B P R Vithal, a doyen among administrators, passes away

M Somasekhar

Hyderabad: In the passing of B P R Vithal, the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) has lost one of its senior-most, respected bureaucrats, who leaves behind a solid legacy in development economics and bureaucracy.

At the ripe age of 93, Vithal, always active and encouraging others passed away on Friday morning due to age related problems. He had been admitted to private hospital on Road Number 12, Banjara Hills.

The 1950 batch IAS officer, Vithal served as a member of the Tenth Commission, as well as several key positions at the Centre in a long illustrious career. He also had a brief stint at the International Monetary Fund as the Fiscal Advisor to the governments of Sudan and Malawi.

Perhaps his two most significant and lasting contributions will be to the State economy of Andhra Pradesh and influencing/inspiring a generation of distinguished IAS officers like B N Yugandhar, Dr Y V Reddy, S R Sankaran, Mr G P Rao, Mr K R Venugopal, Mr B K Rao etc.

A few years ago the Centre for Economic and Social Sciences (CESS), Hyderabad brought out a commemorative volume on “Centre-State Relations in Indian Fiscal Context – Essays in Honour of B P R Vithal”. Speaking at the event Dr Y V Reddy, former RBI Governor described himself as a disciple of Vithal, who often looked up to him for guidance and acknowledged the influence he had on his career. Many bureaucrats like C S Rao, former Chairman of the IRDA, Ch Hanumantha Rao, former member of Planning Commission, spoke of the tremendous inspiration that Vithal was for them as well as many IAS officers and officials.

Incidentally, Vithal was one of the main architects behind the starting of the CESS in 1980. He was secretary Finance and Planning in erstwhile integrated state of AP from 1972 to 1982. He was also deputy chairman of the State Planning Board.

That Vithal commanded respect across the political class and states too is derived from his outstanding work. Among his many publications the essays titled “The Telangana Surpluses: A Case Study” played an influential role in shaping the demand for a separate state of Telangana too. No wonder that both the Chief Minister, K Chandrasekhar Rao and the IT Minister and son, KT Rama Rao held him in high regard. KTR, did call on him a year ago and spent considerable time discussing several issues. 

In a condolence message KCR described Vithal as a well-known economist and a veteran bureaucrat with the longest service in the finance and planning in AP which led to stability and economic growth of the State.

Early Career and Contribution

The young Vithal joined the erstwhile Hyderabad State as an IAS officer in 1950. After stints as Collector in the districts of Medak and Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh he was made, Secretory Planning and Development in1969.

After the traumatic events of the Telangana agitation of 1969-70 and the State coming under President’s rule, Vithal was given charge of Finance and Planning. In this post from 1972, he worked closely with the stalwarts and Chief Ministers like P V Narasimha Rao, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, Jalagam Vengala Rao and Dr Marri Chenna Reddy for nearly a decade. 

During this time, he also worked with the Telangana Regional Committee and its then Chairman, J. Chokka Rao and thus associated with the evolution of the Five-Point Formula after the 1969 Telangana agitation and the Six-Point Formula after the Andhra agitation of 1974.

He also served as the chairman, Expenditure Commission, Government of Kerala and was Advisor, Planning Board in AP till 1992. 

I recall one close association with Vithal around 1990 as Secretary, Press Club of Hyderabad. We had decided to hold a workshop on ‘Reporting Budget’ for journalists in Hyderabad. The first name that came for seeking guidance was Vithal. He suggested in detail, how to read the fine print of the State budget papers and do follow up reporting of departmental allocations and spending accountability over a period of time. The usual practise was to extensively report the Budget speech by the Finance Minister on the presentation day and forget, the day after. 

Personal & Family Life

Vithal is survived by his wife Mrs Seshu, daughter Nivedita Kumar and two sons— Sanjaya Baru and Chaitanya Baru. Incidentally, Sanjaya Baru rose to the post of media advisor to Dr Manmohan Singh, former PM. Interestingly, Sanjaya Baru’s book on Manmohan Singh, “The Accidental Prime Minister”, has raised lot of controversy.

According to his family sources, Vithal was educated at the Madrasa-e-Aliya High School, Hyderabad. He graduated from Madras Christian College.

In 1942 Vithal quit his under-graduate studies at Nizam College, attended the Quit India session of the Indian National Congress in Mumbai and immersed himself in the national movement. On Gandhiji’s advice, written on a post card that Vithal preserved with care, he returned to his studies at Madras where he was the first Indian president of the MCC Students’ Union to fly the Indian tricolor.

His father, Professor B V Rama Narasu, was principal, Warangal Arts College and professor of economics, Nizam College. In 1960, Vithal was deputed to be Registrar of Osmania University for his long experience. 

In later life, he was associated with many social organisations and causes including the Nizam’s Trust, Hyderabad Literary Society and Jana Vignana Vedika. 

Somasekhar Mulugu, former Associate Editor & Chief of Bureau of The Hindu BusinessLine, is a well-known political, business and science writer and analyst based in Hyderabad.

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