T S R Subramanian, India’s tallest bureaucrat, passes away

26 Feb 2018


Former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian, considered one of India's most upright and outstanding bureaucrats, died today. His cremation will take place at the Lodhi Road crematorium at 5.30 pm.

T S R Subramanian  

In his stint as cabinet secretary from 1 August 1996 to 31 March 1998 – a turbulent period in Indian politics - Subramanian served three prime ministers of different political shades – H D Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral and Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Tributes have been pouring in, including from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several Union cabinet ministers.

The IAS association tweeted, "Extremely shocked to hear the sad news of the demise of TSR Subramanian. He was the tallest amongst all and is a big loss for the IAS fraternity and the nation."

'TSR' is perhaps best known for spearheading and winning the 'TSR and others vs Union of India' case in Supreme Court, which is considered a milestone in freeing the civil service from vested political interests. It was aimed at, in his own words, "ending the culture of midnight transfers".

The Supreme Court ordered the government to fix the tenure of Indian Administrative Service officers so that they are not under the constant threat of transfer by political bosses.

It led to creation of Civil Services Boards in states that comprise the chief secretary, principal secretary to the chief minister and the appointments secretary. It was a huge step in freeing the civil services, but TSR felt that the judgment fell short of setting civil services free from political control.

His book, Journeys Through Babuland talks in detail about his differences with the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav when he was chief secretary of the state.

''Shri TSR Subramanian distinguished himself as an outstanding civil servant. He also left a mark with his prolific writings and interventions on important public causes. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,'' the PM tweeted.

Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman wrote, ''Former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanyam is no more. Saddened by the news. He was affable, full of ideas and energetic. In many a debate on TV channels, shared thoughts with him. Condolences to his family and his fraternity.''

And Prakash Javdekar tweeted, ''Shocked to hear about the demise of TSR Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary and who gave important inputs for drafting New Education Policy. It is a big loss for the IAS fraternity and the nation. My condolences to his family members.''

Other ministers too tweeted on similar lines.

'TSR' was probably one of India's most highly-qualified civil servants. Born into a middle-class Tamil family, Subramanian spent much of his school days in Thanjavur. He did his masters from Calcutta University and then studied at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London.

He also held a master's degree in Public Administration from Harvard University in the US.

As an IAS officer, he held various positions including secretary in the ministry of textiles and then the highest post, cabinet secretary.

He was a non-executive director of HCL Technologies from September 1999 to November 2011, and held directorships in other companies too. He is a founder member and former chancellor of the Shiv Nadar University.

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