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Dr. Girija Vaidyanathan

1981 - M.Sc - Physics & 2011 - Ph.D - Humanities and Social Sciences Chief Secretary, (Retd.) Govt of Tamil Nadu @ Govt of Tamil Nadu

Dr. Girija Vaidyanathan is an Indian Administrative Service officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre who served as the Chief Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu from 2016 to 2019. She has an exemplary academic record, having stood first among all women candidates and ninth among nearly one lakh aspirants in the All India Indian Administrative Services (IAS) examination conducted during the year 1981. She graduated top of her class in the Master’s programme in Physics from IIT Madras in 1981. She obtained her Ph.D. in Health Policy from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras in 2011.
In a long career spanning 38 years, Dr. Girija Vaidyanathan has worked in various capacities in the Finance department and headed key departments such as Nutrition, Environment, Pollution Control, Civil Supplies, School Education, Health and Family Welfare and Land Administration. She served as Chief Secretary of the state for about two and a half years prior to her retirement. Her leadership has been described by fellow civil servants as studied, quietly reassuring, and transformative, all at once. Over a career of nearly four decades, she has brought about significant changes, through systematic and rigorous implementation of programmatic inputs in several domains of public policy. During the period 1986 – 1989, she played a key role in strengthening the Tamil Nadu Integrated Nutrition Project (TINP), which soon became a role model for several other states in the country. As District Collector of Madurai, she started and spearheaded the successful Literacy Mission (Arivoli Iyakkam) in that district. The Department of Health and Family Welfare, during her tenure twice as the Secretary, witnessed several initiatives from mid-2000, which led to a significant fall in maternal and infant mortality, and improved access to the public healthcare system in the state. Under her directorship, Tamil Nadu was adjudged as the best performer in the implementation of the National Health Mission, a flagship national programme of the Government of India. It is well-known that the state of Tamil Nadu has become a forerunner in the implementation of Universal Health Coverage because of her direct involvement in this scheme and her commitment to strengthening the public primary health care system in the state. Her role as head of Land Administration in computerization of land records as well as speeding up the acquisition of land for public purpose and enabling the recovery of large extents of encroached land back to the government, paved the way for many significant development projects in the state and has contributed to larger interests of the society and the state.
In her doctoral dissertation (which is among the pioneering works of its kind in India), she examined the distributional impact of public expenditure on the use of public healthcare delivery system (by the poorer sections in particular) in Tamil Nadu. Arguably, Dr. Girija Vaidyanathan was the first scholar in India to have carried out a sub-regional (within state) analysis of equity in public health expenditure, by pooling large national and state level data-sets. Her work bridged the research-policy gap in her chosen area, a rare achievement in the field of public policy. She continues to be an active member of national and international academic consortia in the field of health systems research. Dr. Girija Vaidyanathan’s career is an illustration of how a civil servant can straddle the worlds of academics and public administration to proactively guide and strengthen the public governance system in India, by institutionalizing best practices, leaving a positive and long lasting impact on every day lives of the people.
For her immense contribution to public service, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer this award upon Dr. Girija Vaidyanathan.

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