Standing tall on a strong foundation
Poonam Malakondiah, Principal Secretary, Agriculture, holds a distinguished record of being one of the most honest and upright IAS officers in a trying system. Even as a bright student, young Poonam had seamlessly travelled from one gold medal to another. Her poise and composure may drive one to believe that holding the position of a civil servant is but a cake walk.
Parents must encourage their children to participate in as many activities as they can. They should not consider it a waste of their time, it is only through such activities can children battle their fears of strangers and failure to build all-round personalities
Poonam Malakondiah, Principal Secretary, Agriculture, holds a distinguished record of being one of the most honest and upright IAS officers in a trying system. Even as a bright student, young Poonam had seamlessly travelled from one gold medal to another. Her poise and composure may drive one to believe that holding the position of a civil servant is but a cake walk. It is only when one takes a closer look at her life and choices, can one understand what has gone into the making of the woman who possess an unbreakable resolve and nerves of steel.
Poonam had travelled extensively throughout the country, thanks to her scientist father who held positions in several research institutes. “My father would take a month off every year to take us travelling. He helped us stay connected to villages”, she says, insisting that travel is a great teacher. Though, Poonam hopped through many schools, it was in Coimbatore’s Avila Convent that she spent the maximum number of years pursuing her primary education.
“My school laid tremendous emphasis on moral values and discipline. Also, 30 per cent of school time was dedicated to extra-curricular activities”, she recalls, adding that her interest in extra-curricular activities as a child stood her in good stead even when she prepared for her civil service examinations.
“Parents must encourage their children to participate in as many activities as they can. They should not consider it a waste of their time”, she says, stressing that it is only through such activities can children battle their fears of strangers and failure to build all-round personalities.
As a child, she’s dreamt of being a doctor. But Poonam’s perfect track record as a topper was first broken in her twelfth standard to the dismay of her parents and teachers, who nevertheless encouraged Poonam to pursue her dreams. “I was consoled by one of the Sisters in my school, who assured me that god had other plans for me”.
PSGR Krishnammal College proved to be an extension her school, where Poonam enrolled to pursue her Botony Honors. Her enthusiastic participation in debates, essay and elocution competitions had helped her widen her horizons. She was also elected Vice-President of the student body in her college.
After securing her position as the topper in Madras University in Botony, Poonam looked to pursue her higher education in Micro-biology, where her guide Prof-Subbarao,a renowned scientist himself, inspired her . Poonam harbored ambitions of being a scientist. But indeed, there were other plans for her. Her admission into the Indian Agricultural Research Institute had changed the course of her journey. Coaxed by her friends to sit for the civil services exams, Poonam joined the bandwagon of aspiring civil servants. “I did not know much about the exam.
Taking it as yet another competition, I attended the exams and cracked them”, she says. Asked about the secret of her success at the civils, she simple points back to the strong foundation laid at childhood. “My participation as a child in extra-curricular activities had broadened my horizons”, she says.
“I joined a coaching centre on the insistence of my friends again. But I quit in a single day as I thought their method of coaching was not natural. I wanted to retain my own signature and personality”, she says. It comes as little surprise that she cleared the hurdles with flying colours. Trained at Warangal, Poonam later held positions in Medak, Guntur, Vishakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram where she spent a significant amount of her time interacting with people.
“I took to touring and meeting people personally. It is here you get to learn a lot and stumble onto innovative approaches to problems”, she says. Poonam served in several departments including education, health, agriculture, social welfare, transport and Panchayati Raj. “Civil services is the most challenging job in the country”, she asserts. “You are involved in the policy making and the result of their implementation is right there for you to see”, she adds. Her career had put in front of her several hurdles that required acute observation and acumen.
“Her resolve had even forced Monsanto to buckle and reduce the price of seeds, a move that immensely benefitted the farmers. As to where she derives her strength from, Poonam again points to her childhood. “My school played a very important role. Even as a child I would listen to my mother narrate tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
She would tell us about Rani Laxmi Bai and Rana Pratap. The seeds of my personality were laid at that point of time in my life”, she stresses, adding that she holds on steadfastly to her principles even in the time of despair. Talking about the present education system, Poonam rues that there is an over-emphasis on education and that extra- curricular activities are as a result being neglected.