Madurai Collector Mr Sahayam –Refuses to take a bribe

Under A Dangerous Motto – Madurai Collector Mr Sahayam Under A Dangerous Motto By refusing to take bribes, the Madurai collector has earned 18 transfers in 20 years, a modest house and bank balance and lots of respect by PUSHPA IYENGAR

On a hot summer afternoon, on Madurai’s busy main road, the district collector, U. Sagayam, saw a young man talking on a cellphone while riding a motorbike. He asked his driver to wave the man down, got down from his car and meted out instant punishment: plant 10 saplings within 24 hours. Somewhat unconventional justice, some might say. But that’s how Sagayam works. ‘Lanjam Thavirtthu, Nenjam Namartthu’ (Reject bribes, hold your head high), says a board hanging above Sagayam’s chair in his modest office. That’s the code he lives by, even if politicians are incensed they cannot bend him their way—he’s been transferred 18 times in the last 20 years—and has made enemies of both superiors and subordinates. “I know I sit under a dangerous slogan and probably alienate people,” he says. “But I have been the same Sagayam from Day 1. Standing up against corruption is not for a season. Nor is it a fad. It’s forever.”

Two years ago, as district collector of Namakkal, he voluntarily declared his assets: a bank balance of Rs 7,172 and a house in Madurai worth Rs 9 lakh. Once, when his baby daughter, Yalini, who had breathing problems, was suddenly taken ill, he did not have the Rs 5,000 needed for admitting her to a private hospital. At that time he was deputy commissioner (excise) in Coimbatore and there were 650 liquor licences to be given out. The going bribe for each was rumoured to be Rs 10,000.

Sagayam started cleaning up Madurai the minute he landed here. The main bus terminus at Mattuthavani looked more like a bazaar, with shops all over the bus-shelters and no waiting place for passengers. Even a police outpost had been turned into a shop. The system was well-oiled with haftas to local politicians and policemen. Sagayam quickly went through the rulebook, cited the relevant clauses and cleaned up the entire area. But didn’t it hit poor shopkeepers who lost their livelihood? “A violation is a violation,” says Sagayam, “but we will help them rehabilitate.”

Nageshwaran, a taxi-driver and one of Sagayam’s many fans, says, “He’s strict and hasn’t taken even ten paise in bribe during his career. He’s like the upright collectors they show in some films, a real hero with integrity.” Sagayam’s masters degrees in social work and law come in useful in his role as an administrator. He knows the rulebooks in detail and is not afraid of using them, however powerful the opponent. No wonder then that Sagayam’s career is marked with the scars of countless battles.

When errant village officers ganged up to get Sagayam transferred, people protested and the order was rescinded. When he was in Kanchipuram as revenue officer, he took on the sand mafia, ordering them to stop dredging sand from the Palar riverbed. Large-scale dredging had made the area flood-prone. The mafia sent goons to assault Sagayam, but he did not budge and would not take back the order. He also took on a mighty soft-drink mnc when a consumer showed him a bottle with dirt floating in it. He sealed the bottling unit and banned the sale of the soft drink in the city. In Chennai, he locked horns with a restaurant chain and recovered four acres valued at some Rs 200 crore.

Given such credentials, it wasn’t surprising for him to be picked by the Election Commission to oversee elections in Madurai, as famous for its temples as its political gods. During the last polls, Sagayam took on M.K. Azhagiri, the local MP and son of former CM and DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi. He conducted voter awareness campaigns in colleges; the DMK petitioned the court twice, seeking to end what it said was an attempt to influence voters, but the court demurred.

Sagayam’s wife Vimala has stood by him all these years but she was rattled by some of the threats during the elections. “He always says if you are right, nobody can hurt you,” she says. “But sometimes it becomes difficult.”

Sagayam takes a hands-on approach to his work. He holds a Monday ‘durbar’, at which anyone can meet him with their complaints. During tours of the district for review meetings and inspections, he will suddenly stop a school bus to talk to children or duck into a school to take a class. When students tell him they want to be IAS or IPS officers, he asks, “It’s all well to say now that you’ll be honest, but will you remain unbending about not taking bribes throughout your career?”

