The Crusader with a Vision

In conversation with M G Devasahayam

Sitting in the apartment next to the Thiruvanmiyur Beach, with radiantly beaming eyes and sublime confidence of youth, the visionary with a dream, M G Devasahayam traces his journey from an ordinary village in Nagar Kovil to the coveted seat of Indian Administrative Service.  A noble crusader, who spearheads innumerable strategies to bring phenomenal change, if words alone could describe who he is.

His sheer perseverance and indomitable gusto has brought a remarkable change in every nook and corner of the society. An economist turned administrator, he has engraved his foot prints in several fields which ranges from public arena to social activism. Whether it is working in the army or operating in private and public sectors, he has curved a niche for himself.


When Devasahayam began his career as a teacher in Loyola College, after completing his post-graduation in Economics, little does he knew that destiny has other plans for him. It was during the Indo-China war in 1962, Indian army came to his college to inspire young minds to take up the army service. From the numerous applicants, he was one among the two who got selected and later he was trained in Officers Training School in Pune.

 He was commissioned into the 17 battalion Madras Regiment after the training. During his meritorious Army service, he had participated in the Indo-Pak War (1965), anti-insurgency operations in Nagaland and also worked as an Aid to Civil Power in Assam and Madras State. He has won awards such as General Service Medal, Samar Seva (War Service) Star and Special Service (Nagaland) Medal.

Life has its own way to deal with a man’s life and so does, it played with Devasahayam. He describes it as a “pure coincidence” when he applied for the IAS exam for the people commissioned in defence services. It was a fine evening and he was there after the duty, when he found the advertisement for the exam in a national newspaper which was left in the army canteen. As he always does, he gave a try. Completely forgetting about the exam, the very next day he moved to Nagaland where he participated in counter- insurgency operations. He was badly injured twice and once narrowly escaped death.

It came as a surprise for him that he has passed the exam and he left for Delhi with just a single week to prepare for his interview. It does not matter where you are, but when life calls, one just need to answer it. Recounting it as the major turning point in his life, Devasahayam narrated that he was selected for the Indian Administrative service and he began his invaluable service as a sub collector in the Haryana Cadre in 1968 and he was allotted 1964 batch due to Army service.

During his term in the Administrative service, he has done a remarkable work by successfully taking up several challenging and demanding positions in the Government which includes Collector of two Districts, Administrator of Chandigarh Capital Project, Transport Commissioner of Excise and Taxation and Chairman of Haryana State Electricity Board.

Whatever or wherever he was assigned to, he had an exceptional way of making matters into better. With his exemplary skill, he initiated several programs like Integrated District Development program and he took breath-taking efforts for the creation of a new district. Further, he played a crucial role in raising profit from the Electricity Board, which was functioning badly and causing severe financial burden to the government.  Through a regulatory control by suspending corrupt officers and by introducing need based energy management system, he changed the entire power distribution system and within six months, he brought an unbelievable change in the department. Similarly, the transportation department too, witnessed an overwhelming change under his modus operandi.

It was during his administrative service, he met two of the incredible personalities of his life time, Jayaprakash Narayan and Mother Teresa. Vividly describing them as role models, Devasahayam happily shared his close connection which brought a remarkable change in his perspectives.


Devasahayam with Jayaprakash Narayan

During the Emergency in 1975, when Jayaprakash Narayan who was fondly called as JP was jailed at Chandigarh, Devasahayam was in charge of him. Protesting against the draconian laws imposed by the government of Indira Gandhi, JP was resorted to fast and the timely intervention of Devasahayam helped in persuading him to withdrew the fast. Further, the life of “Second Mahatma” was threatened by the political plot and it was due to Devasahayam, who suspected a foul play, JP’s life was saved. Devasahayam’s personal association with JP, the architect of ‘India’s Second Freedom’, drew his attention towards politics. He was active in politics as Secretary General of Tamil Nadu unit and later All-India General Secretary of Janta Party. His involvement in politics helped him to understand the political process and its relevance and relationship to Democracy and Governance.

