Calcutta, March 2: Former Bengal chief secretary Tarun Chandra Dutt, who was the district magistrate of Burdwan when the 1970 Sainbari massacre took place, died today at a private hospital in Calcutta following prolonged illness. He was 81.
The 1956 batch IAS officer held several key posts before retiring as the chief secretary in 1991.
Three members of the Sain family, who were Congress supporters, were killed by alleged CPM activists on March 17, 1970. CPM leader Nirupam Sen is an accused in the case.
Although Dutt was often criticised in the past four decades for his alleged lack of initiative in preventing the massacre, government officials said he would be remembered by those in the service as “a titan of an IAS officer”.
“The depth and expanse of his knowledge, his clarity of thought, the brilliance of his oratory and his towering, no-nonsense personality were aspects we tried to learn from,” said transport secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay.
When junior IAS officers had asked Dutt days before his retirement what he wanted as a farewell gift, he had famously said: “I am perversely proud of my poverty. Give me some books, if you like.”
Born to the Dutt family of Hatkhola in north Calcutta in 1931, Dutt was known as one of the city’s foremost young economists in the 1950s. Prior to joining the IAS, he was an assistant professor of economics in his alma mater, the then Presidency College, in the early 1950s. Following his retirement, he became a fellow at Princeton University.
Dutt had served as the chairman of central utilities such as the Calcutta Port Trust and the Food Corporation of India.
“Sometimes, he used to hold five meetings simultaneously when he was the chief secretary,” said home secretary Basudeb Banerjee.