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Kota Punnaiah, a scholar-politician

Kota Punnaiah, a scholar-politician
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In the passing away of a senior Congress leader Kota Punnaiah on Saturday in his 92nd year, the State has lost a respected, grand old patriarch who...

In the passing away of a senior Congress leader Kota Punnaiah on Saturday in his 92nd year, the State has lost a respected, grand old patriarch who belonged to a generation which stood for certain values in life. Personally, it is a great loss to me as our association goes back to our college days, way back in early 1950s, in SRR and CVR College in Vijayawada, where we were together in Intermediate and later degree classes. As he had started his education very late in his native place in Gampalagudem in Krishna district with the support of the Zamindar of the place, he was much older than all of us in the class and with some of us who had come close to him, he was looked up to as an elder brother. He used to entertain and enlighten us with some of the poems of our Telugu classics, singing them in his mellifluous voice. He became a favourite student of Viswanadha Satyanarayana who found in him a bright spark. Dr P Srinivasachary, Chaturvedulu Sriramanarasimham, who was endowed with the sharpest intellect, Anne Radhakrishna Murthy, teacher-par-excellence who is happily in our midst now, were considered by Punnaiah as his eminent teachers who shaped his life. Potlapalli Sitarama Rao, our senior in the college who won the highest appreciation from Viswanadha for his great poetic talent, was so very intimate with Punnaiah that they lived together in the same house. When degree classes were started in the college, as he was a student of arts group, he joined B Com class and I joined BA (Mathematics) in 1949. During that period Andhra University used to conduct Andhra Week Celebrations in which there were elocution contests under the direct supervision of the registrar, K V Gopalaswamy, a remarkable person of varied interests and a very able organizer.
Punnaiah and Sadanda Rao in Telugu, Dharmaji Rao and I in English were selected to represent our college. All affiliated colleges and the university college participated in it. There was a thunderous ovation for Punnaiah's speech and the Telugu team won the prize and Punnaiah was adjudged as the best speaker. When all of us returned from Vizag with the trophy, Viswanadha was so happy that he had showered praise on him and blessed him to scale still greater heights in country's public life. When later Punnaiah was elected to the Rajya Sabha, Viswanadha was very happy when he came to seek his blessings. For Punnaiah life was not a bed of roses, and soon after taking his degree he joined as a clerk in a building society in Khammam, where Jalagam Vengal Rao, one of our very able and respected chief ministers, impressed by his versatility and scholarship, took him under his care and selected him for election to the Assembly but he lost it. Subsequently, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1960. He was re-nominated twice and he served as Rajya Sabha member for three terms from 1960 to 1978, a record. He held many important positions in the Congress party with distinction and also was appointed to several statutory bodies. That was quite in keeping with his public image but there was very little he could do there as he was not proficient in English or Hindi. If his services had been used in the State, he could have probably achieved something tangible. For those who had known him from his earliest years of privation and suffering, it was a grievous loss for the State and its under-privileged for whom he could have done his best in his position of power for a long time! He lived a full life of achievements as a scholar and politician with a difference. IMA � 75 Platinum jubilee celebrations of Indian Medical Association, Vijayawada branch, were organized last week under the chairmanship of Dr K Pattabhiramaiah. The entire medical fraternity from the city and other places in the State attended in large numbers. Started in 1938 with just eight members, it has now grown into a powerful body representing a large number of doctors who have excelled in their profession in various branches of fast developing medical science. The inaugural function was marked by its planning and near perfect execution within their scope. As could be expected, the most appropriate and hard-hitting speech came from the chief guest, Dr Jayaprakash Narayana. He brought into it three well-marked streams, as administrator, political leader and professional in his characteristic simplicity and uncompromising stand on issues of public importance. Local MP L Rajagopal spoke of several things right from admission into medical colleges, the fees, unethical practices, deteriorating standards and so on and what not all in a very rambling way leaving the captive listeners not a whit the wiser on any of these aspects. As it was a very important occasion, the organizers should have either avoided such busy politicians or at least briefed them to come with a prepared speech. The celebrations were well organized and Dr P V Ramana Murthy, chairman, and Dr Ramprasad, secretary, and their team deserve a word of praise for their successful celebration of a great event in the city. They have done well in highlighting the achievements of a very old organization. But what about the citizens, the beneficiaries of the effort of this 75-year-old institution? It is those citizens who should have come forward to thank IMA and its highly qualified professionals for their immense service to the public.
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