He has recently published a memoir of Mother Teresa, ‘a drop of love’. He has worked with Mother Teresa and Missionaries of Charity for more than six years. He was in the forefront of setting up a home for the abandoned and dying destitutes, Shanti-Dan, at Chandigarh and also a sanctuary for lepers.


Devasahayam with Mother Teresa

The two unique personalities imparted immense values and morals to his psyche. It is from them, he imbibed that power is just a means to serve the people. Following the footsteps of the astounding personalities, he took voluntary retirement from the IAS in 1985. By actively involving in the Private Sector and Voluntary Organisations, Devasahayam for the past 32 years is living a life of his passion.

Being a prolific writer, several of his articles have been published in leading newspapers and he has also written books. His area of interest for writing ranges from resource efficiency to topics like freedom, democracy and corruption.

As the Founder and Managing Trustee of the Chennai based Citizens’ Alliance for Sustainable Living (SUSTAIN), he leads several other initiatives too, to bring out change. The NGO Sustain is meant for the cause of advocating and promoting Sustainable Resource Management and ‘Participatory Governance’. In 1990, he was appointed as a member of Government of India’s High Power Committee on Agricultural Policies and Programmes that dealt with the issue of “transforming Agriculture into an Industry”. But he expressed the pathetic state of affairs when he says there were “interesting policies and solutions but none of them implemented”.

However, he is not ready to accept defeats. He came forward with initiatives meant for conserving water and democracy through children and youth. Highly concerned about the corruption and the bad management that engulfs the Chennai Water system, recently, he has formed a Forum of Civic Association collaborating with Chennai Metropolitan Water Bodies and Water Rejuvenation Forum to fight against the poor implementation of government water supply schemes.

Living in a water “starving” city, Devasahayam points his fingers directly to the corrupt civil servants and engineers. Further, he says, “We are adopting most unsustainable and uneconomic method of desalinating sea water, which is absurd. We are begging other states for water…So water management has been the most miserable failure as far as Tamil Nadu government is considered in Chennai metropolitan city”.

He has adopted a strategy for conserving water for the future. He proposes to create a coalition of schools and children wherein the students will be demand for water which is more fundamental than any other right.

Deeply worried about the damage done to the very edifice of democracy, he puts forth an agenda whereby advocating youth to demand participatory functioning and decentralized governance which are currently lacking in the democracy.

As a man of outstanding courage and caliber, Devasahayam is concerned about the increasing “fear psychosis”, which is inimical to the concept of democracy. “       For youth, there is nothing to be afraid of. They should break the system which instils the sense of fear in them”, he says further. As they are buried in the technology driven world, which is the hand tool of corrupt corporates and politicians, he is extremely anguished to see that the youth are not willing to question. “Unless you start questioning, how will you innovate?” raising a valid query, he advocates them to be like Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar who sang,

Achamillai, achamillai, acham enbathu illaye

Icckathulorellam  yethirthu nindra podhilum,

Achamillai, achamillai, acham enbathu illaye

(I have no fear, I have no fear, There is not even a speck of fear in me!

Even if every human in this world stands up against me,

I have no fear, I have no fear, There is not even a speck of fear in me!)


An ode to the odd one

I am dead

Not a cadaver patiently waiting for its burial.

But a living corpse

deeply burying

my insanity.


I was stupid, silly and senseless

hovering around the darkness

that engulfed my soul.


With an ardent heart and

an adamant mind,

I lived a life of idiocy

long ago,

fanatically chasing the impossibilities.

But I was alive,

much to the psyche.

I had  dreams

I had passions

I had queries


A silent murder!

Chopped my wings first

And then my legs.

Once an Icarius,

who was destined to soar heights

But now,

I do realize

I didn’t chop

but it was melted.


I was

A moron who built her shack on sand.

But it was too late, I thought.

As the sand beneath my feet  

slowly washed away

the memoirs of mine.


It is never too late to be what you have been.

Point noted.

And I’m here.

