The Administration’s Prize Catch! – Dr.G.S.Sameeran, IAS
By Sanjay Pinto

In the monsoon of 2015, the fortunes of Diyotes, a boy from a fishing community in Thangachimadam in Rameswaram had nose dived. The Sri Lankan Navy had seized his father Arokiyadoss’s boat, reducing  the family to near penury. Two years later, with hope in his heart, the youngster sent a simple text message about his plight to the then Additional Director of Fisheries. The officer roped Diyotes into a Skill Development and Training Programme. That opportunity was a game changer. Diyotes cracked the Indian Coast Guard Examination, marking  the transformation of a daily wage earner into a sailor. Just one of the many lives touched by Dr.G.S.Sameeran.

(Pic: Dr.G.S.Sameeran, IAS, Director of Fisheries – Tamil Nadu)

With justifiable pride, the suave 2012 batch IAS officer, notes  how  “empowering” youth from the fishing community has been a “thrust area” in his present posting as the Director of Fisheries. With “support and encouragement” from his bosses like Principal Secretary Dr.K.Gopal, IAS and his team, the department  has been imparting skill training to the youth to become  Life Guards, pursue Water Sports and become Officers of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. “We have made Diyotes  the Brand Ambassador of our Youth programme.”

Like  many government school students in India’s small towns, Sameeran’s  eyes would light up on seeing the Collector’s car and the authority he wielded. “The Collector happened to be the Ex-Officio Chairman of Jawahar  Navodaya Vidyalala, and it triggered a fascination for the Civil Services. A seat in the Government Medical College, Trivandrum was “a turning point” in his life. “Although I enjoyed studying Medicine, I was more active in extra-curricular activities.” After a short stint as a Medical Doctor at a Community Health Centre in his village at Muthukulam, Sameeran  chased his bigger goal.

Peer pressure came in the form of his college friend Dr.Lakshmanan. “He guided me for the civil services and that re-ignited my school day ambition. Medical Science was my degree subject  and Malayalam Literature was my passion. This helped me in scoring well.” The Civil Service Aptitude Test was introduced for the first time at the Preliminary stage. Fortune favoured the compassionate and  “with God’s grace and luck, I landed in the IAS” with the All India 66th Rank. Interestingly, Dr.Lakshmanan stormed into the IPS in his maiden attempt but wrote the exam again and entered the IAS in 2011 in the Assam cadre.

The  33 year old officer has seen quite a bit of action. As the Assistant Collector(Training) in Tuticorin, picking up Tamil was his priority. In the communally sensitive Ramanathapuram district, Sameeran had been posted as the Sub Collector and Sub Divisional Magistrate, Paramakudi from 2014 to 2017. Mentored by the then Ramanathapuram Collector Mr.Nandakumar, IAS, the young officer ensured the smooth conduct of the Thevar Guru Pooja and Immanuel Sekaran  Jayanthi.  There was enough operational freedom to “pilot many e-Governance schemes like Online Patta, Online certificates, Online Taluk Petition Monitoring System (shortlisted for the Chief Ministers award) and Patta Transfer Appeal Monitoring Software.”

In his capacity as the Zonal Officer of Rural development, Sameeran oversaw Community Forestry through MGNREGS, which gave him “immense satisfaction” before going on to hold full additional charge of Additional Collector (Revenue) and Additional District Magistrate, Ramanathapuram for seven months. Meanwhile, the 2015 Chennai Deluge saw him catapulted to the city for relief distribution.

With the mantle of  Additional Director – Fisheries and Project Director – Palk Bay from 2017 to 2018, a flagship program and Deep Sea Vessel Project, launched as a solution for Indo- Sri Lankan trans-boundary fishing conflicts was placed on his shoulders.  “It was a challenging assignment and gave me good exposure into all aspects of fishing and the issues of fishermen. I could travel all along the Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar Coastline and interact with fishermen of our State. I could also kick-start the construction of the first of its kind Deep Sea Vessel in our country for our fishermen in the Cochin Shipyard, the biggest in the country”, inaugurated by the Prime Minister in Rameswaram.

During this stint, Sameeran was deputed to coordinate the rescue and rehabilitation works during the Ockhi cyclone. Coordinating with Defence agencies for search and rescue of our fishermen was his “primary responsibility” through a control Room in a church in Kanniyakumari, with the cooperation of the Parish and the fishing community.

Post the Ockhi cyclone, Sameeran  assumed charge as the Director of Fisheries. Wiser with the lessons of Ockhi, ensuring seamless communication facilities for fishermen is his “top priority.” Apart from control rooms in all coastal districts and Headquarters, “we have  provided an in-house mobile app Thoondil, VHF sets, transponders  and even satellite phones” as a project  launched by the Chief Minister in February this year. “We could save many lives in the ‘Gaja’, ‘Kyarr’ and ‘Maha’ cyclones due to these systems.”

Livelihood programmes for the fishing community was another priority area. “Through a World Bank funded project, we could introduce sea weed cultivation, bivalve farming and fish kiosks.” Sameeran is in the process of “installing Artificial reefs all along our coast.” To bring about transparency, there is automated application processing of all the fishermen welfare schemes and Direct Benefit Transfer.  Doubling up as the Managing Director of the profitable Tamil Nadu Fisheries Development Corporation (TNFDC), he aims to create a  quality fish marketing network and  recently launched its brand “Ithu Namma Ooru Meengal”

Middle class values were ingrained in Sameeran and his brother Dr.Adithyan, a dental surgeon turned public health professional with the National Health Mission during their formative years. Sameeran’s parents are retired government employees- his father Suresh Kumar  was an Administrative Officer in the Kerala Education Department and his mother Geetha was the Area General Manager at the Kerala State Financial Enterprises. “In school, we had to wash our clothes, iron them, make our bed, as well as clean and maintain the hostel and school premises. I believe those school days made me self-sufficient, although my wife may disagree today!”

Having been his college junior, Dr.Resmi, now an Assistant Professor (Radiation Oncology) in the Government Medical College,Kilpauk, can jolly well pull his leg. “Actually we got married in September, 2011  between the Civil Service  Prelims and Main Exam. Lady luck, one may say!” The couple have two kids- Chinmayan and Charulatha.

Not many are aware that Sameeran was a published author during his college years itself. His maiden book in Malayalam was on P.Padmarajan, a novelist, script writer and much acclaimed filmmaker. That wasn’t his swan song. A second publication  in 2012 was on ‘Muthukulam  Raghavan Pillai’, a dramatist and a comedian who scripted the movie ‘Balan’. The rough and tumble of administration has limited his writing to file notings and the odd facebook post on movies. I wish to break that writer’s block soon” the film, photography  and percussion enthusiast reveals.

For now, Sameeran scripts many a real life success story like that of Diyotes. Aye Aye, Administrator!

(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, TV Political Analyst & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)