Hyderabad: The Telangana government Wednesday appointed A. Santhi Kumari as chief secretary of state, the first woman to hold the post in Telangana since the bifurcation in 2014. A 1989 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, Kumari has mostly served in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
“I thank the Chief Minister for placing his trust in me and allotting me the post of Chief Secretary of Telangana. Owing to the trust placed on me, I shall work towards the development of the state,” Kumari tweeted from the official account of the Office of Chief Secretary of Telangana Government.
Kumari replaced Somesh Kumar, an All-India Services officer, 1989 batch, who has been asked to report in Andhra Pradesh by the central government’s Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). The order came following a Telangana High Court order Tuesday setting aside Central Administrative Tribunal’s order allocating Kumar to Telangana cadre.
Somesh Kumar’s tenure ends in December 2023. His transfer to Andhra comes amid growing tensions and fighting between Telangana’s ruling party, now called the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the state readies itself for polls this year.
As per Telangana’s General Administration Department data, Kumari was the senior-most officer in line for the post after Somesh Kumar. Prior to this, she was serving as special chief secretary for environment and forest sciences.
“She is quiet and composed and maintains a very low-profile — very different from her predecessor. She is soft-spoken and equanimous,” a former bureaucrat who has worked with Kumari earlier told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
Kumari, who hails from the Telugu land, also served as special chief secretary of the state’s health and family welfare department up until mid-2020 when she was shunted out after the state was heavily criticised for “mishandling” the Covid situation.
The state, at that time of the pandemic, had to deal with government doctors walking out of hospitals and protesting; lapses in death counts; piling complaints over lack of beds in private and government hospitals; and the Telangana HC regularly pulling up the state for low-testing and lack of testing facilities.
Some of her previous postings also include principal secretary in the Chief Minister’s Office from 2015 to 2018, and with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for two years. In the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, she served in the Tribal Welfare Department and the Rural and Social Welfare Department.
She also served as Collector of Medak district, now in Telangana, and Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district.
“She is efficient and competent. Quite accessible to her subordinates and employees working under her,” another bureaucrat who served in Telangana told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
In 2021, Kumari and a few other Indian Forest Service officers were given six months imprisonment for contempt of court for failing to implement an HC order in relation to a forest land dispute. The order, however, was set aside after the officers filed an appeal.
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