Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Women On Top: Jury is not out yet

SHE is back, but not yet on top. The 1973 batch IFS officer and India’s ambassador to China Nirupama Rao’s ability to grab the crucial foreign secretary’s post will determine the degree of celebration for woman leadership in the country. As India’s political leaders prepare themselves to install the first woman Speaker in Parliament, the news of extension of the current cabinet secretary played a spoilsport on a woman getting the key administrative post for the first time. In fact, labour secretary Sudha Pillai was the front-runner for the cabinet secretary’s post as she topped the merit-cum-seniority list. There were also some possibilities of both key bureaucratic posts -- cabinet secretary and foreign secretary – would this time be filled by women. Ms Rao is still the front-runner for the foreign secretary’s post when the present incumbent Shiv Shankar Menon retires in a few weeks time. In fact, Vajpayee government appointed Chokila Iyre, a woman IFS officer, as foreign secretary in 2000, but an extension of former cabinet secretary B K Chaturvedi had ealier stalled Reva Nayyar, an IAS from Haryana cadre, becoming the first woman cabinet secretary. Significantly, out of 4537 IAS officers in the country only 609, or 13%, are women officers.

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