Civil servant in Tamil Nadu declares his assets

By V. Jagannathan, IANS,

Chennai : Namakkal District Magistrate U. Sagayam has done what few civil servants would dare: declare his assets publicly. Others of his stature are ready to emulate him.

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Sagayam has announced on the district administration website that he has a modest bank balance of Rs.7,172 and a house in Madurai valued at Rs.900,000.

“This is nothing great as every civil servant has to submit his asset details to the government. I have just made it public,” Sagayam told IANS over telephone from Namakkal.

“The public perception of civil servants is very bad now. This is not good for civil society in the long run. I feel corruption is the major stumbling block for the country’s progress. I want to be myself,” Sagayam, 45, said.

Other Tamil Nadu officials say they don’t mind declaring their assets too, provided there is a structured format.

“If the government or the Central Vigilance Commission or IAS Officers Association advises us the manner and the place where the asset details are to be declared, it will be helpful,” Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta told IANS.

Such declarations will act as a deterrent for officials who may go wayward.

“Already we are declaring our assets to the public – to the government. Making it open to the public is not an issue,” a senior IAS officer added.

As a part of civil service rules, IAS officials are made to declare details of their assets in a sealed envelope. It is opened only if there’s an enquiry against the official.

Said Sigy Thomas Vaidhyan, Virudhunagar’s district collector: “My personal view is that there is no harm in making the assets public.”

Born into a family of farmers in Pudukottai district in Tamil Nadu, Sagayam obtained a Master’s degree in social work and as well as in law from the University of Madras.

He joined the Tamil Nadu Civil Services 18 years ago. He was conferred the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) status in 2001.

Sagayam is known for the battles he had fought against the sand mining mafia, soft drink manufacturing multinational corporations (MNC), hotels, gas dealers and others.

He was severely assaulted when he tried to prevent illegal mining in Kanchipuram district.

Sagayam was in the spotlight in 1999 when he ordered a soft drink multinational to close its plant because it was bottling drinks that were unfit for human consumption.

The order was overruled by the Madras High Court.

When Sagayam was deputy commissioner of civil supplies, he raided hotels that were using cooking gas meant for domestic use and not the more expensive commercial cylinders.

“In my estimate the loss to the oil companies is to the tune of around Rs.4,000 crore,” he said. A report was sent to the government.

Sagayam is also credited with recovering prime land worth over Rs.200 crore encroached by a leading hotel chain. This happened when he was the district revenue officer.