Dear Sisters and Brothers,
This is an emotional moment for me today as we all connect to remember our beloved friend Shri M P Veerendra Kumar who left for heavenly abode some months ago. Had he been with us, we would have been celebrating his 84th birthday today.
Shri Veerendra Kumar was a multifaceted personality--politician, a prolific writer, an environmentalist and an accomplished journalist. As Chairman and Managing Director of the Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Limited, he made invaluable contribution in the field of journalism.
He also served as the President of the Indian Newspaper Society and chairman of the Press Trust of India.
In his journalistic role, he pioneered the cause of the freedom of the press in the larger interest of the people. He piloted several initiatives and led various campaigns as a member of various press bodies. Despite ushering in technology in the publication of a range of magazines by the publishing company that brings out ‘Mathrubhoomi’, Shri Veerendra Kumar ensured the protection of the rights and welfare of the employees. Such sync between words and deeds is very rare.
Dear sisters and brothers,
We are in the midst of a pandemic which has disrupted every activity and impacted the economies of all nations. It is in such times that we need to draw inspiration from the likes of Shri Veerendra Kumar and adopt a more empathetic attitude towards our fellow citizens. The media industry too was badly hit by the pandemic and I understand that several media houses are facing Covid induced financial strain. I am told that there also have been some lay-offs. I appeal to everyone to treat their employees with empathy and care and stand with them during these difficult times.
One of the important aspects of Shri Veerendra Kumar’s life was the empowerment of people through dissemination of information. This is all the more necessary in present times to provide correct and authentic information.
I appreciate that despite taking a hit, media has pursued the mission of empowering people through information and perspectives on the pandemic. However, media should guard against unverified and unsubstantiated claims on treating COVID-19.
Shri Veerendra Kumar was a distinguished member of the Rajya Sabha and an exemplary parliamentarian. He was deeply committed to the cause of the uplifting the marginalized sections. Be it Kerala Legislative Assembly, Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, his conduct was worthy of emulation by all legislators.
Widely seen as someone who commanded respect across the political spectrum, he was baptized into politics with Praja Socialist Party at the age of about 16 years and was later drawn into Socialist Party by the late Jayaprakash Narayan. He was also influenced by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. He was arrested during the Emergency and his assets were confiscated.
Shri Veerendra Kumar always put the public cause over everything else. He was a man of principles. This was evident in the episode when he was made the Minister of Forests in Kerala Government. His first decision was to ban cutting of trees as he was conscious of the adverse consequences of tinkering with nature. Huge pressure was brought on him to withdraw the decision. Committed to his ideals and values, Veerendra Kumar resisted and resigned within 48 hours of becoming a minister.
A keen participant in the trade union movements and a passionate advocate of the rights of the workforce, as Union Minister of State for Labour (Independent charge), Shri Kumar ushered in pioneering reforms in the management of Employees Provident Fund and Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) to benefit the workers.
He was deeply pained by the erosion of the rights of the indigenous people and supported movements for their protection.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I have time and again called for taking a balanced approach towards development and the conservation of nature. Development should not be at the cost of environment.
Shri Veerendra Kumar was perhaps among the very few men in public life and legislatures to have been honoured with Kendriya Sahitya Academy and Kerala Sahitya Academy honors as also the coveted Moortidevi Award (2016) instituted by the Bhartiya Jnanpith Trust for his contributions to the world of letters. Last year, I had released the English version of his famous travelogue “Haimavathabhuvil” called Himalayan Odyssey.
An author, orator, publisher, administrator, parliamentarian and above all a humanist, Shri M.P. Veerendra Kumar’s contributions in different fields have been immense. His work and ideals will inspire the generations to come.