Monday, March 05, 2012

Technically, no woman IAS could become cabinet secretary for next many years

FOR many more years, no woman bureaucrat could become cabinet secretary, India’s top bureaucrat by rank and pay. The reason is more of technical in nature than competence and capabilities of corridor’s top women. In summer of 2009, it was a narrow miss for 1972 batch Kerala cadre IAS Sudha Pillai who was then the senior most IAS, and then cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar’s two-year term was to end. But it’s a different matter that Chandrasekhar got serial extensions which not only denied Mrs Pillai her ‘due’ to become country’s top most bureaucrats, but also disappointed at least two other contenders a year later. For the record, cabinet secretary plays a key role in top level appointments of bureaucrats, pioneers changes in administrative laws and rules, and helps the Prime Minister in key decisions and cabinet meetings. Cabinet secretary in a month receives Rs 10,000 extra than other secretaries and he is entitled to live in an earmarked bungalow at Prithviraj Road, one of the posh localities in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi.
Currently, a number of influential women secretaries are at the helms of various departments, but key ministries like cabinet secretariat, home, defence and finance don’t have any women secretary. Though two women diplomats, Chokila Iyer and Nirupama Rao, reached the top to become foreign secretary, the highest post for an Indian Foreign Service officer, no IAS has ever made into cabinet, defence or home secretary’s job.
The women secretaries from 1975 batch IAS include woman and child development secretary Neela Gangadharan, school education secretary Anshu Vaish, textile secretary Kiran Dhingra and sports secretary Sindhushree Khullar. All are armed with decades long experiences in administration, top class educational degrees and rich network among political leaders. Sindhushree Khullar, for example, did her masters in public administration from Harvard University while she was on the job. Anshu Vaish had a degree in developmental administration from a UK university.
But all of them will retire before current cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth’s two-year term ends in May 2013. And if the earlier trends are factored in, Seth’s term will be extended at least till general elections of 2014 making it impossible for 1976 batch IAS officers too, to reach the top.
The top women officers of 1976 batch include higher education secretary Vibha Puri and land resources secretary Anita Chaudhary. Ms Chaudhary of Haryana cadre was once considered to be a big bet for home secretary’s post, but she would retire before incumbent RK Singh’s two years term ends next year. Ms Chaudhary had a three year stint in the North-Block and went up to the position of special secretary in home ministry.
Among the 1977 batch IAS, Vilasini Ramachandran and Sangita Gairola have been elevated to the full-fledged secretaries. Mrs Ramachandran who had experiences in finance ministry is now drinking water secretary, and Mrs Gairola from Rajasthan has just become culture secretary.
In addition to luck and influence, the factors that work at securing the coveted cabinet secretary’s post are age, high ranking in merit-cum seniority list and at times prior experiences in key ministries.


  1. Women Empowerment will remain a distant dream - equal status in the society ???

  2. If we have a woman president who controls Army Navy and Air Force, if we have a woman speaker, if we just had a woman foreign secretary, why can't we have a woman cab sec? Denial on the ground of being woman is not acceptable.

    1. At higher level, there is no women empowerment or men dispowerment, only capacity and seniority pays. That's all

  3. At higher level, no women empowerment or men dispowerment, only capacity and seniority pays