Incomparable public servant Sankaran passes away

Hyderabad, October, 8 : Among the array of peers, friends and admirers who gathered at Flat 114 of Amrutha Complex to mourn the passing of S R Sankaran, conscience-keeper of a whole generation of administrators, all spoke two words of unalloyed truth: Public servant. In their simplicity, those two heartfelt words encapsulated everything that he was.

An ordinary cot, a few vessels, a table and a chair, a few racks of books and a sofa were all the possessions he had in his flat at Punjagutta. They described the man. He was simplicity personified, as people from diverse walks of life retired and serving bureaucrats, dalit, civil rights and left-wing activists and politicians remembered. Sankaran died as he lived, simply and unobtrusively. He had been suffering from fever for a few days but the end was not expected. At around 10 this morning that his friend, retired bureaucrat K R Venugopal, spoke to him. A couple of hours later, he brought home-cooked lunch for Sankaran but there was no response to his knock on the door. It had to be broken open. The 76yearold man lay dead. The death was peaceful.

"You can't find a parallel to him in the bureaucracy when it comes to honesty, commitment and the uncompromising manner in which he fought for the deprived sections," said Venugopal, who was secretary to the Prime Minister when Sankaran served as secretary in the Rural Development Ministry in Delhi.

It was no exaggeration. Today Secretariat is a seat of power out of bounds to the ordinary mortal. In Sankaran's day, tribals and dalits had the freedom to walk into his chamber when he was secretary, social welfare. Most of his salary either went towards serving food to the poor who visited him or to help the thousands of dalits whom he freed from bonded labour.

Some didn’t like his attitude to the poor. One chief minister described Sankaran as a naxalite officer. He was not considered for the post of chief secretary, prompting him to go on central deputation. Many years after he retired, having served as chief secretary of Tripura, he would tell his friends about what the tribals of that state would tell him: “We’ll be happy if revenue, police and forest officials don’t come to our hamlets.”

To Sankaran, simplicity was not a publicity tool. On the contrary, he kept himself away from the media glare.

The work you did on the ground was what mattered most. He rejected the Padma award offered to him five years ago but conveyed the refusal with grace and without media hysteria.

As one who craved to end the climate of violence in AP, he chaired the Committee of Concerned Citizens (CCC) which succeeded in bringing the naxalites and the AP government to the negotiating table. The failure of the talks troubled him till his last breath.


Post a Comment

Copyright 2011 Mulnivasi Sangh