Glass ceiling blocks way of woman IAS officers

 No divisional commissioner, only 3 collectors are women *  Nirmala Buch only woman CS till date

BHOPAL : Of late, it has become fashionable and politically-correct to talk of women’s empowerment. Chief Secretary Antony De Sa had urged officers to wear pink to express their solidarity with women on the occasion of International Women’s Day this year. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan too frequently refers to his commitment to empowering women and so do his ministerial colleagues.

But that the powers that be do not walk the talk is evident by the fact that positions of influence and power in the government set-up are almost out-of-bounds for women IAS officers.

Fifty-six of the 331 IAS officers of the state cadre i.e. almost 17 per cent are women. But their presence in positions of power and authority is nowhere near their proportion in the IAS contingent of the state.

Women IAS officers rarely – if ever – are allowed to preside over departments which are considered important for the government. Barring a few, almost all such posts in the state are occupied by men. None of the ten divisional commissioners in the state is a woman. Out of 51 districts, only three have women collectors – Jhabua (Aruna Gupta), Burhanpur (Irine Cynthia) and Dindori (Chavi Bharadwaj). All the three are small districts.

Right from the Congress regime (1993-2003) in the state till date, women IAS officers were never given the command of important districts like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior.

Similarly, women IAS officers were never posted as Principal Secretaries of significant departments like Energy, Public Works, Water Resources, Industries, Finance, Urban Administration, Transport and Agriculture. They are also not given the charge of departments related to infrastructure and development.

Nirmala Buch was the first and the only woman Chief Secretary of the state till date. Among senior women officers, Suranjana Ray is posted in Board of Secondary Education, Kanchan Jain and Shikha Dubey in Academy of Administration, Salina Singh as Chief Electoral Officer and Vira Rana in Cottage and Rural Industries Department. All these are considered inconsequential posts.

Barring Gauri Singh, Alka Upadhyaya, Rashmi Arun Shami, Deepali Rastogi and Deepti Gaur Mukherjee, no woman officer is occupying an important post. No woman IAS is posted in CM Secretariat.

I don’t think there is any discrimination: Nirmala Buch

Talking to Free Press Journal, Nirmala Buch, the State’s only woman Chief Secretary thus far, said that she did not think women IAS officers were being discriminated against. “At least I never felt that way and nor has any other woman IAS officer ever told me that there was gender discrimination in the governmental set-up”.  She said that if women IAS officers were not being given the charge of districts it may be because the government of the day prefers to appoint promotees rather than regular recruits as Collectors. “And the percentage of women officers among the promotees is even less than among the regular recruits”, she said. Buch also said that many women officers, who could have become Chief Secretary, have moved to the Centre. “I don’t think they will ever appoint a woman as CS”, she added.

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