In 1947 Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister of Independent India, addressed the probationers of Administrative Services Officers at Metcalf House in Delhi, and referred to public workers as the “Steel Frame of India.” Indeed, civil officials are committed to the cause of citizens and are the administrative “right hand” of the government.
All public officers across the country who are engaged in several government departments are appreciated on the Civil Services Day every year, on April 21. It is observed by the Government of India, to give an opportunity to renew their vows to public service and work excellence.
The Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration is given every year in Innovation and Institutionalization categories. The award for 2021 was given to Project Sampoorna and the implementing district Bongaigaon was selected in the Innovation category. Bongaigaon City was awarded “Swachh City award in Swachh Survekshan” (1st rank as best city in Innovation and Best Practices) in NE Zone in 2021, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Govt of India.
Meet Dr. M S Lakshmi Priya IAS who was felicitated by the Prime Minister this year, for Excellence in Public Administration 2021, in recognition of her untiring work on Project SAMPOORNA in Bongaigaon district, Assam.
Doctor, musician, Mother and above all, a strong woman – that’s how Dr. Lakshmi can be described in a nutshell. The photo of her focussed on discussions with colleagues, while cradling her toddler, speaks volumes about her strength and dedication towards her work. The fearlessness to fight for what is right and the ‘Chutzpah’ comes naturally to her. She first came in the news in 2012 during her MBBS days in Trivandrum, when she caught a newborn-selling gang red handed, and succeeded in thwarting their operations.
Dr. M.S. Laxmi Priya ‘Baideo’*, is a Doctor, an accomplished administrator and Carnatic Concert vocalist, currently serving as Mission Director – National Health Mission, Assam (* Baideo/Baidew is a term used in respect, which roughly translates to Big Sister.)
Hailing from Kottayam district of Kerala, she graduated in Medicine from Government Medical College Thiruvananthapuram in 2011. She was happy being a Doctor, and had also been accepted for a DPhil Fellowship in Oxford University, UK. But fate had other plans for her! Dr. Lakshmi had always wanted to do something for fellow human beings, so she chose to prepare for Civil Services while working as a Doctor. She cleared the IAS exams on her third try in 2014 and joined the Assam – Meghalaya cadre. She was posted as Asst Collector to Assam; her first posting at Jorhat district of Assam (then Chief minister’s constituency). Till date, Dr. Lakshmi has served in various districts in the state including Sub Divisional Magistrate/Sub Divisional Officer(Civil) Chirang district, SDO Bilasipara, SDO Dhakuakhana, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Dibrugarh, Deputy Commissioner of Sivasagar, and most recently Deputy Commissioner of Bongaigaon.
This 37-year-old Bureaucrat has received various awards from the State Chief Minister in the context of her innovative and community-oriented development programmes.
– She has come up with many projects to empower the younger generation to move forward in life; one of which was the Lakshya IAS Coaching programme.
– She spread light and joy by distributing ‘UJALA’ LED bulbs to the children in the remote district of Bijini, at Rs 50.
– In Bongaigaon city, she started the Prakash scheme, under which solar street lights are installed in different areas.
– She took up a very important scheme called Sampurna to take care of malnourished children
– She also launched Project Saubhagya to implement various programmes related to the health of newborn children and mothers. It relies on real time pregnancy monitoring like early identification, early referral of any complications and intervention of high-risk pregnancies.
– She adopted a special scheme called Protayrpon for the physical and mental development of orphaned & mentally challenged children and teenagers.
– She also took various initiatives for the betterment of people and the environment – including programmes for reusing plastic bottles and setting up community toilets.
– Always considerate about all sections of the society, Dr. Lakshmi worked fearlessly day and night in controlling the spread of the virus during the Covid pandemic. She started Project Milijuli which provided quarantine facilities to those returning from the other states.
– Dr. Lakshmi has taken up several schemes to take Bongaigaon district forward in the tourism sector as well. She started a project called Nomad under which various measures have been taken for tourists in Bongaigaon Nakkati hills, and is trying to develop other tourist spots in Bongaigaon district in the coming days.
Sampoorna is an initiative to combat malnutrition, with the aim of “Empowered Mothers, Healthy Children”. This project was able to bring 95.6% of malnourished children to normalcy, through nutritional support, empowerment, and livelihood support to mothers of identified malnourished children. According to Dr. Lakshmi, the project employs a decentralized, technology-based model using community participation and women empowerment as the positive deviance factor for achieving results. Using modern technology like Google live sheets and WhatsApp to process the data, and color-coded growth charts in Anganwadi centers, and “Buddy Mothers” were the key features of the project. The mothers were enrolled in Self Help Groups (SHGs) under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) to ensure they were working and able to sustain their kids’ health. Dr. Lakshmi has been vocal about the ASHA workers, appreciating them for the role they played in reducing Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality rate under the “Project Soubhagya” in Bongaigaon and in the time of Covid-19. With such major impact, it comes as no surprise that this signature project for the district was awarded for innovation and excellence.
Dr. Lakshmi’s life revolves around her daughter (in her words, her “hero”) Mahalaksmi. Her proud parents are Mr. Sadanandan Chettiar (Retd Headmaster, Model School TVM) and Mrs. KK Shobhana (Retd Provident Fund Officer). They can be seen in the pictures beaming in the gallery, while Dr. Lakshmi was receiving the award from the PM.
An accomplished classical singer for the past 30 years, she has performed classical music on various platforms across the country including the Rashtrapati Bhavan. She has trained under stalwarts like Late Padmasri Sri. Neyyattinkara Vasudevan and Smt. Ananthalakshmi Venkataraman.
Her advice to IAS Aspirants – Being a Civil Servant is a tough job; you always have to be prepared for dealing with uncertainties. There are very few liberties because the time is not yours. Be focused, be calm, have a plan and workout the strategies towards your goal. There is no need to quit your other jobs/career/studies to prepare for IAS; having a backup plan and focusing on clearing the IAS exams should be the strategy.
We are extremely proud of Dr. M S Lakshmi Priya IAS, who is the epitome of diligence and zeal. Kudos to you and best wishes for your next accomplishment !
Written by Deepa Perumal
Author | Mentor | Startup Enthusiast
COO – PEAKS Academy