A relentless fighter

STRIVING FOR A CAUSE: The former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral O.S. Dawson  

Admiral O.S. Dawson, former Chief of Naval Staff, continues to be a fighter even after leaving the armed forces in 1984. His fight is for the cause of humanity. Making a name in pioneering the efforts to make available lead-free petrol in 1997 and making the then Government come out with a decision to phase out leaded petrol, Admiral Dawson is now on another project.

Making artificial limbs for the needy, apart from talking on how lead poisoning affects humanity. "No level of lead in blood is safe or normal, though the accepted level is 5-10 micro gram per decilitre," says Admiral Dawson.

He was in Kochi to attend a conference on toxicology. Admiral Dawson remembers the place where he had been the Chief of Staff in 1965. The mess at Naval base had come up at that time. "I was here earlier too, soon after the war (World War II), in 1945-46, commanding a ship," recollects Admiral Dawson.

A study undertaken on 22,000 children, pregnant women and others in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Vellore and Hyderabad gave disturbing facts, he said. "More than 50 per cent of children below the age of 12 in all the cities had lead level in their blood above 10 micro gram per decilitre." This study paved the way for the success of Project Lead-Free, with the Government taking immediate decision on the issue. His first social concern that turned into a public service was the cleaning up of Ulsoor lake in Bangalore. The Navy helped him in his efforts to clean up the lake, which was filled with silt. Anga Karunya Kendra is the project that he is associated with at present. Its founder C.S. Samuel chose Admiral Dawson to succeed him. The Kendra provides artificial limbs to those affected by polio, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and accidents.

As its president, Admiral Dawson has taken up an expansion plan to set up a rehabilitation centre along with an outreach programme with a mobile fabrication van. "I am approaching various people for funds for the Rs. 4-crore project," he said.

Among other concerns, management of water is dear to Admiral Dawson. Cities have grown disproportionate to the infrastructure they have. The Bangalore-flooding is a case in point, he said.

"It was a beautiful city when I came down to settle here," he said. "It is chaos now."

Shyama Rajagopal