Opening the sluices of the Vadavar supply channel
An incident that happened on the very day I took over as the Sub Collector of Chidambaram, Cuddalore district in 1997, fresh from being an IAS probationer, remains green in my memory.
It was raining heavily for the past many days and it was raining that night too. At about 2.30 am, I received a call from the SDO PWD of Veeranam Eri, that the Vadavar (supply channel for Veeranam Eri) could breach any moment! Frankly, I had only heard about Veeranam Eri, forget Vadavar supply channel or for that matter, the protocol for opening or closing sluices or dams etc.!!!
Immediately, the driver was summoned and I was on my way; when I reached the Vadavar channel at about 3.30 am, there were about 6-7 people in pitch darkness and pouring rain, including the Tahsildar of Kattumannarkoil taluk, the Kattumannarkoil Town Panchayat President Mr.Kannan, the SDO PWD and a few Laskars of PWD. The situation that I confronted send a chilling feeling down my spine... the Vadavar was in full spate and something had to be done immediately! The only option was to open the sluices, with damage to crops being a possibility. But human life was more important! The SDO informed me that there were some protocols under normal circumstances. But here was a situation of dire emergency. Without wasting a moment (one could not inform the Collector as there were no mobile phones during those days, and my vehicle didn’t have a wireless set), I took the decision to open the sluices! All of us had great difficulty opening the rusty sluice gates, and there were many!
To this day when Mr.Kannan telephones me, we remember those nerve wracking moments in pouring rain...which probably saved many lives.... thus you can say, my official life as an IAS officer started with managing a crisis, with no prior experience or knowledge.... I am sure many an Officer has such a story to narrate.