22 October, 2020

Cleaning Up The Plague City

Suryadevara Ramachandra Rao gives Surat a new look, making it India’s second cleanest city

Cleaning Up The Plague City

I was the fall guy. If even a minor epidemic broke out after a year, it was my neck on the chopping block," shudders S.R. Rao, Surat’s municipal commissioner, who is responsible for its new ranking as the second cleanest city in India. Posted to the plague city in May 1995, Rao had his job cut out for him: to prevent a recurrence of the epidemic and to prepare the city for the hordes of journalists who were bound to descend on Surat to cover the plague outbreak’s first anniversary.

No wonder he got down to business right away. Not with brooms and vacuum cleaners, but with a vengeance most untypical of the country’s present-day IAS officers. "Bureaucratically, it was a suicide posting. I had little option but to clean up the city on a war-footing," says the 42-year-old officer, who joined the civil service in 1978. A war, at times, was quite literally what Rao had on his hands. Amidst threats to his life and the ubiquitous pressure from politicians and their cronies, Rao generated extreme reactions. The hatred...



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