ഒറ്റയാന്‍റെ സുവിശേഷങ്ങള്‍-2

തിരിച്ചറിവിന് ഒരു യാഥാര്‍ത്ഥ്യബോധമുണ്ട്.

പലപ്പോഴും തിരിച്ചറിയാറിലെങ്കിലും.

ഒരിക്കല്‍ തെറ്റിയ വഴിത്താരകളിലൂടെ വീണ്ടും നടക്കേണ്ടിരിക്കുന്നു.


എന്നെ തന്നെ തേടി!



മൂക സാക്ഷിയാണ് ഞാന്‍.

അന്ധയും ബധിരയുമാണ്.

അടഞ്ഞു പോയ മിഴികളും,

ചിലക്കാത്ത ചുണ്ടുകളും,

മറവി ഗ്രസിക്കാത്ത ഓര്‍മകളും

പിന്നെ ഒരുപ്പിടി  നഷ്ടബോധങ്ങളും.


ഒഴിഞ്ഞ ഈ തുകല്‍ സഞ്ചിയില്‍ വേറൊന്നുമില്ല.


കാലത്തിന്‍റെ തേരില്‍.

എന്നിലെ നഷ്ടസൗധം തേടി.

The Stakeholders of Morality

How moral policing has seemingly turned Kerala from God’s own country into Goofs’ own country!

For the rest of the world, it was a typical Valentine’s Day. But it turns out to be a drastic day for Aneesh, a 22-year-old man and his girlfriend, who happened to be there at the wrong time in the Azheekal Beach in Kollam. Harassed by the moral scavengers of an anachronic era, Aneesh hanged himself following the mental trauma.

Only a couple of weeks ago, two youngsters went live on Facebook when the couple were allegedly targeted by two police personnel while inside the Museum Park in Thiruvananthapuram for their “indecent” behaviour.

A boy was beaten black and blue in University College in Thiruvananthapuram by SFI activists while watching a play along with his friends inside the campus in another instance of moral policing.

A law student in Kozhikode registered a police complaint as she was bullied by the members of Muslim League on social media for dressing unconventionally and befriending non-Muslim boys.

With several incidents popping up, moral policing has become a stark reality of the highly progressed State. Despite high literacy and seemingly liberal attitude in Kerala, the conservative society is still blinded by the age-old Victorian morality. Adhering to the patriarchal dogmas, living within the moral stricture, fabricated by the socio-political and religious leaders, Malayalees have failed to understand the definition of relationship in the longer run.

Perceiving every relationship of opposite genders with sexual connotation, the society has essentially grown backwards over the years. Right from the childhood, segregation of boys and girls is a common scenario that can be seen in the educational institutions and public spaces. The gender inequality which stems from the houses, endorsed by various institutions, perpetuates eternal vigilantism to promote the cultural ethos of the bygone era. By nurturing the gender bias, the society has objectified women, cornering them to be easily susceptible to the villainy of the “guardians” of morality.

K Meryl, an M.A. student from a premiere institute points out the menace within the social institutions as it prefers women to stay inside the patriarchal laxmanrekha of modesty and domesticity. “The danger of this mentality is that one doesn’t realize how it affects society on the whole. Forcing one sect of people to compromise on their individuality just so, some others can be happy is nothing short of disastrous and dangerous”, she says further.

Attacking vehemently over the “pseudo” liberalism, Meryl considers it as a gross mistake to assume that Kerala is a liberal State. According to her, “Liberalism in Kerala (or any other Indian State) is like the oil smear on the surface of sewage. People are willing to adopt a few liberal ideas without fully understanding what they entail”.

Having embraced the puritanical mind-set, many of the Keralites lean over the moral code, hesitating to think beyond what was being taught by the patriarchal system. But, as Praveen S R P, a journalist, observed, the changes of the past two decades have upset this situation, with more young boys and girls coming out together in public spaces. “This has created resentment among a particular section, which are also not very adept at interacting with the opposite sexes. Their frustration and resentment comes out in the form of violent attacks on couples in public spaces. Ironically, many of the moral polices also double up as voyeurs and stalkers”, Praveen elucidates.

