We had formally inaugurated the small dispensary at Brahmagiri in February 1988. Within a few months, I realized that we were delivering health care not because it was the community’s felt need and priority, but more because it was the only thing that we were qualified to do. Slowly but surely, it dawned on us that communities had various needs – health care was just one of them and that too was at the periphery. People had more serious issues to battle – livelihood, social security, landlessness, the daily bread, conflicts with the forest department and more importantly, coming to terms with the loss of their own identity. As I was discussing these issues with Sri V.P.Baligar who was the then Deputy Commissioner of Mysore, he suggested that I prepare a list of landless tribals and he would get his Department to identify Government land and allot at least 2.5 acres to each family.
The next 6-8 months were indeed exciting times. We went around the colonies in the N.Begur area, meeting and interacting with the tribals and their chieftains (Yajamanas), with many meetings running well past mid-night. We discussed, spoke, argued and finally prepared a list of people eligible for the land grant. Baligar would visit us at least once in 20-30 days and spend the whole day with us. He would come very well prepared, with his entire official paraphernalia and army in tow. He would insist that the entire process – preparing the application, submitting it to the tahsildar, processing the papers, inspection of the land, official sanction and handing over the title deeds – all happen on the same day. I just could not believe the urgency and efficiency with which he would operate. All that he would say was that it was his job and his Department had forgotten that it was their responsibility in the first place. He would dismiss any compliment that crossed his way. The commitment and intent of this extraordinary civil servant ensured that nearly 40% of the landless tribals in the area got at least 2.5 acres of land.
What Karnataka now needs are officers of this level of commitment, integrity and dedication. It is indeed unfortunate that petty politics made a scapegoat of him and he was unceremoniously shifted out from the Chief Minister’s office. At the end of the day, it is not these narrow-minded politicians, but the poor and the marginalized of the State for whom he was a dependable ally, that lost out.