IAS legend who put values before protocol

In the world of bureaucracy, folk heroes are a rarity. On Wednesday, one of those few heroes, P S Appu, passed away at age 83. The 1951-batch IAS officer was a former chief secretary of Bihar and a former director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

"A development economist", "a man who spoke his mind to his political masters", "someone who did not stand on ceremony" — various descriptions came spontaneously from bureaucrats past and present when informed of Appu's quiet demise.

The definitive event of his 30-year tenure in the IAS came in 1981, when he was into his second year as director of the LBS Academy. He resigned voluntarily from the IAS as a matter of principle after the then Congress government failed to back him in dismissing an influential probationer who had misbehaved with another at an academy outing. "I don't think anybody will stand on a principle like that these days," says Ratna Prabha K, a 1981 batch IAS officer of the Karnataka cadre and the principal secretary for Information Technology and Communication in Andhra Pradesh.

"Unlike many of his predecessors, Appu gave more importance to character and values and less to protocol and etiquette," says Subhash Chandra Khuntia, also 1981 batch and Karnataka cadre, and who is currently a joint secretary in the MHRD in Delhi.

"It was known that when he was offered the post of chief secretary of Bihar, he put the condition to the chief minister that he would give opinions free and frank, and the chief minister agreed," says Khuntia.

According to an article written by Anita Agnihotri — 1980 batch, Orissa cadre, currently with the MWCD in Delhi — and posted on the IAS preparatory website Boloji, Appu while quitting as chief secretary "outlined the government's failure to stem the rot in the political system, the growing criminalisation and declining morale of the bureaucracy and the ensuing uncontrollable chaos as reasons for opting out".

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