In mid-1930's, the Central Secretariat contained only 29 secretaries, who were all members of the Imperial Civil Service. The salary for a member of this rank and post was fixed at Rs. 48,000 per annum in the 1930s. As per warrant or precedence of 1905, secretaries to the Government of India was listed together with joint secretaries to the Government of India and were ranked above the rank of chief secretaries of provincial governments.
N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar had once suggested "A secretary should not be immersed in files and burdened with routine. It is essential that he should have time to grasp the overall picture, size up the problems facing the government in the field allotted to his charge, and think and plan ahead. All these are his proper functions and must be efficiently performed. Failure to make adequate provision in this respect cannot be compensated by a mere increase in the establishment under his control."
The Administrative Reforms Commission visualised the role of secretary, primarily as one of "coordinator, policy guide, reviewer, and evaluator."