R Sreelekha has many firsts to her name. In 1987, she became the first female IPS officer from the Kerala cadre. Three years later, she became the first woman to become superintendent of police in the state. And now, Sreelekha has shattered yet another glass ceiling after she became the first woman to be given Director General of Police (DGP) rank.
The Cabinet on Wednesday promoted three other IPS officers – Tomin J Thachankary (DG-Fire and Rescue Services), Arun Kumar Sinha (under Centre’s deputation) and Sudesh Kumar (Armed Police Battalion) – to DGP rank, joining eight others with the same rank. They will be given new postings when vacancies arise. Currently, Loknath Behera is the chief of the state’s police force.
Sreelekha, who presently holds the post of ADGP (Prisons), worked as a lecturer and with the Reserve Bank before she tried her luck in the civil services examination. In 1986, she cracked the exam to become the first woman IPS officer from the Kerala cadre. She went on to serve in the state’s police force working as district chiefs of Thrissur, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta before moving on to the CBI. She earned the moniker ‘Raid Sreelekha’ for being part of the CBI raid teams that searched premises of influential persons. In 2005, she became the Inspector General (IG) and later headed the Kerala State Co-operative Rubber Marketing Federation Ltd. While heading the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau as ADGP, Sreelekha received the President’s Police Medal for distinguished service in 2013.
Sreelekha has authored several books in Malayalam, three of them on crime investigation. She is admired for her efforts to bring in gender parity in the state’s police force with more women in the top echelons. As Transport Commissioner of the state, she has been credited with reducing fatalities on the road and introducing more safety parameters. She also attended specialised training at Scotland Yard. She is respected widely in the state for her work as a diligent and efficient police officer.
It is ironic that she was promoted along with Tomin J Thachankary, with whom she has a long-standing rivalry. Last year, Sreelekha claimed in a Facebook post that Thachankery has been “haunting” her “since the IPS training period in 1987”, and that he was behind a Vigilance probe against her in connection with a vehicle tax evasion case. Thachankary called the allegations baseless.
Sreelekha is married to Dr Sethunath and has a son, Gokul.