Anna Rajam Malhotra, India's first female IAS officer after Independence, is an enduring source of inspiration for countless women aspiring to join the civil services. Her remarkable journey defied societal norms and challenged gender stereotypes, leaving an indelible mark on India's civil services. With determination, intelligence, and an unwavering spirit, she broke barriers and blazed a trail for countless women to follow. Her groundbreaking achievements as a UPSC IAS officer not only shattered glass ceilings but also became a symbol of empowerment and progress.
Born as Anna Rajam George in the Ernakulam district of Kerala in 1927, she relocated to Chennai after completing her schooling in Kozhikode to pursue higher education at the University of Madras.
According to a Zee News report, Anna Rajam Malhotra embarked on her civil services journey in 1951 during a period when entrenched gender stereotypes presented formidable challenges.
Choosing the Madras cadre, she served in the Madras state under the leadership of the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, C. Rajagopalachari. It was during her training that she met her future husband, RN Malhotra, who later served as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from 1985 to 1990.
One of her significant contributions was the establishment of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), located near Mumbai. Anna Rajam Malhotra assumed the position of chairperson during the project's execution, a responsibility assigned as part of her deputation in the Central government. Her leadership and vision played a pivotal role in the development of this modern port, enhancing trade and infrastructure.
In recognition of her distinguished civil service career, Anna Rajam Malhotra was honoured with the Padma Bhushan Award in 1989, India's third-highest civilian accolade.
Throughout her illustrious career, Anna Rajam Malhotra served under seven chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, showcasing her versatility and adaptability. She collaborated closely with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when he oversaw the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, contributing her administrative expertise to the success of the event. Additionally, she made valuable contributions to the personnel section of the Union Home Ministry during her tenure in central services.
After retiring from her official duties, Malhotra continued to serve in various capacities. She became a director of Hotel Leela Venture Ltd, further demonstrating her ability to excel in diverse fields. Tragically, she passed away at the age of 91 at her residence in suburban Andheri, Mumbai, in 2018, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire generations.