Some months back, while driving to a village, he found a 92-year-old woman cleaning rice. She said she had to work in order to eat. He immediately sanctioned Rs 1,000 as old-age pension for her. When 60-year-old Vellamma met him during a tour of Uthappanaikkanoor village this week and asked him to grant her a pension, he said, “I can do that. But do you want me to send your son to jail too—for abandoning you?” He said it with a smile, as a joke, but he has in fact taken action against children who don’t take care of their aging parents.

“I believe, as Mahatma Gandhi said, that India lives in her villages,” says Sagayam, who also idolises Subhash Chandra Bose. His years as a collector—he has slept overnight in village schools many times—have convinced him to better the lot of villagers by strengthening the village administrative officer (VAO) system. Many VAOs have never visited villages and often stay miles away from where they should be, in cities. In Namakkal, his action against errant VAOs had them ganging up with politicians to get him transferred. Over 5,000 villagers protested, saying they wouldn’t let Sagayam go. The politicians had to retreat.

Sagayam says he learnt honesty on his mother’s knees. He is the youngest of four sons of a farmer from Pudukottai. “Our adjoining field had mango trees and my friends and I would pick the fallen fruit,” he says. “But my mother made me throw the mangoes away, saying I should enjoy only what is mine.”

Now his daughter Yalini wants to become a collector. When she has an argument with her brother Arun, she asks her father, “Is he really your son? He just told a lie!” Both of them are proud of their father. Recently, after a long time, the Sagayam family went on a vacation to Kullu in Himachal Pradesh. While visiting a gurudwara, a stranger came up to their father and asked him, “Aren’t you IAS officer Mr Sagayam?” Yalini and Arun have not stopped beaming. —————————————————————————————————————–

*** You have not lived a perfect day even though you have earned your money, unless you have done some thing for some one who will never be able to repay you. —–Ruth Smeltzer***

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About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest is acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays.
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80 Responses to Madurai Collector Mr Sahayam –Refuses to take a bribe

  1. Rummuser says:

    We need a million Sagayams in our country. He is worthy of the beautiful name that he has been endowed with.

    Like

    • padmum says:

      They are there–hiding and being sent off to thanni illada kaattu.

      Like

    • Edwin says:

      We need a community to support these people when they are in danger or need support.

      A man who does his duty without bold front is what this country needs . . . Hats off. . .to you, mother who moulded you and your wife who supports you . . .

      Like

  2. Naresh says:

    what can I say a rear breed of people

    Like

    • padmum says:

      Yes! there are many real, honest bureaucrats…they may not be super efficient but their honesty is above board.

      In fact a rumour going around is all this exposes of corruption in high places has been spearheaded on the quiet by bureaucrats who are fed up with the level of corruption!!

      Like

  3. blackwatertown says:

    Thanks for telling us about this guy. Heroic behaviour – though it’s a shame that doing your job has become heroic.

    Like

  4. Laxminarayan says:

    Wonderful and I simply respect this man. These are the kind of guys who will be remembered for ever than those bureaucrats who get medals and honor for climbing up the ladder.

    Like

  5. Sarat Gupta says:

    Great to know that such people exist and are able to survive in this cauldron of corruption. KUDOS.

    Like

  6. rakesh says:

    thank you sir for keeping hopes alive…..what i think to do you have done….after coming in civil services i can assure i will take your ahead….:)

    Like

  7. Abhishek sharma says:

    people might not be so much efficient but honesty they have is above all

    Like

  8. people might not be so much efficient but honesty they have is above everything in this world

    Like

  9. KK says:

    10 officials like this India would be no-1 economy in the world.

    Like

  10. sandip says:

    awesome article… how do we make sure that guys like these get true recognision?

    Like

  11. GK says:

    We need more people like this to rid India of these filthy politicians in India.

