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Farewell to Virtue

H Y Sharada Prasad, who passed away on September 2, 2008 is remembered mostly for the long years he spent as media adviser to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, which obviously was not a bed of roses. That is a part of history. But what distinguished him in a deeper sense was his complete understanding – and observance – of a media person’s obligation to society. As one close to Indira Gandhi since 1966, he was witness to the many vicissitudes she passed through in her long career; and he was privy to all the state secrets that inevitably came to the prime minister’s office for resolution. After demitting office, he could have profited immensely by publi shing his memoirs in one form or another. But his sense of morality – and in some ways of l oyalty – was so strong that he just refused to talk or write about those days. His concern for doing the right thing was part of his being – not something assumed for convenience or fear.

In the early 1940s, he was active as a student leader in the “Quit India” movement and went to jail. Later, as an assistant editor in the publication division of the government of India, Sharada Prasad brought to his task the virtues of truth, probity and factual rectitude. As editor of Yojana in the Planning Commission, he made it an important source of reliable news on the objectives and contours of what that organisation sought to achieve through economic and social transformation. It was from there he went over to the prime minister’s office.

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