KK Shailaja The wall of resilience and hope
Cochin Herald|May - June 2021
“Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed”, said American politician Bob Riley once, and it comes true for KK Shailaja, who helmed the health ministry in the State of Kerala when the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed its rage on humanity. From a humble background in Kannur, she was known as the nonchalant Physics teacher, whose eyes always gleamed with kindness. After announcing retirement from her position as a teacher in 2004, she went on a quest for wider horizons and to serve society as a political leader. It was her unassuming persona that made her seamlessly leave a strong impression in the minds of every person she passed by to be fondly called ‘teacher’.
Vidya Nair

Until KK Shailaja became the health minister on May 25, 2016, she was someone probably known within the party circle and among ardent supporters in her niche area. However, once she took charge, amid the State being shrouded in the fear of Nipah virus, floods and now the pandemic, it was as if she had taken in Malayalis under her protective wings and she rose to be a hero in the true sense of the word, defying stereotypes, and barriers. And soon, in her reassuring words substantiated by stern actions against the coronavirus pandemic, the people of Kerala found refuge.

The explicit measures that she implemented were noticed by countries across the globe bringing many recognitions to the ex-minister as well as the state at large. She was among a few of the world leaders who were honoured by the UN and was invited to speak on United Nations Public Service Day. A UK magazine named her the ‘World’s Top Thinker’ for tackling COVID-19. BBC news too applauded her for the efforts that she made to fight the pandemic.

We talk to the former Health Minister, whose term came to an end recently, as she revisits the journey and how the path ahead must continue.

Ask the ex-minister to elaborate on the experience of setting up the famous Kerala Model of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic that was created and implemented under her leadership, she says, “It was difficult because we had never encountered a similar situation before. However, immediate action concerning equipping the entire system was imperative considering the gravity of the situation. Luckily, we could start making strategies without panicking from the experience that Nipah outbreak had given. The credit undoubtedly goes to the relentless work that the health sector and police department did to effectuate the strategies that we devised, right in time, because without their adept and responsible intervention all of this wouldn’t have been possible.”

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