Sovan Kanungo served as the chairman of Odisha Public Service Commission after retirement.
Sovan Kanungo served as the chairman of Odisha Public Service Commission after retirement.

Former civil aviation secretary falls to Covid-19 in Bhubaneswar hospital

Sovan Kanungo was the son of Nityananda Kanungo, former union minister of commerce and industries in the cabinet of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He was known for his probity as much as administrative acumen.
UPDATED ON MAY 27, 2021 02:39 PM IST

Former civil aviation secretary and an IAS officer of Odisha cadre, Sovan Kanungo, breathed his last at a Bhubaneswar hospital on Tuesday after battling Covid-19 for about a week. 85-years old Kanungo is survived by his wife and daughter Priya, a former journalist.

The 1960-batch officer who lived in Bhubaneswar with his family tested positive for Covid-19 on May 18 and was admitted to a Covid hospital, where he succumbed to the disease on May 25.

Son of Nityananda Kanungo, former union minister of commerce and industries in the cabinet of former PM Jawaharlal Nehru, Kanungo was known for his probity as much as administrative acumen. He served as finance secretary in Odisha in the late Seventies and early Eighties before moving to Delhi where he served in various ministries before serving as the civil aviation secretary between 1992 and 1994. During his tenure in the aviation ministry, he was working on the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India, but it could not be carried out due to lack of political backing.

After retirement, he served as the chairman of Odisha Public Service Commission. In 2001, he was asked to comprehensively review the reforms carried out in Odisha, the first state to privatise power distribution, and brought out a 100-page report which revealed the rot in the power sector. The six-member committee headed by Kanungo found that nothing was achieved despite spending billions of rupees over 5 years. The report, which created a huge stir, revealed how transmission and distribution losses continued to be the same as during the pre-reforms period in the power sector, collection efficiency went down and loan burden increased fourfold from 820 crore to 3300 crore.

In 2014, he authored a book “A Bureaucrat Speaks” in which he wrote about how political opportunism, nepotism and corruption eroded the whole governance, making people despondent and cynical. The book detailed his experiences about dealing with the political elites including former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

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