SOUNDS odd, but the last year’s list of 5 Most Powerful Bureaucrats, brought out by babusofindia.com did not figure country’s home secretary GK Pillai. He was quite an important secretary even then, but home minister P Chidambaram’s handholding style of functioning did not allow anyone including Pillai to emerge as a powerful bureaucrat, at least in public domain.
Now, Pillai is quite assertive, vocal and even non-diplomatic at times when questions of internal security become a priority. Pillai, a 1972 batch Kerala cadre IAS, is ranked 3rd in BoI’s list of 5 Most Powerful Bureaucrats, 2010, based on feedback of senior civil servants and politicians who are insiders of Delhi’s corridor of power. He is ranked behind just cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar and principal secretary to PM, TKA Nair, making yet another point that three most powerful Indian bureaucrats happen to be from Kerala.
Pillai’s recent remarks about ISI’s role in Mumbai terror attack might have virtually derailed the foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan, but no one in India has questioned Pillai’s overtures though many observers strongly criticized foreign minister SM Krishna’s silence during Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi equating Pillai with Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed. After all, Pillai’s statement was not only correct in content, but exposed a harsh reality that mere diplomatic overtures without having any change at the ground have just academic values. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, who came in support to Pillai after the failed talks, walked across the road to North Block to meet the home secretary in person and buried all confusions over a cup of tea. (Read: Nirupama Rao on Pillai)
Pillai was equally blatant when he openly aired another explosive statement saying that some of the senior forest officials living in Naxal areas are attending meetings organized by banned Maoist outfits, in addition to not passing over information about happenings there, raising a serious security concern of the North Block. (Read: Pillai’s straight talk on Naxals, SEZ and NE). He is now clamping down on Black Berry mobile services which cannot be intercepted by security agencies.
Interestingly, Pillai himself is connected 24x7, and according to reports, he is always first to receive any major incident, the Mangalore plane crash being one of those. His wife, Sudha Pillai, also a 1972 batch Kerala cadre IAS, is now Member Secretary in Planning Commission at the rank of a minister of state.
Pillai and his boss -- home minister P Chidambaram, who have brought down incidents of terror through a number of proactive measures, are now gearing up for a fool-proof security arrangement for the biggest sporting extravaganza in India, the Commonwealth Games. For Pillai, Games provide an opportunity to make him a true game-changer.