February 28, 2021
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Against All Odds: First IAS Officer From Kerala’s Tribal Communities

Daughter of daily wage workers, Sreedhanya Suresh is the first IAS officer from a tribal community in Kerala

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Against All Odds: First IAS Officer From Kerala’s Tribal Communities
Sreedhanya Suresh
Against All Odds: First IAS Officer From Kerala’s Tribal Communities

Sreedhanya Suresh, the new assistant collector of Kozhikode, is unruffled in the face of unprecedented crisis, induced by the Coronavirus pandemic — her first official assignment after taking charge in June this year. But Sreedhanya, first IAS officer from a tribal community in Kerala, is not a stranger to such adverse situations in life. It is, therefore, not surprising that she is already preparing herself for bigger challenges in her professional life.

“We are living in unusual times due to the pandemic. Currently, I am fully engaged in Covid duties along with other responsibilities. The experience is good so far. But I am waiting for more challenging experiences,” she told Outlook over the phone from Kozhikode.

The young officer, who secured 410th rank in the 2018 Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams, hails from Wayanad, one of the most backward districts in Kerala that houses a large population of tribal communities. Sreedhanya’s success story serves as an inspiration to many in the Kurichya community, the tribe she belongs to.

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It is the exemplary grit and the determination that helped the youngster to fight extreme social and economic backwardness. Daughter of daily wage earners, financial constraints worked as a major roadblock for Sreedhanya in pursuing her dreams to crack the elite service. Since her parents’ meager income couldn’t meet the expenses for civil service coaching, Sreedhanya says that it’s the kind gesture of some good-hearted people that she realised her goal.

“Since I come from a marginalised community, I faced adversities like economic backwardness. I didn't have enough money to pursue my dreams. I had difficulties meeting expenses for civil service coaching. The Scheduled Tribe department and Fortune IAS Academy helped me a lot in fulfilling my dream,” she said.

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After completing graduation in Zoology from St Joseph's College Kozhikode, Sreedhanya did Masters in Applied Zoology from the University of Calicut. She also worked for a year as a Project Assistant in the Scheduled Tribe Development Department till 2016 before attempting the exams.

Determination and self-motivation was her key to script her success story, she told Outlook.

“I am a self-motivated person. What inspired me is myself. Nobody can motivate you except for yourself,” she said. As an IAS officer, Sreedhanya said, her aim is to work towards the upliftment of the marginalised and the underprivileged.

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“As a civil servant, I want to work towards the empowerment of marginalised communities such as transgenders, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. My focus will be on education and bringing in the environment-friendly development,” she added.

Sreedhanya said that education was the only way to bring about change in the system. “For the marginalised, social empowerment can be achieved only through education. Anyone can snatch away your wealth, but that’s not the case with education.”

Sreedhanya’s message to the civil service aspirants is to have faith in oneself to beat the odds.

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“My message to the aspirants is to stay focused and believe in oneself. One can conquer anything under the sun if you are truthful to your goal. Do not blindly copy the toppers and try to chalk out your own strategy to clear the UPSC,” she said.

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