Anna Rajam Malhotra, the trailblazing figure who carved her path as India’s inaugural female IAS officer post-Independence, stands as an enduring beacon of inspiration for innumerable women harbouring aspirations within the realm of civil services. Her extraordinary journey transcended societal conventions and confronted deeply ingrained gender stereotypes, imprinting an indelible legacy on the landscape of India’s civil services. Fortified by unyielding determination, intellectual prowess, and an unwavering spirit, she not only shattered the glass ceiling but also paved the way for myriad women to tread the path of empowerment and progress.
Anna Rajam Malhotra, born as Anna Rajam George in 1927 in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, charted her educational pursuits to Chennai after completing her initial schooling in Kozhikode, enrolling in the University of Madras for higher studies.
Initiating her odyssey into civil services in 1951, a period marked by entrenched gender biases, Malhotra opted for the Madras cadre, serving in the state under the leadership of the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, C. Rajagopalachari. During her training, she crossed paths with RN Malhotra, her future husband and later the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from 1985 to 1990.
An architectural milestone in her career was the establishment of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) near Mumbai. As the appointed chairperson during the project’s execution, a role designated during her deputation in the Central government, Anna Rajam Malhotra played a pivotal role in steering the development of this state-of-the-art port, fostering trade and infrastructure.
In recognition of her illustrious civil service journey, Anna Rajam Malhotra was bestowed with the Padma Bhushan Award in 1989, a testament to her exceptional contributions and commitment.
Her professional trajectory spanned service under seven chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, attesting to her versatility and adaptability. Collaborating closely with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi during the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, she lent her administrative acumen to the success of the event. In addition, her tenure in central services witnessed significant contributions to the personnel section of the Union Home Ministry.
Post her official retirement, Malhotra continued to contribute actively, assuming roles such as director of Hotel Leela Venture Ltd, showcasing her prowess in diverse fields. Regrettably, she breathed her last at the age of 91 at her residence in suburban Andheri, Mumbai, in 2018, leaving behind a legacy that serves as a perennial fount of inspiration for generations to come.