Great loss to Kodagu: Former CAG Somiah passes away
Codanda G. Somiah, one of the greatest sons of Kodagu, who held some of the top civilian posts in India, passed away in Bangalore following a brief illness.
The late Somiah (79), known popularly as Codanda Raja in Kodagu family circles, was an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, and was recently in the news for his bestselling autobiography ‘The Honest Always Stand Alone’.
He held some of the top posts in the country, including Planning Commission Secretary, under the chairmanship of Manmohan Singh, Home Secretary when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister, Central Vigilance Commissioner and finally the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
It was during his tenure as Financial Controller of the Asian Games Organising committee that the 1982 Asiad was held in Delhi. Later as Home Secretary he was closely involved with the signing of the Punjab, Assam and Gorkhaland accords.
As CAG, he chaired the United Nation’s Audit committee, the first time an Indian was appointed to this high post.
In his autobiography, Somiah, known for his true Kodava quality of outspokenness, shared his experiences as an IAS Officer, from his first posting to Orissa as Assistant Collector to the more heady days of fighting terrorism in Punjab, keeping an eye on the country as Home Secretary and Central Vigilance Commissioner and, finally, a six-year tenure as CAG.
It was stated that his efforts to stem corruption resulted in a loss of promotion for two years. His colleagues were upset about his plight and some of them were of the view that it was not prudent to defy corrupt politicians who can harm one’s career. Somiah, however, heartily disagreed with them!
The autobiography recalls the exciting days of Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership and gives a glimpse into the discussions that took place at the highest political level.
Very few know the fact that the late Somiah pulled strings from behind the scenes to stall the move of the Union government to scrap the gun exemption privilege given to the Kodavas in the early 1990s following pressure from the Andhra Pradesh government after guns from Kodagu reached the hands of Maoists.
Somiah is survived by his wife Indira, son Anand and daughter Pria Alva Somiah, who is married to Nikhil Alva, son of Uttarakhand Governor Margaret Alva.
Somiah’s sister Rathi Vinay Jha was also an IAS officer and has contributed considerably for promoting tourism in Kodagu. She is also the moving force behind the Kodava Heritage Centre near Madikeri.