One of the perks of being a reporter is the possibility of meeting interesting, important people on a daily basis. Despite the long list of such contacts in any reporter’s mobile phone, only a select few remain etched in memory for their devoted, selfless commitment to a public cause. When such people die, it’s not just a loss for the family or for the journalist. If you ask me, the city and the country loses a little bit of its sheen.
Rajan and Selva Nagar is a tiny middleclass residential neighbourhood in affluent Injambakkam. One of its most soft spoken and agile residents, K. Sainath passed away after a cardiac arrest early on Monday. He was the president of Rajan and Selva Nagar Residents Welfare Association.
While most of us might see Sainath as just another nondescript Indian who worked for several decades in a private firm, settled down in a quiet neighbourhood after retirement waiting for the ultimate journey, what makes him unique is that this gentleman spent his entire retired life trying to remove a few illegal road encroachments near his home in a part of the city where encroaching land and violating land regulations is the order of the day.
When this reporter first met Sainath around four years ago, the senior citizen had come to the Chennai police commisssioner’s to file a complaint against a local body official for assaulting him. The Injambakkam police had not taken any action despite filing an FIR.
Since then, Sainath, who has undergone atleast two bypass surgeries, had been beaten up by the land mafia and rogue elements in Injambakkam panchayat several times. Undeterred, he kept on fighting as his file containing the petitions sent to the President of India, chief minister, Kancheepuram district collector and so many government officials kept gaining weight. Despite securing atleast six eviction orders for removing encroachments on the Vettuvankani – Injambakkam Link Road, Sainath and his associates could not remove any of the road enroachments. The mafia seems to have has eventually outlived him.
This newspaper has even carried several reports pointing out the absurdities in not removing enroachments despite having the court’s nod. But, nothing happened.
Even after his death, Sainath’s struggles did not end. Reliable sources say that the local councillor in Injambakkam had denied permission to cremate this good samaritan in the graveyard near his home. “They wanted us to take him somewhere else,” said an aggrieved family member.
Eventually, the city mayor’s office had to intervene to secure permission to cremate one of Injambakkam’s most dedicated residents near his home.
Such is the reward for being committed to public causes!