The inability of society to think about a healthy relationship between opposite gender is another issue that led to the moral policing. As every relation is perceived through only one angle, people could not understand mutual respect or friendship between two people belonging to opposite gender.

Sabloo Thomas, a journalist at Deccan Chronicle, points out that most of the Keralites are seen progressive outside but deep within their heart, they are very much conservative. For them, public display of affection indicates an illicit relationship. With a tendency to regulate and impose moral code, they peep into the privacy of others. When he says, “basic hypocrisy leads to frustration”, the harsh reality regarding the progressive Kerala society is once again brought into the limelight.

The objectification of women through popular media deeply installed a sense of authority among the moral cops. According to Saranaya S Nair, a journalist from Thiruvananthapuram, they see women as a sexual commodity to fulfil their desires. It is the superior claims of patriarchy perpetuated by the outside world side-lines women to become an easy prey to the custodians of morality.

L Arun, a professional from Kannur throws light into the piteous state of women when he says that women are still politically and religiously marginalized. He thinks that lack of healthy relationship between men and women and society’s imposed moral view on sex creates sexual frustration. “Many a times, attack on women is a manifestation of sexual frustration”, he says further. Pointing out the superior mentality of man as another reason behind the attacks, Arun also thinks that bullying attitude has been evolved from this.

The problem lies in the lack of understanding regarding the opposite sex. “Kerala has an obsessive abhorrence towards intermingling of sexes. It begins with schooling. In our primary classes, according to the teachers, the biggest punishment of that time was to sit in between girls”, says Nithin Jose, a motivational speaker and blogger from Kottayam.

The segregation which begins in the educational institutions, later become a part and parcel of life. By secluding the opposite genders, the chances to understand each other come to a halt. Further, with separate schools and colleges for boys and girls, the idea of co-education becomes a distant dream.

With no proper understanding of the opposite sex, people often did not know how to respect the person belonging to other gender. With less sexual freedom and free interaction, moral policing arises from the sexual frustration caused by the lack of opportunity.

According to Praveen, “Moral policing is an act which reeks of hypocrisy”. With stringent morality in broad day light and surfing of pornographic sites in the darkness of night, the hypocrisy of the Kerala society is not a hidden fact. According to a government data released in January, Alappuzha and Thrissur are included in the top ten places in India for surfing and sharing of child sexual abuse material. With double standards in morality, how far the “progressive” state can claim its entitlement as God’s own country is to be seen.

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In tune with nationalism?

Rationale behind the singing of National Anthem at theatres

When Harshitha Kumayaa, a 20-year-old graduate, refused to stand up while the National Anthem was playing in the theatre, little did she know that she would be labelled as an “anti-national”. Grinning sarcastically at the apparently innocuous remark by her professor, she says, “I would rather be an anti-national than not actually feeling patriotic and standing in the theatre for the National Anthem. I do not believe in it”.
Though Harshitha joins the flock challenging the patriotic claims of the “nationalists”, there are several others who blindly follow the Supreme Court order. One among them is S. Thanvir, an office employee who supports the playing of the National Anthem because he is an Indian.

The recent clamour regarding the National Anthem began a couple of months ago, with the Supreme Court ruling, which made the playing of National Anthem before movies in theatres mandatory. The order which was based on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), created a ruckus, with cases filed against individuals who refused to stand up. There were several complaints concerning manhandling of differently-abled by fellow movie-goers.

With ambiguity regarding when and where to stand up, the Supreme Court has passed an interim order which says that people need not to stand if the National Anthem is played as a part of a film. With the court yet to pass the final judgment, a probe into the legality of the ruling and judicial restraints are much needed.

Suhrith Parthasarthy, a leading advocate in Madras High Court feels that the court does not have the authority to pass an order which in nature, obviously, enforces a form of nationalism. “This is a case where freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to us, as citizens, by article 19 (1) (A) of the constitution, stands violated”, he says.

