A Sad Day for Puducherry

Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Govind Singh Gurjar

Puducherry’s wonderful Lieutenant Governor, Govind Singh Gurjar, died yesterday of a heart attack. This is a tragic day. To understand just how awful — in its civic dimension, and not just on a personal level — consider how impossibly rare it is for an Indian politician to be plausibly garlanded with the epithet “wonderful”.

In a system where corruption, narcissism, laziness, ignorance, and incompetence are the sine qua non of political life, Govind Singh Gurjar was an astonishment: a politician whose greatest joy seemed to be doing well for the people in whose trust he served. He worked tirelessly to understand the nuance and complexity of the issues before him and, having decided on a course of action, would set the machinery of his administration in motion without temporizing. In the venal cesspool of Pondicherry government, the LG had but one aim: to help the Union Territory fulfill its obvious, abundant promise. Sadly, he leaves us at a time when that objective looks to be effectively, and perhaps irrevocably, snuffed by the greed and thoughtlessness of political-business-as-usual.

Puducherry is not a state; its four, tiny noncontiguous regions, representing former French holdings in India, are aggregated as a Union Territory, under the direct administrative control of the federal government in Delhi. The LG is Delhi’s top-dog in Puducherry, and never a Puducherry native. Govind Singh Gujar, for example, hailed from Rajasthan. This outsider status is double-edged sword. On the one hand, the LG is not a product of Puducherry’s horrific, inbred political corruption. He neither owes patronage within the local parties, nor is enmeshed with the monied interests whom have long-since bought-and-paid-for our politicians and government bureaucrats. On the other hand, most LGs couldn’t have cared less for Puducherry. Between 2006 and 2008, for example, the office was held by the appallingly apathetic Mukut Mithi of Arunachal Pradesh. He spent little time in the Governor’s Palace in Pondicherry and, by all accounts, was utterly disengaged from his official responsibilities. He quickly became frustrated with the relative lack of opportunities for graft — that market having been effectively locked-up by then Chief Minister N. Rangaswami — and ultimately resigned in order to pursue more lucrative political office in his native state. Govind Singh Gujar was, once again, exceptional. He loved Pondicherry town, seeing both its vestigial exquisiteness and the ways in which sleaze, greed, and ineptitude were destroying what remained of its remarkable natural and cultural legacies. He studied Tamil language to feel more a part of the place, engaging a private tutor every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. He funded initiatives to preserve and promote the disappearing architectural vernacular of Pondicherry, re-engaging with UNESCO, whose overtures to make Pondicherry a World Heritage Site had been systematically ignored by local politicians who feared that such recognition would interfere with their ability to push-through ruinous development projects for personal gain. He rewarded the work of NGOs and volunteers who labored to make Puducherry great, often against the grain of the political establishment.

I had the very great privilege of meeting and working with the LG on a number of occasions and never ceased to be impressed by his warmth, humor, intellect, clarity of vision, steadfastness, and personal integrity. It is distressingly fair to predict that Puducherry will not see his like again in the foreseeable future.

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8 Responses to “A Sad Day for Puducherry”


  1. 1 ambikesh 9 April 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Govind Singh Gujar was a MLA of my home town Nasirabad and he was a student of my Grandfather in school.
    Its a biggest lose of my family .He was come last year in my son birthday in Nasirabad. I have no words to say about Gujar sahib.
    ambikesh

    • 2 Ashu Gurjar 27 February 2010 at 8:28 am

      im very happy to know ur thinking n respect for d great personalty. im his grand doughter. i realy hv great respect 4 u. plz try to contect wid me.it’ll be my plasure if u contect to me.my email id is here.plz reply me along wid ur contect number.

      • 3 rahul 19 October 2011 at 8:45 am

        hi,i was first time meet your grand father in devli.i saw baba shaheb it was great day for me.he was great men

  2. 4 naren 10 April 2009 at 9:07 am

    Beautifully written. I’m sharing this on my reader.

  3. 5 smita 3 May 2009 at 9:12 am

    MBJ:

    This just seems further proof that if there is a god, it certainly isn’t a benevolent one.

    I can think of hundreds of Indian politicians whose greatest public service would be to die of a heart attack as soon as possible. So what do the gods do? They take one of a very small minority that could actually do more good alive than dead.

    I think the Greeks and Romans had it right with their self-indulgent, mischief making gods. By Jove!

    -s

  4. 6 M.Thiru 29 August 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Mukut mithi did not venture into more lucrative havens but was asked to resign by his party and contest as an MP in the assembly.An LG is an administrator, hence to work he needs to visit places rather stay at Raj Bhawan and enthrall guests like you who doesn’t know facts about where he even belongs.He initiated the tax system where the local government has now have the right to earn its own revenue rather than depend on Central Govts largesses. Grow up, just coz you know or met one LG…does’nt mean you know all. Some people start a blog to let people know what they have personally done and what they believe in, whilst i reckon people like you start it to tell the world that you were hanging around when an event happened without actually doing anything…gow up again

  5. 7 sandeep chhokar 16 July 2012 at 6:37 am

    shri govind singh gurjar was very honest and a second ghandi of rajasthan.
    shri gurjar was leader of gurjar community all india.
    his grand daughter ashu gurjar is a very kindness girl.
    she is as my younger sister

  6. 8 Sanjay mawai 9 November 2013 at 7:02 am

    U r great


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