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First Muslim woman to enter civil services awarded Padma Shri

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

She broke the glass ceiling many a times, from being the first woman to enter any Class-I civil service to becoming the first IRS officer to be appointed a UPSC member and to being the only woman to have worked in the Central Department.

After donning multiple hats during her long career, it was another proud moment for Parveen Talha, when she was conferred the Padma Shri award on Saturday for her contribution to the Civil Services.

But the road to success wasn't that easy for Talha and the biggest hurdle was to overcome the anti-women mindset of her bosses at the initial stages of her career.

"It is indeed a proud moment for me but I am grateful to my bosses too. Though I had to initially deal with their anti-women mindset when I joined services 45 years ago, after a few years I was able to prove that I could handle the tricky jobs as efficiently as my male colleagues," Talha told PTI.

70-year-old Talha joined Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) in 1969 where she worked for 35 years and was then picked up as a member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in 2004.

"Once my bosses began to trust in my capabilities, I started getting challenging assignments including posting as Deputy Commissioner in Uttar Pradesh," she said.

"There was a large-scale leakage of opium going on in UP then. While I tried my best to play a stringent officer dealing with certain illegal channels, poppy cultivators were surprised too because they had never seen a woman at that level," she added.

By halting for days in the cultivation areas and delving deep into all processes of poppy cultivation from sowing to lancing and harvesting, she gathered foolproof intelligence which was put to good use by her hand-picked preventive parties.

During her posting in UP and Bihar in 1990s, she attached illegally acquired property worth millions of rupees belonging to smugglers and drug traffickers at the risk of her life.

While she was posted as Director General Training in 2002, Talha provided strategic vision to the Department of Customs and Central Excise in evolving comprehensive packages of programmers for technical capacity building of all cadres and service providers.

Talha, who was honoured with the President Award for "Specially distinguished record of service" in 2000, also has a penchant for writing.

She has written 'Fida-e-Lucknow', a collection of 22 short stories, besides writing the dialogues for the serial 'Husn-e-Jana' directed by Muzaffar Ali.

"I find there are stories in every nook and corner that are waiting to be told. So I will pursue my passion for writing now that I am a retired person," she said.

First Published: Sun, April 27 2014. 11:05 IST