rajam Malhotra sought out the second option. She cleared her way by being the First female IAS officer in India.
The Rise of a Rebel
Born on 17th July 1927, Anna Rajam was the daughter of Ottaveli O.A. George and Anna Paul. Her childhood days were spent in the small village of Alleppey, Niranam Village. However, she grew up in Calicut. Although she was raised in a world where men prevailed over women all the time, she did not quit from her studies and fought through it. At first, she completed her intermediary education from the Providence Women’s College. As a next step, she conquered the Bachelor’s degree from Calicut’s Malabar Christian College and took another daring step to obtain the Master’s degree in English from the Madras University.
Touching the Fire of Patriarchy — Facing the Typical Gender Discrimination
It was the historic year of 1950 when Rajam first appeared for the Civil Services examination or the UPSC and cleared it at the first attempt. Not only did she clear this rock-hard examination that marks the territory of being a genius, but she also called for the interviews in 1951. It was all good till then. The struggle of discrimination by the age-old institute of Patriarchy was yet to start.
When she was called for the interview, Anna had no idea that she was the first female to crack this exam. But her excellence and brilliance could not be barred, and Rajam cracked the board interview as well. But, she was suggested to take the field of Foreign Service and Central Service as being an IAS was not suitable enough for women. Even she was offered the post of Secretariat by C. Rajagopalachari but not the post of a district sub-collector.
Swimming Against the Tide — The Inspiring Story of the First Woman to get into the Post of IAS
Had it been any other girl, the story might have just ended here. But Anna Rajam was no ordinary girl. She was the rebel who was meant to swim against the tide of stereotypes. So she did. Rajam stood for her case and raised her voice for the post she deserved. From choosing Madras Cadre to picking up the right rank, she never backed off once. And after a long battle, she got what she wanted.
However, at the time of the appointment, she was told that her service would be terminated if she got married. Even her official letter of appointment had this exact sentence.
And if you think her struggle ends here, well it does not. After getting the appointment, she was resisted by C. Rajagopalachari who opposed entering of women in the Public Service. She had to prove her capability from time and again where the men just got away with what they wanted. But her rifle-trained, horse-ridden heart and mind never let her give up. She did not only become the IAS officer she dreamed of, but she became the iconic figure who fought the discrimination in the work field and made it clear for the women.
Sexism, stereotypes, discrimination! Even women did not take Rajam seriously at the time of her appointment. However, Anna worked closely with Rajiv Gandhi in the Asiad Project and also worked with Indira Gandhi as well. Not only that, but she was also given the responsibility of India’s first computerised port, Nhava Sheva in Mumbai. In 1989, she was awarded Padma Bhushan. For a rare woman who broke all the barriers of Patriarchy, the inspiring story of the first woman to get into the post of IAS make us give her a big salute of respect!
Written By: Subharthi Bhattacharya