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Remembering a dynamic mentor

Late Nagarjuna Sir, IAS
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Late Nagarjuna Sir, IAS

Highlights

I consider myself fortunate to have had an opportunity to work under Late Nagarjuna Sir, IAS, (1955-2002) when he was a State Project Director, District Primary Education Programme, Andhra Pradesh in early 2000s. I would like to recall my experiences and knowledge that I gained under his noble aegis.

I consider myself fortunate to have had an opportunity to work under Late Nagarjuna Sir, IAS, (1955-2002) when he was a State Project Director, District Primary Education Programme, Andhra Pradesh in early 2000s. I would like to recall my experiences and knowledge that I gained under his noble aegis.

His humble and down to earth attitude always won people over. He always interacted with people of all levels to understand their issues and provide solutions for improving the functionality of the department. He insisted on innovative thinking in works.

For instance, when I designed and proposed child-friendly elements like elephant model slides, animal-shaped & fruit- shaped chalkboards, created child-friendly environment through drawings & paintings on walls etc. for eight schools in Khammam District, without any second thought, he immediately gave the green signal to go ahead. This had tremendous impact on children and improved the enrolment in schools.

He was well acquainted with all the issues of the department and prepared notes for all important events or meetings by himself and never depended on others. His dynamic nature was visible in the way he worked, especially when it came to disposing of files. No files were left pending on his table. He hated procrastinating attitude in officers. He stressed on speedy disposal of files so that the system should not suffer. He was honest to the core but never let this honest image go to his head affecting his duties. His prime focus was on ensuring speedy disposal of issues so that the department gets streamlined for better performance. He expected the same honesty and commitment from the staff.

In one of the meetings he said that personal honesty and integrity is good in officers and equally stressed on their professional integrity. He said their personal honesty should not affect their discretion and wisdom in disposing of files obstructing the system. He further added that he had come across officers who consciously gloated about their honest image and looked at files from that angle delaying decisions and inconveniencing people. He opined that this kind of attitude in officers derails the smooth functioning of the system. I would like to recall an incident that once happened.

There was a general review meeting conducted by him with staff members and officers wherein he said that lots of complaints had come to his notice that the funds were not released for conducting Residential Bridge Course for dropout children in Hyderabad. These centres were facing problems for not getting their due share of funds. This was because an officer concerned in the department has stopped releasing payments to the agency. When questioned, the officer replied that he stopped releasing payments because there were allegations against the NGO that they were indulging in corrupt practices misusing the released funds.

Nagarjuna Sir then rebuked the concerned officer saying that his high- handed behaviour in stopping payments to NGOs has made thousands of children suffer starvation for several months. He said that starving children is the worst crime. He further said, 'Suppose if you had released the funds due to the NGO he could have embezzled 60 per cent or 70 per cent of funds. But the remaining 30 per cent or 40 per cent funds utilised could have benefited the children to some extent. But since you have not released funds to the NGO all the children suffered starvation'. He then immediately ordered the release of payments to ensure the programme activities to continue unhindered.

He further gave a dressing down to all present that no one should poke their noses in other departments' responsibilities. If NGOs are corrupt then the matter should be left to the investigating agencies to decide the course of action against the erring NGOs. But not take matters relating to other departments into one's hands and play God. For no one escapes from the clutches of the law of the land. There's a system in place where every department has its own role to play to make the nation run on a smooth track. We all should fall in line and strengthen the system by making our actions responsible and accountable to the public. After all we are public servants. We are here to serve the public and give them the best they deserve.

He further let out the secret that what makes the officer good. He said,

One should have positive approach in reading, understanding and subsequent disposal of files.

They should cultivate the habit of interacting with people at ground level and understand their needs.

Improve analytical skills to be in a position to decide whether his signature of authority or his decision-making power is benefiting the public and falling within the ambit of the law.

Thorough subject knowledge; good assessing skills in deciding what is good and what is bad for the public or for the State; good knowledge of service rules or rules relating to the subject that they are dealing with.

Commitment to one's work; commitment to use one's discretionary powers; and commitment to the speedy disposal of files in good faith with good judgment is all what is required in an efficient officer.

True to his words, he lived all his life by what he preached. The nation needs more of such officers who possess the calibre and characteristics of Late Nagarjuna Sir; and not the procrastinating indecisive officers who put off the files confining them to the dusty attics which go on piling like a China Wall. It is this bureaucratic attitude that should be consigned to flames.

For two years, he was my mentor and inspiration. I learnt a lot from him. On his 19th death anniversary on March 28, as part of my humble tributes to the memory of late Nagarjuna Sir, I recollect and reminisce the memorable moments that I had with him and wish to share it with my colleagues and you all.

(The author is Deputy Executive Engineer, Commissioner of School Education, Government of Telangana, Hyderabad)

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