September 17th, 2011
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Civil servant takes the fight to Madurai don

alagiriChennai: A district collector issuing a strongly worded summons to a Union minister asking him to be physically present and explain why he destroyed irrigation channels used by poor farmers sounds strange. But when the Union minister happens to be MK Alagiri, described as the uncrowned king of Madurai and elder son of the DMK patriarch Muthuvel Karunanidhi, it is needless to tell that many a eyebrows will be raised.

But nobody in Madurai was surprised because the collector happens to be Upakaram Sagayam, known for his integrity, impartiality, uprightness and honesty. Alagiri, who was a law unto himself while his father was the chief minister, had no other way but to approach the Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench for saving him from the predicament of standing in front of the district collector to plead innocence. The case was in connection with complaints received by the collector that Alagiri and his family destroyed irrigation channels for the construction of Dhaya Engineering College, a family-owned educational enterprise near Madurai.

The destruction of the channels ruined the crops of hundreds of farmers who were left with no alternative but to suffer silently. With the change of government in Fort Saint George, they approached Sagayam who after inspecting the land shot off a summons to Alagiri asking him to appear personally along with his wife and son in front of the collector and explain why action should not be taken against them. Alagiri, notorious for his Kangarro Courts in Madurai had no other way but to seek shelter in the court. The court asked the collector on Thursday to reword the letter of summons.

Sagayam, 48, shot into national prominence with the Tamil Nadu Assembly election held in April 2011. Southern Tamil Nadu, especially Madurai region was under the iron grips of Alagiri and his henchmen. Till thenthe district administration stood in submissiveness to Alagiri and his henchmen, ‘Pottu’ Suresh and ‘Attack’ Pandi. The trio had sabotaged all democratic norms while rigging the by-election held to Thirumangalam. Money and gifts were distributed widely to ensure the victory of the DMK candidate. The process of vote purchasing was known by the word ‘Thirumangalam Experiment’.

Faced with the task of reigning Alagiri, the Election Commission brought in Sagayam, who was languishing in an inconsequential posting. The rest is history. The young David made the Goliath run for shelter. The DMK cadre went on accusing Sagayam as an agent of the AIADMK without knowing the fact that he had locked horns with all those who tried to subvert democratic process.

He was the first IAS officer in the state to declare his assets and post it on a website. He might have been transferred 18 times in his 20 years of service. But Sagayam took up all his postings as a new opportunity to deliver good and justice. While the entire state administration was overhauled by Jayalalithaa after she assumed office, Sagayam is the one and only district collector who was left untouched. By now, the common man’s collector has become the hero of the local folklore.

One Response to “ Civil servant takes the fight to Madurai don ”

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