    Like

  12. Kailash narayan Sharma says:

    Congrates,India needs such officers who dares corrupt politicians,we too have such IAS officer in our family

    Like

  13. sachin says:

    Respect is the only word that comes to my mind.

    Like

  14. Nag says:

    thanks!.

    Like

  15. shishu paul says:

    Congrates Sir, Really India need honest Officer like you. If this happens then definately future of India and Indian would be bright.

    Like

  16. rajesh jain says:

    Congratulation….I AM with u sir…jast go high and keep fighting…whenever need any help from me i am ready for u sir….rajesh jain, nasik….

    Like

  17. I salute u Sir, u seem like a light in the long dark endless tunnel.

    Like

  18. Dr. Gurendra Nath Bhardwaj says:

    I also respect him & salute him for his honesty.

    Dr. Gurendra Nath Bhardwaj

    Like

  19. DEVI PRASAD SHARMA says:

    PRANAM, I FEEL PROUD TO BEND BEFORE YOU, A PRICELESS PERSONALITY, WHICH IS ABOUT TO RARE IN TODAYS INDIA.

    Like

  20. Aniruddha says:

    This is not a time to preech for him. Why we alsways expect for others to do the social works? Start with ourselves, start with our childerns, show them right path, make them realise that they can do the same.
    Inspiration comes from our own heart……..

    Like

  21. cassia7 says:

    Do they still make such humans?? Awesome, it takes some guts to stand against the sycophantic world of Tamil Nadu !!!Bravo Sagayam, more teeth and blessings to you!! I too have a collector cousin battling in the big bad world of political sycophancy! May the Lord keep you and your family safe from these marauding militants called ” Politicians”

    Like

  22. Navin Kumar says:

    I salute Mr. Sahayam…. He’s like a soldier. He’s protecting us from the enemies within our society….And thanks to his wife too; its not easy being the wife of a person who is so honest and gets transferred every year (well almost)……

    Like

  23. pruthvi says:

    My god, I cannot believe that still we have this kind of bureaucrats in this mean country

    Like

  24. Meenakshi says:

    Fantastic really! I remember reading about him in Thuglaq.

    Like

  25. Sanjay says:

    I salute the spirit of this great person. No Government will allow these officers to work properly. just see. What the Narendra Modi is doing to Sanjiv Bhatt. We should support these officers. They never talk. They don’t need publicity. They only work. God bless you, your child & your family. May God give energy to maintain the spirit to live life like this. I know the hardship in such lives as my father was such type of officer.

    Like

  26. Sridevi says:

    Hats-off to you Sir,
    You are really very inspiring to guys who have a will to serve our country but who are feared to implement it with the fear of local gangs and politicians.
    But you have shown it practically by standing up high towards your aim and slogan.

    Like

  27. sreekanth says:

    HI ,
    I am happy that such personalities still exist in India. Would like to remember his name .
    Is it Sagayam or Sahayam ? There is difference b/w the title and the content .

    sreekanth

    Like

    • padmum says:

      Both spellings are valid. I think he calls himself Sagayam.

      TN Govt. page says: Thiru U Sagayam IAS. District Collector Collectorate, Madurai – 625 001. Phone: 0452-2531110 (O) 0452-2532290 (R) Fax: 0452-2530925. E-Mail:

      Like

  28. Justin Jeyakumar says:

    He is the most efficient collector and most honest collector in tamil nadu history. But i am just worrying that he would be version 2 of Umasankar IAS. Previous govt got amused by uma sankar’s efficiency and abused him for his honesty. Current govt will also do the same thing. Right now Sahayam is in “Amusement” phase. Next “Abusement” phase may come for him. But i heartly wish not so.
    And the other thing, I feel some people try to portray that “people like sahayam are honest, but may not be efficient. but that is ok.”. I am basically from madurai and i personally witnessed the changes / improvements he made. My view is that he is the most efficient collector and most honest collector in tamil nadu history.

    Like

  29. srikanta says:

    I salute this guy.
    if all collectors do like this then the dreams of gandhi would be true.
    A great man is one who long after his death not only admired ,but also loved and honoured one and all.
    we india people need collectors like sagayam.

