Monday, October 19, 2009

BoI Ranking: India’s Top 3 Most Powerful Woman Bureaucrats are Nirupama Rao, Meera Shankar & Sudha Pillai

HAD current secretary to Planning Commission Sudha Pillai made it to the top as cabinet secretary, India’s top two bureaucrats today would have been women making history in India’s power corridors. Despite being at the top in the merit-cum-seniority list of IAS officers, Ms Pillai missed the bus as the incumbent K M Chandrasekhar was given one year’s extension after the new government was formed. Nevertheless, Nirupama Rao became the foreign secretary in July this year after another powerful IFS and Rao’s batch-mate Meera Shankar (See Picture with US Prez) was made India’s ambassador to US. After BoI’s (babus of india) selection of 5 most powerful bureaucrats, which incidentally had no woman contender, here is the list of top 3 most powerful woman bureaucrats based on feedback of politicians and senior bureaucrats who have an insight of the country’s power corridors. Interestingly, it’s a mere co-incidence that spouses of all three most powerful women bureaucrats who BoI has selected, happen to be senior IAS --- Sudhakar Rao, Ajay Shankar and G K Pillai respectively.
No 1: Nirupama Rao Being the number one Indian Foreign Service officer and only the second woman in the history to become India’s foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao is India’s most powerful bureaucrat today. An MA in English literature, this 1973 batch IFS from Kerala has held key diplomatic positions including minister for press affairs at the Indian Embassy in Washington, deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of India, Moscow, MEA’s official spokesperson and India’s ambassador to China, and yes, she proved her mettle in every important post. No wonder, she was a favourite officer of former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh, and was considered highly efficient during BJP’s regime too. Her biggest challenge today is not just to ensure meaningful diplomacy with Pakistan, but to keep China engaged in a continuous dialogue process. Read: Rao’s take on art of diplomacy (August 25, 2009) No 2: Meera Shankar India’s ambassador to US Meera Shankar who has recently become a newsmaker for writing a letter to Prime Minister’s principal secretary TKA Nair giving details about US companies bribing Indian government officers, is BoI’s choice to be the second most powerful woman bureaucrat today. Born on October 9, 1950, this 1973 batch IFS was earlier India’s ambassador to Germany, and had an earlier innings at Washington (1991-’95) when India liberalized its economy under Dr Manmohan Singh’s tenure as the country’s finance minister. Wife of India’s industry secretary Ajay Shankar, a 1973 batch UP cadre IAS, Mr Shankar’s biggest challenge today is to muster the country’s economic diplomacy and help India achieve a higher than expected growth rate. No 3: Sudha Pillai This 1972 batch Kerala cadre IAS is still considered to be an asset by Team Manmohan Singh, though many in power corridors strongly believe that it was intentional on the part of the government for not giving the highly-sensitive post of cabinet secretary to a woman officer who has better understanding of only social sectors. Her biggest challenger in the race for the post of cabinet secretary was her husband and batch-mate from the same cadre G K Pillai who too lost out after the incumbent Mr Chandrasekhar was given extension. Mr Pillai was then made home secretary with a two-year-term. There’s no doubt that Ms Pillai is still the most powerful women IAS officer today, and keeping in mind her grip on India’s social sector, she is tipped to become the member secretary in the Planning Commission with a rank of a minister! Read: Pati, Patni and Post: It’s Pillai Vs Pillai for next cabinet secretary (May 11, 2009) Read: India’s Top 5 Most Powerful Bureaucrats (August 24, 2009)


  1. Perfectly ok ranking. But there are many JS level officers who are equally important, or rather more powerful!

  2. AMong the IFS we think Meera Shankar is the most powerful. She is representing India in the US at a time when Indo-US relations are at a crtical juncture....


  3. Dear babu , can u help move our file through ACC faast? We are a batch of 24 officers of IC&CES long over due for promotion as Commissioners. LOL. We dont aspire to b 5 most powerful bureaucrats in India but a promotion will b welcome!!!!!

  4. pls add a google follow widget on your blog.

    cheers ,

  5. 'anonymous' above don't deserve their promotions. they should have beeen able to get the name of their service right at least, i.e. irs (c&ce) instead of ic&ces!