Tamil Nadu

Keshav Desiraju remembered

Speakers who shared their memories of Keshav Desiraju, a bureaucrat who recently passed away in Chennai, recalled him as a gentleman who touched many people’s lives. Desiraju, former Union Health Secretary and grandson of former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, died on the latter’s birth anniversary on September 5.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal, said he had known him for nearly four decades and remembered him as “an extremely private person who was easy to know but not easy to understand”.

During his stint in the Department of Personnel and Training, Desiraju had the opportunity to get to know every officer. “He knew their individual problems, eccentricities and in the process he became in the world of civil servants a keeper of their panchanga” which helped when these individuals needed help, he said.

“He was a friend’s friend and friend of friends. He helped a woman in her mid-80s when she had difficulty in accessing her pension,” Mr. Gandhi recalled.

As the Union Health Secretary, he laid the foundation for a Mental Health Act which he pursued even after moving out of the department, said K. Sujatha Rao, former Union Health Secretary. He would sit with the health department officials and frame the rules for the Act so that it could be implemented. “He was a person of great efficiency and a quiet person I could implicitly trust. He sat with the joint commissioner and ensured that the rules of Mental Health Act were drafted. He did not need Ministers to prod him,” she said.

Director of SCARF, R. Thara, said though he was a board member of the organisation he could enjoy a quiet coffee with her at the canteen of the Music Academy.

K. Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation, and Sriram Panchu, senior advocate and trustee of CAG, also shared their memories of Desiraju. A video tribute from Vandana Gopikumar, co-founder of the Banyan, was also played.

The event was organised by Citizen Consumer and Civil Action Group, of which Desiraju was a board member.


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 6:23:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/keshav-desiraju-remembered/article36393053.ece

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