M Karunanidhi: Steely Administrator with a Golden Heart

K S Sripathi, a former Chief Secretary under the Karunanidhi regime, says the former Chief Minister was keen on development of infrastructure of the State.

Published: 09th August 2018 02:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th August 2018 11:54 AM   |  A+A-


Late DMK stalwart M Karunanidhi (File | EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi was particular about ensuring all his decisions were implemented. He had the habit of pursuing them till the end and one could even expect a midnight wake-up call from him asking about the status of a project or implementing the order, recall bureaucrats, who worked with him. K S Sripathi, a former Chief Secretary under the Karunanidhi regime, says the former Chief Minister was keen on development of infrastructure of the State and the current airport expansion which is happening was approved during his period despite issues pertaining to acquisition of defence land. “He never interfered with officialdom and was keen to get things done,” he said.

“During my tenure there was a false tsunami alert in 2009. “I got a call from him at 1 am. He used to call me ‘CS Sir’.  He wanted me to alert the district Collectors. At that time he was unwell also,” the former official recalls. “Even during the floods in 2009, he waited for me to reach Gopalapuram from my home at Mogappair. “He was a pragmatic person and I cherish those moments working with him,” he said. 
Sripathi says although there are rumours that Karunanidhi was anti-Brahmin or anti-Hindutva,  he never showed such an attitude in work and “I am an example, being one from the community.”

People paying homage to the departed leader in Madurai 
(U Rakesh Kumar, Ashwin Prasath & KK Sundar)

A former Tamil Nadu health secretary V K Subburaj, who is now member of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), recalled the health insurance scheme implemented during DMK regime and how it was mooted by Karunanidhi. “The then Chief Minister was following the health insurance scheme in Andhra Pradesh and one fine day dispatched me immediately to Andhra Pradesh to study the model and replicate it in the state. After studying it, I said it would cost Rs 650 crore to the exchequer to which he said finance is not a constraint and asked it to be implemented immediately,” he said.

He also recalled a meeting with secretaries when the former Chief Minister came and whispered in his ears. One of the secretaries was keen to know what transpired. “I was warned that if a person dies without getting access to a doctor or hospital or due to shortage in medicines, it will be a big insult to the Chief Minister,” said Subburaj. He also recalled how particular Karunanidhi was in implementing his orders. 

“The doctors sought increase in salaries and were planning to go on strike the next day. It was at 7.30 pm, I got a call asking about whether the file pertaining to rise in doctors’ salaries had been cleared. I told him that it was with the minister. Immediately, he summoned the minister who was travelling by train near Chengalpattu to his home with the file,” he recalled.

“By 8.30pm, the minister came with the file. Karunanidhi approved the file and asked us to prepare the press note at his residence immediately. It was by 10 pm, we finished the press note after which he gave his nod. But that was not all. He wanted us to ensure it reached all the media. At 11.30 pm, he went upstairs and after five to 10 minutes he came down. The Murasoli has got the press release. Now you can go,” recalls Subburaj.

Palayamkottai connect
This is the plaque etched on the wall of Palayamkottai Central prison in Tirunelveli, wherein the Quarantine Cell Number 5, prison number one, languished a war veteran. That stalwart was none other than the late former chief minister and DMK chief M Karunanidhi, who was held for four months in the jail for mounting an anti-Hindi agitation in 1965. He was released a few days ahead of Indo-Pakistan war.

Vernacular supporter
Even after the DMK split away from the Dravidar Kazhagam in 1949, the former espoused a strong stand against Hindi imposition. The agitation the party staged in July 1953 against changing the name of Kallakudi to Dalmiapuram was etched in the annals of history. At the helm of the protest was Karunanidhi, who erased ‘Dalmiapuram’ from the name board of the town’s railway station. 


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