1970 - MSc - Chemistry Chairman @ Tata International Ltd
Shri G K Pillai was born in 1949 in Kerala. His father as well as grandfathers from both the maternal and paternal side were civil servants. He completed his schooling from Bishop Cottons, Bangalore. He was also a National Science Talent Scholar and did his Bachelors in Physics and Chemistry from St .Joseph College, Bangalore. He then went on to complete his M. Sc. in Chemistry from IIT Madras in 1970 before appearing for the Civil Services Examination. Following family tradition, he joined the Civil Services and was selected for the IAS in the year 1972.
His penchant for doing something worthwhile, broad-based and significant was evident early, and he worked his way up the Civil Services hierarchy with keen earnestness. His early assignments included: District Collector, Kollam; Special Officer for Cashew Industries, Industries Secretary and Health Secretary in the State of Kerala, all of which he handled admirably. In 2001, he was appointed Principal Secretary to Shri A. K. Anthony, the then Chief Minister of Kerala.
He has also been on Central deputation to Delhi where initially he worked in the Ministry of Defence handling aircraft acquisitions. Other postings were as Director, Shipping and Joint Secretary (Transport). In 1996, he was posted as Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, where he was given the complex and difficult North East Portfolio. His fearless approach, deep study of the complexities and ethnic issues, coupled with his sincere work ethic, ensured significant development benefits to the region, as also the effective handling of various insurgencies. In fact, his approach to resolving the Bodo problem in Assam and negotiations with the Bodo Liberation Tigers was considered unique and beyond compare. He was later posted in the Ministry of Commerce and went on to become the Chief Negotiator for India at the WTO, representing the country at innumerable international conferences.
He later became Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce. He also played a key role in the enactment of the Special Economic Zones Act 2005 and was the Chairman of the Board of Approvals for the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Under his supervision, over 325 SEZs were notified with a total investment of Rs. 90,000 crores. These SEZs, apart from giving tax incentives to developers and industries, provided much needed employment. The total exports last year from the SEZs were over Rs. 300,000 crores, and Shri Pillai’s supervision led to the SEZs becoming economically important especially when other export industries faced a recession. Shri Pillai became Home Secretary, Government of India on 30 June 2009, a position that he holds till date. His handling of the Maoist problems, the Jammu & Kashmir situation, the North East and the modernization of police forces, as well as other critical matters has been appreciated across all sections of Government. His frankness and commitment have been useful in handling these problems. His style has always been engaging and thought-provoking. Admirably, he has put national interests over his own personal safety. A rare trait indeed!.
In recognition of Shri Pillai’s outstanding leadership qualities and contributions to excellence in administrative service, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.