MMA-KAS organised a Discussion on the theme of the book, “Service Uninterrupted: Memoirs of M.M. Rajendran” authored by Mr M.M. Rajendran, IAS (Retd), Former Governor of Odisha. Hon’ble Mr Justice R Suresh Kumar, Madras High Court, was the Chief Guest.
Dr T V Somanathan, IAS, Finance Secretary, Government of India felicitated the author through a video message. Mr H.H. Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, Prince of Arcot, Chennai, Ms Mallika Srinivasan, Chairman & CEO, TAFE Ltd, Mr P Shankar, IAS (Retd), Former Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu & Former Chief Vigilance Commissioner and Kalaimamani Dr Cheyon, I.B.S. (R) Publisher of the Tamil Edition, Former Director, All India Radio, shared their insights about the book and the wisdom gained through their interactions with the author. The discussion focussed on leadership and corporate governance.
The author Mr M M Rajendran in his address stressed on the need for probity and integrity in bureaucracy. He thanked his mentor Mr Kamaraj for guiding him, then PM Mr Vajpayee and many other Central Ministers and Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu who gave him a free hand and lent him great support in the execution of his assignments. Recalling his role as Governor of Orissa, he pointed out how a Governor can contribute effectively to a State within the ambit of our Constitution and how as Chancellor, the Governor can impact higher education in the State positively.
Hon’ble Mr Justice R Suresh Kumar:
MMR’s father was a veterinary doctor. The hospital building needed repairs but despite representations to the authorities, there was no action. One day, the District Collector came to the hospital for treating his horse. After it was treated well, the collector asked if they needed any support. MMR’s father brought up the issue of repair works to the hospital. Immediately, the necessary people came and it was rectified. Inspired by this quick action, MMR’s father told his son how powerful the post of a Collector was and exhorted him to study IAS.
A bond develops
MMR joined the IAS passing out as an All India Topper. There was no IAS coaching facility then. He was posted in Thanjavur as a Trainee Sub-Collector. After evaluating his performance, the then Thanjavur Collector sent a note to the Chief Minister, recommending that MMR be given an elevated responsibility and made in charge of a prominent division, preferably Pollachi, as MMR is passionate about rural development. Mr Kamaraj was the then Chief Minister. He assigned Sivakasi to MMR as its first sub-collector, for two reasons. It was much more of a rural area than Pollachi and Virudhunagar which was in Sivakasi division was the town from which Mr Kamaraj hailed. That led to the development of a close bond between Kamaraj and MMR.
For his next posting, MMR opted for Ramanathapuram, which was a very backward area and where people dreaded to go. Good leaders take challenging assignments and thrive in them. He handled the role deftly and it was the only district where there was no fatality from the police shooting done to curb violent crowds protesting against Hindi imposition in the State (known as Hindi agitation).
Like a rock in Rameswaram
He also handled another major catastrophe—a super cyclone (The Rameswaram and Dhanushkoti cyclone) that devastated the district and made one train to submerge in the sea. There was no communication and road facilities. The entire Dhanushkoti was devastated and went under the sea. MMR stood like a rock, contacted people at Chennai, requested for planes and helicopters and relief aid, went to ground zero, though officials advised him against going to the deep pockets of the affected areas. Amidst heavy rains and wind, he went by boat and oversaw the rescue efforts.
MMR served as collector of Tirunelveli district for three years. When that tenure was over, there was a big crowd of people at the railway station, who had gathered there to send him off, with moist eyes. Again, this was top leadership in action, who connected with the people and did yeoman service.
As Under-Secretary in PWD, he shifted the Republic Day Parade venue from Island grounds to Kamaraj Salai (Beach area). This practice continues till today. As Assistant Commissioner of Chennai, he did remarkable service. As Commissioner of Stationery Printing, he resolved a huge labour problem. The Siruvani water scheme that provides water for Coimbatore and nearby areas was conceived and executed by none other than MMR, when he was PWD Secretary.
In 1988, Tamil Nadu came under President’s Rule. MMR was the Chief Secretary of the State and he was the main pillar of the administration. His achievements during that phase and under the subsequent elected government were far too many.
During his stint in the Central Government, he initiated a nutritional development program for children. It was noticed by UNICEF and they wanted MMR’s services. In 1981, he joined UNICEF as a Senior Advisor and served there for six years. In 87, he came back as Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. He again took up Central Service and could have become the Cabinet Secretary but that post eluded him.
But God did not let him down. He got the coveted position as the ruler of a State—the Governor of Orissa in 1999, a post very rarely given to bureaucrats. He guided the elected government there to organise relief efforts when an unprecedented super cyclone struck the state. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee greatly valued his cyclone relief efforts. This shows that when the leader works selflessly, keeping only the interests of his people in his/her mind and delivers effectively, he gets noticed at the highest level and rewarded for the contributions.