Monday, Dec 01, 2003
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This Day That Age
Death claimed Mr. Benegal Narsing Rau, eminent jurist and statesman of India at about 2-45 a.m. local time (2-45 a.m. IST) on the 30th of November in a Zurich hospital. The end came peacefully in his sleep. He had been given a pain-killing sleeping the previous evening, and did not wake again. His two brothers Mrs. Rama Rau and Mr. Shiva Rau were at his bedside, when the death was discovered. Stricken by a serious abdominal complaint, he had been in the clinic for some months. But his condition deteriorated, as his resistance wore out over the last fortnight. Mr. Rau's body was to be cremated in Zurich, and the ashes taken to India by his brothers.
The Indian Ambassador to Switzerland, Mr. Y. D. Gundevia, who left Berne for Zurich on the 30th said, "The death of Benegal Narsing Rau is a very great loss. Every Indian has the benefit of the Constitution which Mr. Rau laboured hard to formulate for us. It is perhaps less known that he also had a substantial hand in the drafting of the Constitution of our neighbouring country, Burma. We have lost in one of our wisest counsellors."
Mr. Narsing Rau was born in Mangalore on February 26, 1887 in a family of intellectuals. His father Benegal Raghavendra Rau was an eminent doctor. The young scion had a distinguished academic career right from school. He passed Matriculation in 1901 from the Canara High School, Mangalore, topping the list of students of the entire Madras Presidency. In Presidency College, Madras, he was hailed as a mathematical genius. Standing University first in the F.A. (Intermediate) examination, he marched on to gain his degree with First Class marks in English, Sanskrit, and Mathematics. On a scholarship, he proceeded to Trinity College in Cambridge, and took his Tripos in 1909, just missing, the Senior Wranglership. The same year he passed the Indian Civil Service Examination, and returned to India, posted to Bengal. Doing well on the Executive side, in 1909 he moved to the Judiciary. His distinguished work brought him a Knighthood in 1938. An example of his outstanding thoroughness untiring industry, and sincerity was the manner in producing the Indus Waters Commission report to settle a dispute between Punjab and Sind. In preparation for the challenging assignments, he mastered Statistics within a short time, and then went on to understand the intricate problems of irrigation. Mr. Rau retired from service in 1944. He became Adviser to Government in formulating the Indian Constitution. Later, he served India with distinction in the United Nations. From 1949 to 1952 he was India's Permanent Representative to the U.N., till he was appointed as a Judge of the International Court in The Hague.
The secret of Benegal Narsing Rau's eminence in every field he entered, and the respect he commanded widely, lay in a combination of great talent, extraordinary capacity for sustained hard work, and rare humility which often forced him to stay anonymous. The perfect handling of whatever he had to do was reward enough for him throughout Mr. B. N. Rau's years of masterly, many-splendoured achievement.
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