You have to work twice as hard in male domain

You have to work twice  as hard in male domain

With novel ideas and innovations, Chief Secretary Minnie Mathew A has brought in several changes in the state administration. You are the...

With novel ideas and innovations, Chief Secretary Minnie Mathew A has brought in several changes in the state administration. You are the second woman bureaucrat to become State Chief Secretary after Sathi Nair, also from Kerala. What's the secret to your success? Even the most lucrative of opportunities require both hard work and commitment. While some individuals begin their lives in better circumstances than others, all successful people must be committed to an endeavour and work hard to ensure that undertaking is fruitful. It is only with commitment that we can devote ourselves to an endeavour, but it is hard work that ensures its success. Certainly, not all efforts or endeavours will be successful, but success is not possible without commitment and hard work. Work with principles and be sincere to your job.
You were the first district woman Collector of Hyderabad between 1986 and 1988. What are the changes that you observe?
Hyderabad has grown manifold in every aspect. In those days, Hyderabad was only till Jubilee Hills. After that it was rocky, but now it's grown in all aspects. Jobs in IT sector have helped the city grow both economically and in size. It is a cosmopolitan city and people from various cities migrate to Hyderabad and find it a comfortable city in all aspects. In spite of growing population, the city is beautiful. It is the south of North and the North of South. In those days, we had only Central University; today we have so many institutions of excellence. It has become the hub for education.
You said in your inaugural speech as Chief Secretary, "governance should deal with small things too besides grandiose matters. I will consolidate various welfare schemes and developmental schemes." Could you achieve this at the end of your tenure?
To some extent yes, and we have a long way to go. I thank all my colleagues, officers from various other departments who as a team have helped me to do the best. Various departments were working independently, but after several meetings we went in for convergence. Today, they work together. Development is easy if departments work in unison. The Kiran Kumar Reddy government has launched several welfare programmes for the poor and the downtrodden. I was lucky to be part of the series of measures undertaken by the government. First and foremost, the government has brought in a historic legislation for the money to reach the backward classes especially the SC/STs. Now, money reaches them. The department concerned could utilise 94.93 per cent of the Plan funds and the focus was on education, enhancing living conditions, health, and self-employment generation in the projects implemented for the Scheduled Castes. We could bring about a change in dietary plans in hostels. As I was in charge of women and child welfare and had exposure, I could develop schemes to benefit women and children. The Indiramma Amrutha Hastham programme is intended to help pregnant women in the state. Success of any government scheme will depend upon the cooperation of the people, particularly anganwadi workers, ANMs and nurses. Parents dream about their child's future. It is very important to provide nutritious food, vaccination and take precautions right from the time the child is in the mother's womb. If the child has a proper growth, the dreams of the parents can be realised, hence this scheme. The government worked to bring in changes in the field of agriculture. Educating farmers about various schemes provided by the government and providing marketing facilities are among the schemes.
You came up with the novel idea of setting up a standing committee to critically examine all the requests seeking exceptions or relaxation from government rules. Is it not a difficult task?
Any new beginning is difficult but this helped in a good degree of consistency in decision-making. This is like a jury and this cuts short three levels .This committee's existence helped in objective assessment of the cases. Earlier the file moved through various departments and took a lot of time, but this committee makes it quicker; their experience and expertise help in quick decision-making.
You were Chief Commissioner of Land Administration, a tough job to deal with land grabbers and political pressure. How did you manage as a woman officer? Did you fear you would have to compromise?
I was there for a brief time but it is all about rule-based governance. We are the people responsible for governance � the leadership, direction and control of the organisations we serve. Our responsibility is to ensure that we address the purpose and objectives of the organisations and that we work in the public interest. So I used to study any case and do justice. You have to work twice as hard when you enter the seat where men dominate.
From space to coconut, you handled tough jobs, various portfolios. What are the pressures, compromises and adjustments?
One has to take a realistic view of the situation. One need not deviate or bend the rule. Take into consideration the opinions of juniors, seniors and colleagues, and work towards public interest. I learnt from my experiences.
You are the Chief Secretary of SECM (solar energy). With city roofs being cluttered and congested, is this possible?
With growing costing and shortage, we have to look for alternative means of energy. Population is increasing, so is the demand for electricity. As there is a demand-supply problem and until we get more gas from various basins, solar energy is the best bet. To set an example, we started its implementation in the secretariat . There is a lot of parking space and we could generate solar energy using this space. Equally, it served a dual purpose of giving shelter to the vehicles. We are studying possibilities and we shall implement the same. For the cities with cluttered roofs as you rightly mentioned, we shall find some alternatives but there are many places in the city with open spaces.
First woman registrar, first woman district collector, first woman to handle land administration, and second woman to be the Chief Secretary. What is women's 'shakti' to be the first always?
It came as a matter of turn, but opportunities fall into your lap as your work speaks. Your work is seen, appreciated and this gives an opportunity. I am reminded about the formation of a district. Pathanamthitta district in Kerala was formed on November 1, 1982, on the basis of my report. Pathanamthitta now includes portions of the erstwhile Kollam, Alappuzha and Idukki districts. After the formation of the district, when there was a function, people did not believe that it was a woman who was instrumental in the formation of the district. A lot of public representatives came and personally praised the good work. So the "Shakti" is silent and committed hard work. (Incidentally, her husband was the first Collector of this district).
From selection panel to throwing your hat in the ring for APERC chief post, any comments?
As Chief Secretary it comes by position that I have to do the selection. It is not Minnie Mathew as an individual, but the Chief Secretary's position which is a part of the selection committee. As I am an aspirant, I will naturally have to be out of the selection committee and it is too early to predict, let the file move.
Tell us about your education, family and hobbies
I am an MA (English literature) and MBA from The University of HULK (UK).My schooling from Class IV to XI was in a boarding school in a place called Panchagani (Pune). I come from a middle class family in Kerala. My husband Mathew Kunnumumkal is a retired IAS officer and is with the Kerala Administration Tribunal. My elder son Dr Sumit is a professor at the ISB, and the second one is a software engineer. I love travelling, seeing new places, understanding culture and trying new cuisines. I used to read books, but now I get little time. I used to write and in fact 30 years back my short story got published in The Hindu. I like walking in open areas and breathing fresh air.
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