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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 11, March 6, 2010

Ram Niwas Mirdha

Saturday 6 March 2010, by Shree Shankar Sharan


The country has suffered one more loss in the passing away of its popular leader, Ram Niwas Mirdha. He was one of the best kinds of the second generation Congressmen, steady and stoic and stood tall amidst turmoil or stagnation hoping bad times to pass for better ones. It is a tribute to him that he bided for time among lean days though in good ones he rose to be a Communications Minister, the Speaker of the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha and Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Academy.

I had the pleasure of serving as his Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Communications. This Ministry was always entrusted to some of the most seasoned Ministers as Babu Jagjivan Ram, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Arjun Singh, V.N. Gadigil and Mirdha. I accompanied Mirdha to British Telecom to study the organisation as it had emerged after corporatisation, in preference to being run departmentally. We were both convinced of its virtue. The seed we carried from the visit fructified later in the time of Gadgil in the shape of the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam and the Videsh Sanchar Nigam, on my advice and against the opposition of the Telecom Department by the approval of the forward-looking Minister, Gadgil, and the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and many years later, the leviathan, the BSNL. The first two corporations by their improved efficiency and revenues served the nation well till the VSNL was divested to the Tatas for a pittance ignoring its huge potential to bring in profits as the network expanded.

I remember Mirdha for his gentleness, his civility and gentle prodding of officers forward. He was the best kind of Congressman, a man of complete integrity, gentle, civil and quietly receptive to new ideas which also have the makings of a good Minister He wanted me to be the new Telecom Secretary but that was not to be due to bureaucratic machinations.

The country and his State will surely miss him.

The author, a retired IAS officer, is the Convenor, Lok Paksh, Patna/Delhi. He can be contacted at e-mail: shankarsharan77@gmail.com

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