    Like

  30. we need only few like him and India will be a altogether different…..

    Like

  31. Swaminathan Mahadevan says:

    I think you missed out on the bit about his admitting his children in the local Government school which some detractors called a gimmick!

    Like

  32. radhakrishnan says:

    standing against corruption is not for a season but for a reason. mr. Sagayam has proved to be a sahayam (help) for those in need of sahayam . a friend in need is a friend indeed!

    Like

  33. ajay says:

    hats off to you Sagayam Sir,…We pride on you,

    Like

  34. Shariq Ishrat says:

    Dear Mr. Sahayagam move on the path which you follow no body can harm you if you are honest.After all God is there to help you.I have seen the same thing in my father too.He is a satisfied man at 94 years of age.Sometimes i criticized him but feel satisfaction in calling myself son of a honest person.The same thing will also happen with your children.

    Like

  35. d.k.prajapati says:

    India needs such officers who dares corrupt politicians,we too have such IAS officer in our family

    Like

  36. Jeevan says:

    Rare to see such personality…, tody evrythin s a business,, u need more than wat u deserve n do less than wat u can…. If u try 2 b perfect thn u hav 2 suffer alot… wat the heck….. only such people can show us a btr world 🙂 🙂 100000000 likes 4 him 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Like

  37. Dr Rajesh Garg says:

    Hats off to this officer….. he is the real son of his mother n mother land !!

    Like

  38. Ramini says:

    Hats off !

    Keep going strong.. believe in God.

    Like

  39. suresh says:

    a great salute to this man

    Like

  40. Dear Mam,
    Thanks a lot for sharing this.

    Like

  41. Excellent Principles Mr Sahayam..Wish you could get a few more people in Bureaucracy to be even partly like you….it is happening and with Anna’s Movement hopefully many more people who were on the borderline or corrupt due to compulsions rather than greed would be able to break free..seeing your example.

    Like

  42. Natchi says:

    Hats off sir! And thanks for sharing this.

    Like

  43. Nandhakumar Dhanarajan says:

    Nandri Ayya@@@@You r a inspirational hero for the thirsty youngsters like me !!!!! Valzha Pallandu !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

  44. bhupesh says:

    its hard to swim against the current,but people have travelled upright……it needs extraordinary faith in one’s belief.

    Like

  45. NK says:

    We should nominate him for CNN heros next year

    Like

  46. Pingback: "Reject Bribes, Hold your Head High" says a board outside office of IAS Sagayam… « Corruption Corner

  47. Shiyas says:

    I would like to meet Mr.Sagayam..do any one help him ???

    Like

  48. HE IS DOING MORE THAN WHAT ANNA JI DOING.I HAVE NOT HEARD ABOUT ANY SUCH COLLECTOR DOING SUCH A GREAT JOB.SAGHYAM IS AN IDEAL FOR THE GENERATION.

    Like

  49. Sumeet Kapur says:

    We should have a public platform or website to honour all such people in India….I am sure the number of people supporting them will be huge….

    Like

  50. Subramanian T says:

    Hats off to you Mr Sahayam

    Subramanian T

    Like

  51. ramakanth says:

    Hats off to Mr Saghyam…..

    if some want to see corruption free society then stop bribing…thats high valued contribution to the society…

    Like

  52. R.Joel Lincolnston says:

    his parents have named aptly. Hats off to this gentleman. We need people of such honesty, integrety, and above all the love of the people around us. Honesty is the best policy. My Mother used to teach us this proverb when we were young.

    Like

  53. aji says:

    hats off to u sir

    Like

  54. Abu says:

    A respectable person

    Like

  55. Rajkumar says:

    This type of bureaucrat is real hero of India. we respect them .

    Like

  56. shiva talawar says:

    Namaskaara Sir,
    If we start to convince our young children NOW, can expect change in the days to come truly great article. . . to learn , I am proud of you sir.

