Girija Vaidyanathan, the new Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu, is not only a no-nonsense officer in the state cadre but is also someone who was sidelined in her career. Her predecessor P Rama Mohana Rao, former Chief Secretary, who was removed from the post on Thursday morning following Income Tax raids at his premises with seizure of over Rs 30 lakh worth new currency, five kilogram gold and documents revealing undisclosed assets worth Rs 5 crore, himself was appointed in last June bypassing over a dozen IAS officers.
Daughter of S Venkitaramanan, who was Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor from 1990 to 1992, Vaidyanathan is a native of Nagercoil in southern Tamil Nadu, where her father was born to a Tamil Iyer family. Girija, who served as the principal secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Department in the Government of Tamil Nadu, had held numerous positions overseeing departments in health, education, agriculture, transportation and state planning over the years. Senior colleagues recall her role in pioneering Tamil Nadu’s major public health projects. She also headed the Mission Director post of the National Rural Health Mission (NHRM) besides being a key policy advisor in several wings of the government.
“She was one of the brains who played behind the best public health and education projects during Jayalalithaa’s first regime. More than AIADMK, it was DMK that considered her mostly. She was neither corrupt nor someone who would always agree to their bosses and colleagues,” said a source close to Vaidhyanathan.
For another friend of her, “Girija maintains a low profile. She is workaholic, academic and a work oriented person like her father.” Vaidhyanathan joined the civil service in 1981 and her main focus has been in the development sector. Her responsibilities during the long career mostly revolved around health and environment sectors. Veterans in the Tamil Nadu government would recall her interventions in the improvement of maternal and child health programmes implemented in the state over the years. With a PhD in health economics from the IIT-Madras, Vaidhyanathan’s appointment has taken many in surprise. “She was always an unpopular officer for AIADMK unlike DMK which used her vision and ideas in many programmes and policies. This is a real surprise,” said a senior government secretary.