The 30-year-old Devikulam Sub Collector gave up a career in medicine to join the IAS.

Keralas Sub Collector Bro The anti-encroachment officer is taking social media by stormSriram Venkitaraman/ Facebook
news Bureaucracy Tuesday, May 02, 2017 - 11:36

The CPI and CPI (M) might be mired in a precarious tangle in Kerala as they fight it out over the recent evictions in Munnar and keep their coalition government running. But there’s one man who’s emerged popular out of the entire affair – Devikulam Sub Collector Sriram Venkitaraman.

The 30-year-old IAS officer hit national headlines on April 20 when he led the team that razed to the ground a massive metal cross erected on government land by the Spirit in Jesus sect. In the process, Sriram has turned into a target for CPI (M) ire, and in return gave him the popular image of a conscientious officer who does his duty irrespective of the opposition.  

Posted last year to Munnar as Sub-Collector, the young and energetic officer has quite a bit of following, thanks to his habit of touring around Munnar on his Royal Enfield, sporting a beard and glasses.

From MBBS to IAS

His career history has also inspired many. Having trained as a doctor at the Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram, and having obtained his post-graduate degree in General Medicine, he gave up a lucrative career to join the IAS. In the words of a classmate from his GMC days, in a Facebook post that went viral, “You (Sriram) completed MBBS and PG. Now you work for one-fourth of the salary that you could have got if you had continued in the profession of medicine.”

It's on social media that Sriram has achieved massive fame, as more than one fan page dedicated to the sub-collector has popped up. With messages like, "Solidarity with Sriram Venkitaraman, who is working day and night against land encroachers," these pages shout popular support for the public official. Indeed, one of these pages, which bears a name very similar to his official page, became so popular that Sriram had to issue a statement distancing himself from it.

What’s more, when he made the shift, he did it in style, securing the All-India Second Rank in the 2013 civil services exam.

Sriram told NDTV that the career shift happened because the civil services offered a much greater scope for working for public well-being than the medical profession. “I am a doctor and chose to become an IAS officer because of the large canvas it offers to serve people.”

Key campaigns

Even before his posting to Munnar, Sriram had some key initiatives to his claim, the foremost of them being banning plastic in Sabarimala, together with Collector Harikishore.  

“The plastic-free Sabarimala campaign was a great success. It was our idea to place water kiosks in Sabarimala. All our initiatives are being followed now. It was one of the biggest achievements in our careers. The very next year, the High Court also banned plastic in Sabarimala,” Sriram told Mathrubhumi.

On the Munnar evictions, Sriram stays firm on his course. He overturns the popular Malayalam saying about acting without looking at the face of the opponent, that is, of acting without fear or favour. “I have not taken action without seeing the face. I took action by looking at each face. I don’t regret what I have done. My aim is to enforce law, I am doing it,” he said.

He also told Manorama that he feels no fear in enforcing the law, which is his duty as a government official. “Certain officials have a feeling that they would get their salary whether they work or not. This attitude should go. Each official should try to improve his performance.”

Despite the vocal opposition, Sriram has also said that he has received sufficient backing from the government. “I have not even got one call in a threatening tone. I am banking on the support of the revenue minister and higher officials,” he told Manorama.

Sriram has eminently quotable advice to offer young people that might look to him for inspiration. At a recent event commemorating Sankaracharya, for instance, he urged children and students not to be frogs in the well, and to open their minds to knowledge of the wider world.

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