    Like

  57. Balakumar says:

    It may a easy word to say great,…….. man of need …….. man of action…………… but the real pain behind such a nice, honest, abled administrator has to be sensed by all the citizens of our country. In the present Scenario its too difficult for a man to say away from bride even in a 2 or 3 years service, the fellow administrator and politicians are all corrupt and they want their superior or subordinate to be corrupt.
    The people of the country rather being pride should think of his pain before bribing for any cause. All the pain he and the persons of similar character, shreds in their whole career is for the cause of the citizens. think before bribing and say no to any benefit out of bribe.

    Like

  58. nripendra das says:

    I really salute such a personality from bottom of my heart

    Like

  59. Sundarapandian says:

    Hats off Sir…

    Like

  60. sunny says:

    hats off to such collector….he is an asset to the nation….just bcoz such ppl exist in our country ,we have hope to move forward….

    Like

  61. BAKYALAKSHMI says:

    I am really proud to have a honest collector to the madurai city…

    i like ur quotes….
    i need ur responsibilities to be extended to the every nook and corner of madurai district..

    Like

  62. Varunan Velu says:

    In INDIA v need thousands of sahayam sir 2 clean up

    Like

  63. vijayyeshwanth says:

    Sir you are a role model for indian citizens. “Sahayam the great”

    Like

  64. I agree THIRU SAHAYAM COLLECTOR IS HONEST BUT AFRAID HE DOESNOT HAVE CONTROL OVER CORRUPT CORPORATION ENGINEERS WHO RE INEFFICIENT AND DOESNOT DO THEIR DUTY BY CLEARING THE ENCROACHMENTS IN THE ROAD AND RAINWATER DRAINAGES

    Like

  65. MADURAI CORPORATION E COMPLAINT IS JUST AN EYEWASH THERE IS NO ACTION ABOUT COMPLAINTS ON ENCROACHMENT OF RAINWATER DRAINAGE AND PUBLIC PATHWAYS FOR OVER TWO YEARS

    Like

  66. S. Rajesh says:

    Sahayam is honest man I like sahayam in my role model
    I love Sahaym By S.Rajesh (Nadayneri)

    Like

  67. David Ranjan says:

    I just listened to his speech at Silver Jublee function of FeTNA. At Baltimore Washington DC USA. What a man! Hats off to him.

    Like

  68. Ananth Arun says:

    David, I was there too at the FETNA. Totally share your sentiments, wish we could have more public officials like him molding, shaping, guiding and taking India to an “ELITE” status.

    Like

  69. K.Rajendran says:

    Excellant officer! I myself also following his principles.its very difficult nowadays.Peoples mostly supporting corrupt fellows for their benefit.The people of Tamil nadu and the ruling Amma Ministry also refer his name for higher Awards,and respect for his uprightness.Definitely Amma will respect his service.People of tamilnadu is always with u Sir.Keep it up.We are very proud of U Sir. K.Rajendran,Abu Dhabhi.

    Like

  70. Prabu says:

    I Salute U Mr.Sahayam.
    We need your energy spread across. Can someone from the media spread his simple & Powerful message.

    Like

  71. manuel says:

    Sagayam the great. A stranger at Gullu was able to identify you because of your honesty. 19 transfers in a period Guts of 21 years of service.Courageous enough to fight with an MNC. Willing to do sahayam to the people really in need.AVOID BRIBE , HOLD YOUR HEAD UPRIGHT. Newcomers for such service should better be trained by such HONEST PEOPLE.Let us work for anti corruption and the corruptive politicians will surely be set aside from the society.

    Like

  72. Ashok says:

    If Mr Sagayam I.A.S starts a political party with like minded people, I wish I am the first person to enroll for primary member and donate part of my savings. May God bless him the thought and give health & peace in his family.

    Like

  73. M.Bhavani says:

    I think this is the correct time to send a request from public like us to save TN from corrupted politician and give a leadership to govern us.So many like him are here to support him.We need a good leader only.please come forward and save us sir.So many ready to support and follow you sir.please guide us.

    Like

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