All he was armed with was a few, but well-taken photographs by the late Ambuji Rao and a humble plea, with which he approached the High Court bench…“I am from Visakhapatnam; I owe a duty, a debt of gratitude to the people of Visakhapatnam. This town is becoming a death trap because of its air pollution. Till date, this green land came handy for us and therefore I want your Lordship to protect this lung-space”. His simple earnest plea won the judge and today, the erstwhile jail in the heart of Visakhapatnam city is now earmarked to be a verdant park, protecting the 100-year old trees and the greenery. This retired IES (Indian Economic Services) officer spearheaded the move to thwart the commercialization of the green pocket – the old jail premises, paving the way for the creation of a park and ensuring lung space in one the busiest and most polluted junctions – his gift to Vizagites. It all started when the gentleman in question saw an article in the daily papers titled ‘multi-storied complex likely on old jail land’ in 2003. Spurred into action, he approached like-minded people, launched the ‘Praja Spandana’ and created a ruckus – first with the local governing body. When that failed, he faxed a letter to the High Court – which was treated and docketed as a PIL. The rest is history. But then sitting idle and watching the ‘world go by’ was never his strong point… Sri C S Rao is a man who believes in action.
About the man
Born and brought up in Nidighattu, a small village in Vizianagaram district, Sri Changanti Sundara Rao even as a child was driven to achieve what he felt was right. He learned a lot from his maternal grandfather, a primary teacher in a small aided school. Finding the young child very receptive, his grandfather coached him in all varied subjects, including traditional scriptures, stotras, and mantras. In that day and age, higher education was not a priority and most of the village’s ‘educated’ were content with passing or at least attempting the tenth class and settling down for a Steno’s job. But young CS Rao was ambitious. He was very keen on studying further, and thanks to an uncle who settled in Vizianagaram, he eventually joined and graduated from the Maharaja’s college in Vizianagaram and completed his Honours in Economics from the AU. Being the oldest and tallest in the class, which made him conscious; he studied harder and always stood first in the class. The highlight of his school days was when the teachers at times asked him to explain a mathematical or grammatical concept to the rest of the class.
Even before he completed his SSLC, bowing to family pressures, he got married to Smt. Vijaya Lakshmi. He continued his education and was keen on pursuing engineering. But the family by then was insistent that he take up a job to maintain the family. Determined, but unable to convince the elders, he sold his wife’s gold chain, left for Vizag and enrolled himself in AU. Heeding the advice of his professor, Late B Sarvesawara Rao and encouraged by the fact that young India, just breaking free from the shackles of the British rule was setting up a Planning Commission, he eventually graduated in Economics with Statistics. Hard work, merit scholarships, and libraries sustained most of his education. The birth of his first child dissuaded him for further pursuing a Ph.D., but now he was all focussed on getting a job in Delhi. He submitted his bio-data and was assigned a temporary posting as Economic Investigator and posted in Nizamabad (erstwhile Nizam State). A year after interacting with the locals of these rural areas, he was relieved. Still fixated on joining the planning commission in Delhi, sans any backing or assurances from anybody, CS Rao headed to Delhi to try his luck. Impressed by his grit, prominent Andhraites like Dr. K L Rao, Durgabai Deshmukh, K Rama Rao and others helped him secure a permanent post in the Planning Commission. In the course of his service, he was witness and part of many major happenings in the country.
Post retirement, in ’89 Sri C S Rao settled in Visakhapatnam and put all his knowledge, experience and energies to bettering the society. In association with equally motivated stalwarts like E A S Sarma (retired IAS) and Sri L Jagannadham (Sr. Advocate), he launched the Praja Spandana organization. This forum is focussed on the sole agenda of protecting and promoting the public interest, and Visakhapatnam’s betterment is high on their agenda.
Describing the enigma that is C S Rao is perhaps best done in the words of Sri A Prasanna Kumar, “He is a simple man, in fact, an uncommon man with common concern for those affected by the arrogance of power and pomp of affluence. …. Unafraid of criticism and undeterred by the lack of support, he takes up causes he considers important. An ageless warrior, he believes in the classical maxim that it is better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all for a worthy cause.”