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A civil servant’s role model

P.S. Appu demanded a lot,but set the perfect example

P.S. Appu demanded a lot,but set the perfect example

The passing away of P.S. Appu is a great loss. I worked with Appu from the time when we were both young men,both at home and abroad. They do not make them like him very often. Highly informed and well read,fully focused,a man with great integrity,he left his mark wherever he went.

In 1974,I was invited for my first job in the Planning Commission. A feudal African country had a coup. The general who led it was trained in India and wanted assistance in the security area,economic planning and land relations,and rural development. A general who was the director of the Military Academy was asked to lead this delegation,Appu was the land reforms expert and I was the planner. In the limited time that we were there,with the extraordinary attention that he could pay to detail,Appu summarised the situation in precise,telling language. He checked their revenue records. He read everything that had been written on rural organisations in the kingdom and summarised the path ahead. A young officer in the military regime trained in France was critical about land relations in India,Appu was frank,modest as well-informed persons are,and said that the reforms that he was talking about were not a picnic either in his country or ours.

In the Planning Commission,Appu was to digest a very large number of land reforms studies done by the Committee on Plan Projects of the Planning Commission in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He kept on hammering away at the leakages “Personal Cultivation” provisions in the legislation led to.

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I remember in the Planning Commission,one of his seniors said that the political system had changed and was in favour of land reforms. Appu quoted Dantwala’s classic piece in the Economic Weekly saying that the major political parties in India were against land reforms because while the zamindar and the raja were loyal to the imperial power,the younger brother was joining the freedom movement and so we find it very difficult to bring about the reform in land relations General MacArthur had done in Formosa and the Shah of Iran was doing. His seniors found it difficult to face this kind of barrage.

Much later,as a member of the Planning Commission,I was to organise a meeting on land reforms. My friend V.N. Dandekar and I,based on our experience of Gujarat and Maharashtra,were arguing for legalising tenancy. Appu,together with B.D. Sharma,with their experience of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh,massacred Dandekar and me and prevailed on the land to the tillers slogan and the implementation of ceiling on land holdings. Asha Swarup wrote the preface to that publication and the policy reviews on how Dandekar and Alagh retired hurt.

Appu was to have a stint as chief secretary in Bihar and as the director of the Academy in Mussoorie. He invited me to inaugurate a course for the freshers,and in the exchange that took place,he was severe on those who did not understand that they were a select lot and had great protection from the Constitution,but that demanded complete dedication to the nation’s social goals.


He demanded a lot,but was the perfect example. In the first decade of this century,I was asked to work on recruitment and training of the higher civil services in the country. There was in that report a chapter on the requirements from the services of the future. Another civilised civil servant,Tejinder Khanna,wrote the draft of that chapter and we worked on it. It started with a page which listed any endeavour of national activity in which a civil servant played a major role,and many names were there. Appu,by any standard,would be in that hall of fame. But,of course,as we said,they were the exceptions. The challenge is to make the average that way. Progress on that would be a great tribute to stalwarts like P.S. Appu.

The writer,a former Union minister,is chairman,Institute of Rural Management,Anand

First published on: 04-04-2012 at 12:29:02 am
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