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RIP: BN Yugandhar

Tributes poured in from all quarters for LBSNAA’s legendary former Director

RIP: BN Yugandhar

BN Yugandhar, the legendary ex-Director of our Academy passed away after a prolonged illness at a government hospital on September 13, 2019, at Hyderabad. His last rites were performed by his son Satya Nadella at Mahaprasthanam, in the simplest possible and fitting manner. Some newspapers commented that very few IAS officers were present at his funeral. He and his family wanted it that way. As the Hindu reported, The 1962-batch IAS officer, who passed away at the age of 82 on Friday, scaled heights in an illustrious career but carried them with least frills and great modesty. He strictly went by the rulebook and managed to steer clear of controversy.

A remembrance meeting for him was held at the campus he headed, and in the auditorium that he had conceptualised last Monday. Tributes had started pouring in from across batches, services and cadres and political leaders he had worked with (although the most influential person he worked for, PV Narasimha Rao, had pre-deceased him). Vice President Venkaiah Naidu wrote: "Saddened by the demise of former bureaucrat, late BN Yugandhar. He was an upright and committed officer who worked for the upliftment of the marginalised sections of society and to improve life in rural India."

He had trained a generation of civil servants at the Academy, first as a Deputy Director in the '70s, and later as the Director from 1988 to 1993. However, his involvement in the life of the Academy commenced from his days as a probationer, for he was elected as the President of the Mess Committee, who in many ways is the representative of the batch.

His batchmate NR Krishnan recalls Yugi as one who 'believed in laying down broad goals and objectives'. Another ex-colleague Amitabha Bhattacharya wrote, 'fortunately the Academy has been steered in critical junctures by sagacious administrators like BN Yugandhar, thereby making it a premier training institution for civil servants'. JVR Prasad Rao, former Union Health Secretary said he 'was inspired by his Never Say Die approach, incorrigible optimism and above all a tremendous sense of humour. He will be greatly missed by his admirers.' Shanta Sheela Nair described him as a 'Tough task-master who taught us the value of hard, relentless work and the pursuit of anti-poverty measures with selfless passion and deep commitment.'

My batchmate R Subhramanyam, who had a very close association and bonding with him, wrote, 'As the Director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, the training ground of young IAS officers, he turned the place around. New buildings came up, infrastructure was upgraded: and more importantly, a new purpose was drilled into the IAS officers – to be proactive, upright, empathic and strong. Never to stop, he re-wrote the development story of the country standing with legends like SR Sankaran. A new creed of positive and proactive administration was unveiled. It was the poor who attracted his attention. He always said, "Focus on the poor, others can take care of themselves." And, we were enriched by his vision. Society emerged much stronger, better administered, more educated and prosperous.'

Those whom he trained had a very special love and affection for him. My colleague and Special Director, Arti Ahuja in a fitting tribute wrote 'He drummed into us the values of empathy, discipline and non-tolerance of mediocrity and "Chalta Hai", never for a moment making us feel that we were a privileged lot. These values stood "Yugandhar's Probationer'' in good stead in the years ahead.'

A short movie on the life and times of this legendary bureaucrat based on archival material available at the Academy and short video clips sent by his colleagues and trainees was screened, and a slim volume listing the resolutions and messages from across the country was published. Floral tributes were offered by employees who had worked with him, and what was remarkable was a recollection of the keen interest he had in the welfare and betterment of those who were at the margins everywhere. No wonder the Mess workers and their families were amongst those who were most saddened by this loss.

Two additional secretaries, both his trainees, V Srinivas from the Department of AR & PG and K Srinivas from the Department of Personnel and Training, flew in to pay their tributes in person. V Srinivas wrote 'BN Yugandhar was the man who instilled the love for land reforms in IAS probationers, established the Land Reforms Unit at the Academy, had an incredible commitment to implementing the celling laws, protection of tenancy rights and protection of common lands and temple lands. "The torch of justice must burn bright," he would often say. It was by listening to his eloquence and erudition of the subject that I learnt that "Revenue Law is a subject of great beauty with tremendous spiritual strength."'

K Srinivas wrote 'Words fail! Diro lives on in our hearts, thoughts & actions that he inspired in us. May he continue to inspire us & I pray to God to grant eternal salvation to a soul that has truly evolved. May he become one with the mountains of Jaunsar Bawar & vast India that he truly loved.'

Last, but not the least, the Central IC&AS Association tweeted: 'BN Yugandhar was a man who became a legend in his lifetime. He will live on, and the Academy commits itself to carry forward his work, especially in the domain of Rural Studies and Land management with a clear focus on land rights for the marginal and small farmers.' The Academy proposes to name the Centre for Rural Studies as the BN Yugandhar Centre for Rural Studies.

(Dr. Sanjeev Chopra is Director, LBSNAA, Mussoorie, and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Sanjeev Chopra

Sanjeev Chopra

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