Modi regime. Mrs Khullar, who became Planning Commission's secretary in 2012, was already on extension (on contract) since March 31, 2013. Now, she will be NITI Aayog’s CEO till December 31, 2015, again on a contract basis, at the rank of a Government of India secretary.
So, the designation has changed from secretary to CEO, but the post and person have remained the same, at least for the next one year. In fact, the Prime Minister was reportedly impressed with the way Khullar handled the transition from Planning Commission to NITI Aayog. She did not make any noise during the period, did not indulge in any media interactions and acted as a true behind-the-scene person in the run-up to the creation of the Aayog.
What further worked in favour of Khullar has been the continuity factor. The Vice-chairman and one of the members could be eminent economists and another member is a scientist, but the question remains: who will coordinate with ministries, all headed by secretaries (read IAS officers)? PM is aware that an IAS officer is more adept to coordinate with secretaries of various ministries and chief secretaries of states, incidentally all juniors to the PM’s selection, Khullar. The only officer who is senior to Khullar is cabinet secretary and 1974 batch IAS Ajit K Seth, also on an extension.
The NITI Aayog, as it is being structured, would not be as powerful as its earlier avatar. Many of the fund allocation power will now be with the finance ministry.
Compared with her predecessor Sudha Pillai who was made Member Secretary (a post equivalent to a minister of state) Khullar has been quite a low-profile officer. Yet she is rated by her peers as highly efficient. A graduate in English literature from Lady Shri Ram college, she did her post-graduation from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi before getting into IAS. While in service, she added two more degrees: masters in development economics from Boston University and masters in public administration from Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
She was private secretary to P Chidambaram when the latter was minister for commerce and Industries in 1991-1992 during PV Narasimha’s regime. An AGMUT cadre IAS, she was transport commissioner of Delhi, chairperson of New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and then additional secretary in department of economic affairs under the union ministry of finance. Later, she became union sports secretary. She was criticised by the Shunglu Committee for mishandling the 2010 Commonwealth Games, now synonymous with large-scale corruption. Khullar was, however, not named in any of the corruption charges.
Khullar was also a front-runner for the post of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) after Vinod Rai. But the government of the day decided to go with then then defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma instead.
Khullar is wife of Rahul Khullar, her IAS batch-mate and current chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TraI).