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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tamil pechu ... the Punjabi who has walked into hearts of Tamilians by his deeds

In the present media-sensitive world,  Political Parties / Corporate Offices and more are increasingly employing professionals who have formal training in journalism, communications, public relations and public affairs in this role in order to ensure that public announcements are made in the most appropriate fashion. There are some celebrity spokespersons……. a term which is gender-neutral.  The spokesperson gives your organization human form. Many Companies have a policy that statements to press will be issued only by the designated persons and others are not authorized to speak to Press.  It is not the attire of the presenter (thought that too plays a role) – it is the ability to effectively communicate and connect with the audience.  The gift of the gab  - is the ability to speak easily and confidently and to persuade people to do what you want.

Here is a couple of tidbits from the every busy corridors of power of Tamil Nadu.  The Nation and some metropolis have claims of infamy to be the ‘diabetic capital’ … here is something on DM’s impact on official meetings.

Review meetings at Fort St. George must end at 1.30 p.m., says Director of Agriculture M. Rajendran. The reason: many officials are diabetic. Sharing his thoughts on the advantages of minor millets with farmers of Watrap in Virudhunagar district recently, Mr. Rajendran said rice was behind diabetes. “Holding meetings beyond 1.30 p.m. is not possible [at the Secretariat]. Many of the officials, who are diabetic, become restless as time passes. Their limbs start shivering, and they get worked up easily,” he is quoted as saying. The meetings, therefore, would often end on a bad note. “Either I end up shouting at them or they start shouting. So, we wind up meetings at 1.30 p.m.,” he said. Proving his point, many of those who raised their hands for being diabetic, when asked by Mr. Rajendran at the meeting, were officers of the Department of Agriculture.


There was another report in The Hindu of an IAS Oficer flooring everyone the other day at a function presided by Chief Minister Ms J. Jayalalithaa with his flawless Tamil. The occasion was to honour the relief and rescue teams that did a splendid work after the collapse of an 11-storey structure at Mugalivakkam in Chennai, which killed 61 construction workers. ~ added significance is that the person whose diction too was perfect -  has his mothertongue ‘Punjabi’……… the Official is Mr  Gagandeep Singh Bedi, no stranger to Tamilnadu.

Mr. Bedi, hogged all the limelight for remarkably organising the relief and rehabilitation as Cuddalore Collector soon after the December 2004 Tsunami.  Flawless and so involved was his execution of relief efforts that he was praised by locals, victims, those involved in relief operations, Government, Press and others.  He had also won the Green Award from Jayalalithaa for his environmental projects in Kanyakumari district. 

On that black Sunday when tsunami struck, Mr Bedi reportedly was  having breakfast at the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Hotel resort off the East Coast Road near Mahabalipuram -   when tsunami struck, Cuddalore's  then 36-year-old collector almost became one of the first victims. Fortunately, and it was Cuddalore's too, Gagandeep Singh Bedi lived. He fought and saved his wife, Dr Jaideep Bedi, and their two little daughters. But there was no time to sit back in relief, certainly not for Bedi. As he sped to Cuddalore in his car, Bedi got on his mobile phone, issuing instructions for he had grasped the scale of the tragedy.  He alerted the Cuddalore government hospital, Annamalai University Hospitals and private hospitals for ambulances; alerted the BSNL to start a helpline immediately. He also spoke to NGOs, fire service people and all hospital staff.    

After personally visiting places, he ensured setting up of temporary housing to the tsunami victims, and permanent housing in another few months.  An engineer from Patiala, Bedi began his career as a lecturer. He was later awarded the Director's Gold Medal for being the best all-round probationer at the IAS Training Academy. His first posting was as sub-collector of Sivakasi.

Months later – his capabilities were fully tested again as in Nov 2005,  the tsunami-battered district faced the brunt of repeated rain-induced floods, and the massive Veeranam tank was overflowing.  There was little scope of reaching the danger spot on NH-67. Bedi, owing to his remarkable leadership in the tsunami aftermath, had made several friends in the fishing community. Even before he got into his jeep, Bedi called them, and asked them to rush to the spot with their fibre-glass boats.  He was there organizing, eating with them and spending night in the village. 

He has travelled a longway, amply demonstrating that it was no mere tokenism – as he now Revenue Secretary, explained in Tamil how even during the building collapse, the coordinated efforts and focused approach of various departments helped to save more than 20 people from the debris. A beaming Chief Minister seemed to be appreciating every word of his speech, as Mr. Bedi’s voice came through with such a sombre sincerity that none could say he was playing to the gallery at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium.

Hats off to people like him (there is also Mr J Radhakrishnan, who incidentally was the other hero at Nagapattinam when tsunami struck)

With great regards to such heroes – S. Sampathkumar

16th July 2014.

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