As there is already legislation regarding National Anthem and national flag made by the parliament, he thinks that, it’s not the remit of the Supreme Court jurisdiction at all. It is for the parliament to decide where the National Anthem should be played or need not to be played and whether people should stand up for the National Anthem and so forth.

According to Sudha Ramalingam, a veteran advocate in Madras High Court, there is no specific provision in the constitution to make people stand up when the National Anthem is played. But as it is given out as a judgement by the court, it becomes the law of the land and so it can get the government of the time to enforce it.

Even the people are seen trying to enforce the law. “A kind of vigilantism, can be seen nowadays, where fellow movie-goers, trying to impose on others and they are doing a kind of moral policing”, Suhrith elaborates in the context of the attack on college students in Chennai who refuse to stand while the National Anthem was playing.

Though there is no legislation that deals with the charges that can be filed against those who refuse to stand, cases are filed under Prevention of Insult to National Anthem Honour Act, 1971.  The charges are laid for failure to respect the National Anthem. The failure to stand up during the playing of National Anthem amounts to failure to respect. Thus, it is regarded as an act of civil disobedience, where one has disobeyed the court order.

Once charged under the act, one can only try and implore the Supreme Court to reconsider its views. “Right now, final arguments are not complete in this case. Court is still dealing with the case. Hopefully, it will change before giving the final judgement”, he says further.

Through the stringent ruling on National Anthem, the Supreme Court now appears to impose patriotism. The court observed that it was the duty of citizens to show respect to the National Anthem which is the symbol of constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality. However, the order tends to enforce coercive form of nationalism. “It is in keeping with the general ethos of the political life today”, says Suhrith.

How far the imposition of National Anthem can instil patriotism is a matter of concern. As Sudha Ramalingam rightly points out, patriotism can never be enforced, it should come from within a person, for which one need education and better sensitization.

The term patriotism which blankets the love for motherland cannot be injected to the people of a democratic country. “Some say, chronic love or affection towards motherland is the preliminary state of fascism. Given India is a nation, proud of its democratic standards and of free thinking and media freedom, I don’t think that is a kind of love towards the motherland that needs to be appreciated”, says S. Bechu, a literature graduate.

Many students to whom the reporter spoke, were against the playing of National Anthem in theatres. “What is the need of playing National Anthem in movie theatres, where people come purely for entertainment, why not start with courts and government institutions?” , asks 20-year-old K. Dinesh.

Arulvinayaki, a second year law student in a local city college narrated the incident of a Muslim boy who refused to sing National Anthem because it was against his religion. Though case was filed against him, the court ruled that respect is what is needed and it is not mandatory to sing.

However, Arun Kumar who works as a floor manager in a restaurant thinks that there’s nothing wrong in playing National Anthem. Whenever National Anthem is playing, it is the duty of Indian citizens to stand up and respect the National Anthem. “If you are really a citizen of India and proud of your country, you will get goosebumps when you hear the National Anthem”, says Arun.

Over the years, with draconian laws and puritanical mind set, Indian society have been laming behind the ages. While the rest of the world stepping forward towards progress, holding blindly to the vested interested of few, we follow the bandwagon. Shamelessly embracing the nationalist agenda perpetuated by the political Dronacharyas, we choose to remain parrots than a patriot.

With contradictory responses, the debate on National Anthem is still in forefront. If showing off respect during the National Anthem grades a citizen’s nationalist feelings, there are people like Harshitha around us saying, “I don’t believe in that nationalism anymore!”

ഒറ്റയാന്‍റെ സുവിശേഷങ്ങള്‍ -1

പിന്നെയും ഓര്‍മയുടെ ചില  വേലിയേറ്റങ്ങള്‍…

മറക്കാന്‍ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്ന പലതും എന്നെ വേട്ടയാടിക്കോണ്ടിരിക്കുന്നു.

വിരസമായ ഒരു ദിനചര്യ  ഞാനറിയാതെ എന്നില്‍ അലിഞ്ഞു ചേര്‍ന്നിരിക്കുന്നു.

