Former Union Health Secretary Keshav Desiraju died on September 5 in Chennai at the age of 66. He was a retired IAS officer from the 1978 batch. He was also on the governing board of the Centre for Policy Research. In the many roles he played, he significantly contributed to the Mental Health Care Bill, 2016 as one of its drafting members. The bill had been passed in Parliament without much opposition. He retired as Union Secretary in the Department of Consumer Affairs.
He had worked with the Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand as well as Government of India in various roles. Post retirement, he was appointed as the Chairperson of the Governing Board of Population Foundation of India (PFI), an NGO which works towards gender sensitisation along with health policies. Desiraju had a Masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and another one from University of Cambridge in Economics.
Keshav Desiraju was the author of the book--Of Gifted Voice--which spoke of the life and times of legendary Carnatic musician MS Subbulakshmi. The book also explored the great music tradition that Subbalakshmi belonged to. He also was a co-editor with Samiran Nundy and Sanjay Nagral of the book "Healers or Predators? Healthcare Corruption in India". He was related to former President of India Dr S Radhakrishnan.
His contribution to National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Science(NIMHANS) has been hailed by many. He is credited with several initiatives taken by the institute including sensitive handling of sexual assault.
Many who knew Desiraju took to Twitter to express their sadness and shock at his passing.
Jairam Ramesh, Rajya Sabha INC MP from Karnataka praised Desiraju as â€śan outstanding civil servantâ€ť and called it a â€śtragic irony that he has left us on the day the country marks the birthday of his grandfather (former president Dr Radhakrishan).â€ť
My dear, dear friend for 57 years, Keshav Desiraju, a most outstanding civil servant has just passed away. What a tragic irony that he left us on the day the country marks the birthday of his grandfather. Keshav has written the definitive biography of M S Subbalaksmi.â€” Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) September 5, 2021
Shattering news of the demise of one of the finest men and minds, the wonderful Keshav Desiraju, a reservoir of stories, history, humour but most of all, an exceptional human being.— Seema Chishti (@seemay)
K Vijaya Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India described Desiraju as "a man of many facets with whom discussions were always collegial no matter how strongly opinions differed."
Keshav Desirajuâ€™s sudden, untimely death is shocking. A man of many facets with whom discussions were always collegial no matter how strongly opinions differed. A scholar, whose recent biography of M. S. Subbulakshmi is analytical. insightful. https://t.co/zX7yJgyNbh pic.twitter.com/uQa8N7ZWa2â€” Principal Scientific Adviser, Govt. of India (@PrinSciAdvGoI) September 5, 2021