The things that do not belong to you, you have no right to enjoy. -
Shri U. Sagayam IAS is currently the Managing Director of Co-Optex. He is the first IAS officer in the state to upload details of his assets on the district website, taking fellow officers by pleasant surprise. Due to his actions against corrupt activities, he was transferred 18 times in a span of 20 years.
U. Sagayam IAS discusses with Marie Banu social issues that are of concern today.
How are you able to maintain your character of being an honest person, given the social pressure one faces today? Would you like to share a memorable incident in your childhood?
First of all, the credit goes to my mother Tmt. Sawariammal. I basically hail from an agrarian family. My father is a small farmer, and my mother is upright in character. When I was about 10 years old, I went along with some boys to an orchard that was owned by a Chettiar to pick mangoes. When I returned home, my mother did not accept these mangoes and she told me to throw it away. When I was hesitant, she advised me saying: ‘the things that belongs to you, you must enjoy. The things that do not belong to you, you have no right to enjoy.’ This is how she taught me to be honest and upright.
We owned a small piece of land extending to 2 to 3 acres where we cultivated minor millets like ground nuts. Adjoining our land was an acre of uncultivatedporomboke land. As a small boy, I asked my mother, ‘why not cultivate this land as well?’ She gave me the same answer: ‘whatever belongs to you, you must enjoy.’
My mother has created a great impact in my life. Today, if I am honest and upright despite the several hurdles I have faced—the credit goes to her. I will continue to be so until the last day of my career.
Your thoughts about elders being abandoned by their children? How effective is the Senior Citizen’s Act, 2007?
As a Collector, I have received a lot of complaints from senior citizens that they have been neglected by their sons and daughters. I could also observe that the condition of the senior citizens were extremely pathetic.
When I served as the Collector for Namakkal District, I once received a complaint from a 70-year-old man who hailed from a small village near Thiruchengode. He complained that his son had taken away the little property he owned. He mentioned that he was literally on the street as no one cared for him, especially his son. I immediately directed my officials to enquire into the issue. They reported that his son was adamant not to take care of his father. Thereafter, I ordered arrest of the son using the provisions under Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. I can say that I was the first person in our country to use this provision to take action against a son who had neglected his father.
I personally feel that this is not an isolated case. There are a lot of such cases reported across the state and similar situations do prevail in other countries as well. This is not a good sign!
We administrators should be determined to enforce this Act against children who are neglecting their parents. There is a need to educate children about their duty to take care of their parents. Therefore, there should be a blend of both—enforcement and education.
Do you think that our education system should include value education as part of the curriculum?
Naturally! Our education system has many flaws. Today, children are made into mark making machines. When I visited schools at Namakkal, there were complaints from children that they were not allowed to play games.
Children have a right to play and this gives them great happiness. Play is not just a physical activity. It involves many things—to be united; to care; and share for others. But, in most of the schools there is no scope for children to play as there are no extra-curricular activities, and the children are made to study all the time.
The moral education that we used to have earlier is now dispensed with. I feel that our schools and colleges should ensure that moral values are taught. The government should ensure that this is strictly adhered to.
The weaving community in Tamil Nadu is on the decline. What are the measures that are being taken by the government to ensure their quality of life?
The government is serious to take care of the welfare of our weavers. Obviously, we are concerned about their pathetic condition. Their earnings are meager and we have decided to enhance it at par with the minimum wages that are paid under the Minimum Wages Act. We have been also seriously planning to substantially increase the sale of Kanchipuram silk sarees and share a portion of the profit that would be generated additionally with the poor weavers. I am sure this will enable them to improve the quality of their life.
Which of the social issues are of concern today?
As an administrator, I have witnessed a large scale of migration of villagers towards urban areas. Today, I would describe the social mobility as a major crisis and problem. The urban areas are not in a position to accommodate the migrants, provide basic amenities, infrastructure, and employment.
Obviously, there is an increase in the rate of crime. Due to the exodus of migration from rural to urban India, I am sure that food security is at stake. It is obvious that the next generation of farmers is not going to engage in agriculture as it is no longer a profitable proposition. The cost of agricultural inputs is expensive and the returns are meager.
I consider this as a major social issue of concern. The government should address this issue taking into consideration the serious implications.
You are an inspiration for the youth. What is your advice for IAS aspirants?
I am happy to be an inspiration for the youth. I want them to build a new society and a new nation that is uncorrupted. I want them to be honest and upright as this is what our country requires today.
For IAS aspirants, I would say that it is a very good opportunity to serve our country. One doesn’t hope to make money by choosing a career in the civil service. But, if you are determined to be honest and upright, the scope is enormous to serve our country.