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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 36, August 27, 2011

Requiem for My Friend Kamala Prasad

Friday 2 September 2011, by Muchkund Dubey

Kamala Prasad, an outstanding civil servant of post-independent India, a formidable intellect, a prolific writer on current affairs and a perfect gentleman, passed away in Delhi on August 9, 2011. He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1957 and retired as the Chief Secretary of the Government of Bihar in 1992. In addition to going through all the rungs of the Service, he was primarily involved in policy-making on development issues at the highest administrative level. He was the Development Commissioner and Planning Advisor of the Government of Bihar and Commissioner-cum-Principal Secretary in charge of the Departments of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Irrigation, Rural Infrastructure, Drinking Water and Health. In his stint with the Government of India, he served as the Director in charge of Food Industries, Cooperation and Central Warehousing and Joint Secretary, Department of Food. He also served as the Permanent Representative of India to the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome.

My association with Kamala Prasad goes back to the early 1950s when both of us did our BA (Hons) and MA studies during the same period at the Patna University. We joined the Indian Administrative/ Foreign Service the same year. Whenever I used to come to India on home leave from my foreign postings and visit Patna, his residence there was my compulsory port of call. A good part of my posting as the Permanent Representative of India to UN organisations in Geneva coincided with his posting as the Permanent Representative of India to the FAO in Rome. He was one of the few Permanent Representatives of India to the FAO who did not allow the idea of joining the FAO fleet across his mind. We came closer to each other after our retirement when our interests and perspectives converged on the issues of secularism, development strategy, and governance. He contributed well-thought-out papers to some of the seminars organised on these subjects by the Council for Social Development. He helped us in giving final shape to a report we did on the evaluation of land reforms in selected States in India. He wrote a chapter on Land Reforms in India in our publication Indian Society Today brought out on the eve of the Social Development Summit in Copenhagen in 1995.

We worked together as members of the Initiative for National Renewal and Empower-ment of the People (INREP) which drafted a political declaration intended to serve as the manifesto of the political parties which came to form the Third Front before the 1996 general elections in India. This intended joint platform, which never materialised, was published as a book under the title India Under Siege: Challenges Within and Without. Kamala Prasad was a joint author of this publication.

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ONE of the most remarkable tasks accomplished by Kamala Prasad was the report prepared on the demolition of the Babri mosque, under his chairmanship of the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Citizens’ Tribunal on Ayodhya. The Tribunal, consisting of three retired judges of the Supreme Court, was established by a group of civil society organisations. The report prepared by Kamala Prasad was widely hailed as bold, objective and convincing. Its main findings were that the demolition of the mosque was preme-ditated and that the Central Government in power at that time did not take the measures which it was expected and capable of taking to protect the mosque.

Kamala Prasad was held in high esteem by independent experts, intellectuals and NGOs working for the poor and marginalised. His views on issues like land reforms, land acquisition, agrarian situation, food problem, civil strife were strongly pro-people. He could be quite firm and uncompromising in his views, but he was balanced and restrained in their articulation and projection. He was not the one who would jump the line to hog the limelight or thrust himself to the forefront. He presented his point of view at the proper place and time in a measured tone, mostly through his writings and participation in seminars.

Kamala Prasad kept himself up-to-date on a variety of subjects of current interest and wrote extensively on them, and these were published as chapters of books or as articles in Mainstream. His writing was lucid, terse, precise, packed with ideas and full of subtle nuances. He authored one full-length book on Public Administration published by the Pearson Education. This is one of the most erudite and valuable contributions to the subject, of equal interest to general readers and practitioners. It will remain an irreplaceable source of reference for a long time to come. Another book on which he was working and could not complete was on the food situation in the country. Very few persons were as competent to write on this subject as Kamala Prasad. For, he had vast experience in this field both in the Government of India and FAO. He had also meticulously gone about collecting material on the subject over the years.

Kamala Prasad was a role model in the Indian Administrative Service because of his unimpea-chable integrity, his sense of discretion, his scrupulous regard for what is proper and correct, his fairness and compassion in dealing with people and the dignity of his bearing.

With his passing away, I have lost a great friend and one of my most sincere and genuine well-wishers. I shall sorely miss him, but his memory will ever abide with me.

The author, who is the President of the Council for Social Development, New Delhi, is a former Foreign Secretary, Government of India.

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