Dr. Kalaignar Karunanidhi first death anniversary fell on August 7. He was a multi-faceted genius excelling in every field that he touched. He was easily the most popular script writer of his time --- Parasakthi, Manohara, Malaikallan, Marudha Nattu Ilavarasi and Poompuhar --- all were huge box office hits. The Parasakthi court scene dialogue was easily the most popular item in all school functions across the State. He was a great orator and his speeches in public meetings used to draw large crowds and keep them spellbound for two hours or even more. Political science teachers are never tired of pointing out Dr. Kalaignar's unique contribution to the structure of a political party India, namely, to establish a hierarchy parallel to the district administration like leaders at the block level, taluk level, district level thus creating a feeder category for promotions to higher political posts. This has been followed by several political parties in the country. This article looks at what made Dr. Kalaignar a great administrator that he was.
I joined the Indian Administrative Service in July 1972 when Dr Kalaignar was the Chief Minister of the State.
It so happened that Kalaignar was the Chief Minister of the State in June 2008 when I retired from the service.
I will reflect on some of reminiscences during my association with him during my service in the State.
His contribution to the economic development of the State was immense. When Mrs. Indira Gandhi's Government at the Centre needed the support of 25 DMK MPs for its survival Dr Kalaignar did extend the support but made Mrs Gandhi agree to two major projects for Tamil Nadu involving huge central investment -Tuticorin Port and the Salem steel plant. Both projects were responsible for generating large employment to several unemployed youths in the State. Both these projects brought the much needed central investment to the State which had not seen any central investment at all after the Congress party was voted out of power in 1967. But for Dr. Kalaignar these projects would not have come to the State at all.
On Pongal day in January 1974, Dr. Kalaignar announced a scheme under which the widow of a government servant dying in harness would get Rs.10,000. Rs.10 was required to be deducted from the pay of the government servant as his contribution. There were a few cases where a government servant had died in the third week of January 1974 even before he paid his first contribution of Rs.10 and the widow was denied the benefit. In another case, the government servant died in March 1974 but the Treasury Officer had failed to deduct the monthly contribution. In this case also the widow of the deceased government servant was denied the benefit but Dr. Kalaignar cleared both the cases and ordered that in the first case the widow should be paid Rs,9990 after deducting Rs. 10 and in the second case Rs.9970 should be paid after deducting Rs.30. Such was the human touch of Dr. Kalaignar.
He had helped two families who had been denied the benefits.
As the State Finance Secretary I had an opportunity to watch how he used to deal with several ticklish issues and solve them without hurting anyone. Kalaignar was a great listener. If there are ten persons sitting near his table, he used to permit everyone to his views without any fear irrespective of whether the person was junior or senior. After giving an opportunity to everyone around the table to speak, he would announce his decision which would be totally different but acceptable to one and all. Everyone would be fully satisfied that he or she had participated in the decision making process.
Even though he had studied only up to high school, Dr Kalaignar had a remarkable ability to grasp even complicated technical issues at once. We never had to repeat any issue or matter. When the late Dr. Raja J. Chelliah, a well-known fiscal expert explained to Kalaignar the concept of Value Added Tax (VAT), he understood it immediately. When VAT was introduced in the State Budget for 1996-97, Kalaignar explained the concept of VAT in the State Assembly in such a way that everyone in the Assembly could understand.
When I was the State Finance Secretary, he used to send me his official car early in the morning to go with him for a walk in the compound of Anna Arivalayam I used to leave home around 5.15 a.m. to reach his home in Gopalapuram at 5.30 a.m. when he would be ready. I used to do my Sandhyavandanam around 5 a.m. and then leave home. One morning he called me around 4.30 a.m. and asked me if I had finished my Anushtanam.
I told him that I could perform the ritual only after sunrise. Pat came Kalaigar's rejoinder" "I am the Rising Sun (Nane Udaya Suriyan). I was completely bowled. He wanted me to start half an hour earlier as he had to go elsewhere.
(The writer, a retired IAS officer, was the State Finance Secretary and later Member, State Planning Commission after retiring as Additional Chief Secretary to the State Government)...