നിറം മങ്ങിയ ജീവിതച്ചുവരുകള്‍  വരച്ചു കാട്ടിയ ജീര്‍ണ്ണ യഥാര്‍ത്ഥ്യങ്ങള്‍ക്കിടയില്‍  ഒരു മരപാവ പോലെ ഈ ഒറ്റയനും…

പണ്ട് ആരോ പറഞ്ഞതു പോലെ പൊരുതി തുടങ്ങിയതാണ്, ജീവിതത്തോട്

മുന്‍പില്‍ ഒന്നുമില്ലായിരുന്നു, ശൂന്യമായ വഴിത്താരകള്‍ മാത്രം

എവിടെ തുടങ്ങണം, എങ്ങനെ തുടങ്ങണം ഒന്നുമറിയില്ല.

വഴി വെട്ടി!

വീണു, ഒന്നല്ല, ഒരുപ്പാട്‌ തവണ

വീഴ്ച ശീലമായതു കൊണ്ടാവണം, മനസ്സു മായപ്പെട്ടു തുടങ്ങി.

മാറ്റങ്ങള്‍ അനുവാര്യമായി മാറി

പൊള്ളത്തരങ്ങള്‍ പാളിച്ചകള്‍ തന്നെയായി.

ഉത്തരം കിട്ടാത്ത ചില സമസ്യകളുമായി,

ഈ പരേത യാത്ര തുടരുകയാണ്, എവിടേക്ക് എന്നു അറിയാതെ…

ഗദ്ഗദം കേട്ടു വന്നതാണ്‌ ഞാന്‍

ഒരു വിളി!

ആരോ എഴുതി വെച്ച തിരകഥ എനിക്ക് പൂര്‍ത്തിയാക്കേണ്ടിയിരിക്കുന്നു…

Have Gods become the silent beneficiaries?

By Riya Mathews and Anjana Girish

With the devalued currency notes hitting the headlines for the past one week, a probe into the silent beneficiaries has become an interesting aspect to be looked upon.

Though the services like Paytm, PayUmoney and Olamoney is said to have benefited from the demonetisation of 500 and 1000 rupee notes, no such information is available on how the recent developments are affecting the country’s largest, independent trustees.

As religious institutions and organisations don’t come under the direct control of the government, it is often difficult to track the financial resources of these institutions.

By adhering to the notion that chances may be there for people to deposit the unwanted currency gained through illicit means in the “safe” zone of churches, temple and mosques, the reporters met half a dozen authorities from the concerned religious centres.

But this has been ruled out as most of them pointed out that the income received through these offerings has reduced due to the recent demonetisation.

Fr. Jude Rajesh, administrator and treasurer at the Annai Vailankanni Shrine in Besant Nagar, said that there was no considerable rise in income post demonetisation. In fact, he pointed out that the number of 50 and 100 rupee currency notes have been reduced. Though he refused to reveal the exact count of notes, he mentioned that they are getting 500 and 1000 rupee notes more than usual.

On the contrary, Priya Prabhakaran, a shopkeeper nearby, thinks that the church may be getting more devalued currencies as offerings.

N. Adhbhutham, a church staff at the religious article shop, hinted that the administrator has told them not to collect currency notes of 500 and 1000. Further, she also emphasized that the sales has been decreased post demonetisation as people don’t have money in smaller denominations.

The rector and parish priest of Santhome Cathedral basilica, Fr. S. Louis Mathias also reiterated that the offerings have been reduced since the devaluation of currency. The church staff who chose to remain unidentified told that they were advised not to accept the devalued currencies and refuse to talk further more.

P.Saddiq, a businessman who happened to be at the Jumma Masjid in Mylapore, read out the previous week’s collection which was Rs 4620 from the notice board and said that the offerings are more or less the same as before except during special occasions like Ramzan.

The superintendent at the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, C. Nirmala, said that the offering boxes will only be opened during the month end and hence they do not have an account of the money received after the devaluation took place.

The details regarding the offerings received at the Madhya Kailash temple was not accessible as T.M. Ramamoorthy, the authority in charge was not available for the comment.

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