On Monday evening, I did not think that by not making a simple phone call, I was foregoing the chance to have my last chat with a bureaucrat, who seemed to be driven with zeal to improve the conditions of the textile town of Malegaon near Nashik.
Caught up at work, I did not get a chance to call the ever smiling, Yashwant Sonawane, the additional collector of Nashik.
The story of a meeting at Mantralaya on a proposal to set up branches of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Maharashtra was not high-priority for me.
However, for Sonawane and friends like Malegaon-based journalist, Aleem Faizee, who had mooted the idea, the proposal was a step towards changing Malegaon’s image as a backward, communally polarised ghetto into that of a progressive education hub.
On Monday, Sonawane had submitted a proposal for setting up a branch of the AMU at Malegaon during a meeting chaired by minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan.
A day later, the 46-year-old bureaucrat was brutally murdered, allegedly by the oil adulteration mafia.
A Dalit from a small hamlet called Lakhmapur in Nashik district, Sonawane entered the bureaucracy with a drive to help his people.
He started off as a clerk in Mantralaya in 1988. He studied for the state civil services exams and managed to clear them in 1990, after which he was appointed deputy collector.
Sonawane spent the bulk of his career in North Maharashtra and was promoted as additional collector of Malegaon two years ago.
The people of Malegaon fondly remember him as a man who tried his best to change the image of the town.
“He was the driving force behind the proposal to set up a Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation in here,” Malegaon legislator Mufti Ismail said.
Malegaon residents feel in his death the city has lost another efficient, sincere official, who cared for the small town.
“He was a genuine man who was interested in ensuring this town’s development,” Zahir Shaikh, a former government employee who had worked with Sonawane in Malegaon, said.
Sonawane leaves behind his wife and two teenaged children. Public works minister and guardian minister of Nashik, Chhagan Bhujbal, announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh for Sonawane’s family.
His family will also receive full salary until the date of his retirement, a government job for one dependent, educational expenses for his children until they complete their graduation, and a house.