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?
Whither, Indian Politician?