Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan, India's 1st Transgender Civil Servant

In 2015, Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan made her transgender identity public when she was working with the Odisha government. She is India's first IAS officer who identifies as transgender.

Tanya Savkoor
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aishwarya rutuparna pradhan first trans ias officer

Image: Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan, Facebook

Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan's story stands as a beacon of hope and progress, especially for the LGBTQ+ community in India. In 2015, the then-Odisha government officer in her thirties publically announced her transgender identity, making her the first transgender civil servant in the country. This came a few months after the Supreme Court's 2014 landmark judgement identifying transgender as the 'Third Gender'. Soon after the momentous National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) Vs Union of India case, she changed her gender identity in all government documents, marking the first step to embracing her identity. She is now an officer with the Odisha Financial Services (OFS) as a commercial tax officer.


However, the journey of coming to terms with her identity and seeking acceptance from her near and dear ones was not as smooth as it appeared. Pradhan faced discrimination and societal stigma for her identity from a young age. Despite the mental strain she endured for decades, her work for the nation and the transgender community is an inspiration for generations to come. 

Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan's Story

Born with the name Ratikanta, Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan came from a small village named Katibageri in the Kandhamal district of Odisha. Growing up, she always knew she was different from the rest of her peers. She also faced a lot of criticism from her teachers and her own family, especially her armyman father, whenever she acted femininely as a young boy. 

Pradhan was in class six when she finally came to terms with her gender identity and declared herself as 'female'. However, the struggle did not stop there. When she began training for state civil service, she was bullied in class and her abilities were questioned. She was also sexually abused by her college hostel inmates at Utkal University. 

Yet, her immense determination earned her a bachelor's degree in mass communication, a master's degree in public administration from Utkal, and a one-year PG diploma course in journalism from the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal. Pradhan worked with Syndicate Bank before she was admitted to the Odisha administrative offices. 

aishwarya rutuparna pradhan
Image: Hans India

In 2014, she was assigned to the Paradip Port Township as a male officer. That year, when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the transgender community, she updated her gender and name in all documents. In an interview with India Times, she made a striking statement: "The change in my sartorial habits didn't change how I performed my duties." 

She continued, "After initial hiccups, all superiors, peers, and subordinates accepted me. My peers and seniors now call me by my new name whereas my subordinates now address me as 'madam' instead of 'sir.'." Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan is now working in the Odisha Financial Services (OFS) as a commercial tax officer.

A Reliable Friend

Throughout Pradhan's difficult journey, one friend, Bhumika, supported her through thick and thin. "I had to go through a humiliating journey in my search for an identity of my own and Bhumika has always been by my side,” she told Odisha Bytes in an interview. "She is my childhood friend. We both went to the same school in our village and continue to confide in each other.” 

bhumika, aishwarya
Bhumika, Aishwarya | Image: Odisha Bytes

While Pradhan's harrowing experience in college scarred her, it was Bhumika's motivation and support that pushed her to continue pursuing her dreams. She told Odisha Bytes, "At one time, I decided to quit my studies. It was Bhumika, who gave me the courage and asked me to continue my studies despite all odds."

She added, "I owe it to her. It is because of her that I continued my studies and finally cleared the Odisha Civil Services examination." In 2018, the civil servant announced her marriage to her long-term boyfriend. She said, For me, marriage has no connection with the law. Marriage can bind two souls for eternity. I just want his acceptance."


transgender community NALSA aishwarya rutuparna pradhan