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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Remembering Dr.K.B. Menon


We had occasion to recall the great contribution of Dr.K.B.Menon to the freedom struggle in the context of the Kizhariyur Bomb Case of which he was the first accused. His story inspired us to do some deeper research into the life and contributions of that great patriot who is now remembered by few. 

It was while looking for persons who might have known him well that we stumbled on a silent social worker who, despite his age and physical infirmity brought on by a fall, was serving his neighbourhood in Pathiripala as a family physician. Dr. P Sankaran Nair who retired as Joint Director, Health Services, Government of Kerala in the 1980s, recalled his association with Dr.K.B.Menon.

He remembered meeting Dr. Menon casually in the corridors of the Madras General Hospital in 1955 where he had come to seek treatment for his stomach illness. Dr. Nair had seen his photographs and immediately recognised him as the MLA from Trithala who, as the leader of the opposition (PSP) was also heading the Public Accounts Committee of the Madras Legislature.

Dr. Menon was so unassuming that he refused to be treated as anything but an ordinary patient. Dr. Nair took him to the Medical Superintendent, DR. Masilamani who attended to him immediately. But Dr. Menon insisted on getting admitted in the general ward so that he could personally experience the travails of the ordinary citizens.

When Dr. Nair told him that he had got his posting as Medical Officer at Ponnani, the legislator requested him to study the health system there and send him a report. Dr. Nair promptly sent a report highlighting the fact that in a year the government was spending only Rs.1200  on the rural health system of which the honorary medical officer was paid a measly Rs. 600 per year and the balance amount was expected to meet the cost of medicines, supplies and other expenses. Armed with this scandalous data, Dr.Menon unleashed a stormy attack on the ruling party which led to immediate improvements in the system.

Dr. Nair recalls another occasion when he met Dr. Menon when he was a Member of Parliament, representing Badagara. Dr. Nair had just then got his posting as Medical Officer in Lakshadweep. Dr. Menon could have offered to intervene and get the hard posting cancelled; but he was no run of the mill politician and such a thought did not strike him at all. Instead, he asked Dr. Nair to send him a detailed report on the medical facilities available in the Islands and what could be done to improve the plight of the Island population. He did indeed take up the issue in Parliament, based on the reports he got from Dr. Nair.

The next time he met Dr.Menon was when he was posted at Calicut (around 1958) where he received a small chit scribbled by Dr. Menon informing that he had been admitted at the General Hospital Calicut and would like to meet him. Dr. Nair saw to it that he was provided the best attention possible. But, Dr. Menon wanted to be discharged quickly. He revealed that he was in possession of a ‘political bombshell’ which he could not blast from the hospital premises. His only request to Dr. Nair was to arrange a car to take him to the PSP Office in Jail Road from where he wanted to let go the bombshell. Sure enough, the next day’s newspapers carried  the story of how EMS government had pledged valuable bamboo wealth of Kerala to the Birlas for starting a pulp factory in Mavoor, Calicut.

We are reminded of the famous tribute to Gandhi from Einstein : Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth. 


Whither, Indian Politician?


12 comments:

  1. I liked this very much - we need to bring out more such accounts.About politicians , we need to look within ourselves- in varying degrees there is not a single Indian who is not breaking some law and we have too many laws to break.The Lok Pal stuff is another misguided effort - look at one of the leading lights behind it - Kiran Bedi - can any one tell me if she has stuck to and seen a single job through in her career? Getting the Magsaysay award is no great shakes - how many of us know that it is awarded by a shadowy outfit located in New York?

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  2. There is surprisingly little information available on this man in print and anything available is welcome. I have been looking for his Sixteen Months of Communist Rule in Kerala for some time.

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    1. Happy you asked about it, during his last days the then socialist leaders PI Ittoop and Adv. PK Shankaran kutty were his close associates. I can furnish the proof if you ask.

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  3. Hi!!! Nice forum. This my first post.

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  4. Nice to read about my grandfather's brother.

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  5. This anecdote of Dr KB Menon is highly motivating. Very valuable information on the life of a great leader who made our area proud. Thrithala owes him a lot.
    Thanks a lot.
    V.T.Balram MLA (Thrithala)

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  6. Greatly inspired to read about one of the giants who made Thrithala proud. This anecdote of his is highly informative and gives valuable insights into his personality.
    Thanks a lot

    V.T.Balram MLA (Thrithala)

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  7. Thank you, Menon for your comments. If you have any more details about your uncle, please mail to us at calicutheritageforum@gmail.com. We are looking for more information on this great patriot whose contribution to Malabar in particluar and probity in public life in general remains unchronicled.

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  8. Thank you, Sri Balram for your valuable comments. We hope you must have read the connected posts on the Kizhariyoor Bomb Case and Some Forgotten Heroes, both hyperlinked in this post.While we are happy that the memory of Dr.Menon is being kept alive in Trithala through a school in his name, Kerala owes this great patriot much more. At a time when values in public life are at an all time low, it is importnat to remind ourselves that this unassuming leader (who had many things to crow about) went about like a commoner doing public service till the end. We would request you to take the leadership in honouring Menon and making his life and contributions more widely known.Thank you for visiting this site.

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  9. Dr. K.B.Menon was a much respected socialist leader who made a lasting impact in Parliament and even earned the praise of Dr. Jawaharlal Nehru. Inspite of his upbringing, he was very simple and unassuming and cared for the plight of the common man. Dr. K.B.Menon was a key leader of the Malabar Socialist Party in the fifties and inspired many young socialists of the day like Arangil Sreedharan and K. Chandrasekharan.

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  10. Dr. KB Menon was well known in Kerala, Mr PI Ittoop & PK Shankaran Kutty were his right & left hands during his political life in Kerala. Both Ittoop and Shankaran Kutty were good orators of socialist party. Many youths were attracted to Socialist party in Kerla due to the combination of these three veterans

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  11. Without mentioning the name of socialist leaders like PI Ittoop and PK Shankaran kutty of Malabar this article will not carry much validity.

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