A Brief Biographical Sketch of C.Achutha Menon
Born to a middle class family in Thrissur, in the erstwhile Indian State of Kochi, on January 10, 1913, Chelat Achutha Menon had a brilliant academic career. He passed his matric examination standing first in the state and proceeded to secure a first class again for B.A. Mathematics with second rank in the Madras University. Appearing for the Law degree from the Law College, Thiruvananthapuram, he won the Bhashyam Ayyangar Gold Medal, for highest marks in the Old Madras Presidency.
Achutha Menon joined the legal profession and started practice as a lawyer only to find that it did not suit his frame of mind. By that time he had already been captivated by the fervour of freedom movement; having become a member of the Indian National Congress in 1935, he became secretary of Thrissur District Congress in the same year and subsequently its president. The very next year Achutha Menon became secretary of the Cochin State Congress Committee.
Along with Sri.V.R.Krishnan Ezhuthachan, a senior leader of the Cochin congress he began organizing the peasants of Cochin state and became secretary of the state Karshak Sangh. It was Achutha Menon as the leader of the peasants’ organization who led the first ever Kisan march in Cochin State, from Thiruvilwamala, the northern-most village in the state to Ernakulam, the state capital at the southern and demanding fixity of tenure and fair rent.
Another march to follow was the one demanding temple entry for the untouchables and an end to the practice of pollution and untouchability. .
In the Congress Achutha Menon found himself aligned with the left wing; got in touch with the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) before the close of the decade. As in the case of the other members of the CSP group in Kerala, he was on his way to joining the communists which he did in 1941. .
Even before this he already had his links with the “Labour Brotherhood” of Trichur in which another participant was K.K.Warriar, a future leader of the Communist Party in Kerala who had just returned from Singapore fired with the ideals of Socialism. .
He used to claim with pride in later years that during his brief sojourn with the legal profession two of his earliest briefs were that of the rickshaw pullers of Thrissur and the workers of the Trissoor Sitaram Mills. .
It did not take much time for him to be elected secretary of the Cochin State Committee of the Communist Party which he led upto the time of merger of Cochin with Travancore to form the Travancore-Cochin State. Later he was the secretary of the T.C.State Committee and then the Kerala State Committee of the CPI .
Achutha Menon was a delegate to the Second Party Congress of the CPI held in Calcutta. At the next (third) Congress held in Madura, Tamilnadu he was elected to the Central Committee of the party and continued to be member of this leading organ (later renamed National Council,) till his retirement for reasons of health in 1987. He worked as member of the Party Central Executive for many years and later as secretary of the National Council of the Party at Delhi, till he was asked to return to Kerala to be Chief Minister in 1969. .
The first imprisonment Achutha Menon underwent was in 1940, for one year for making an anti-war speech; and the next in the wake of the “Quit India” movement of 9th August 1942 as a detenue for more than an year. He was forced to evade arrest and live “underground” for more than three years during the period 1948-51. .
C.Achutha Menon was elected to the T.C.State Legislature while “underground” in 1952. Subsequently, he was elected to the State Assembly in 1957, 1960, 1969 and 1970. .
In 1968 he was elected to the Rajya Sabha, but had to resign his membership in 1969, being called upon to take up the Chief Ministership of Kerala. .
After the elections of 1957 to the Kerala Legislature, when the first communist ministry was constituted Acthutha Menon was Minister for Finance and Agriculture. He was entrusted the charge of the crucial Ministry of Home Affairs when the socalled “Liberation struggle” took an ugly turn. .
Late in 1969 when the political situation took an unexpected turn and the ministry led by E.M.S.Namboodiripad resigned unexpectedly and a vacuum occurred, it was C.Achutha Menon who was asked by the party to fill in the gap and run the administration. He had to accept the challenge, though with utmost reluctance. .
The Congress also joined the ministry after elections held in 1970. This ministry continued in power for about seven years and implemented reform measures of basic import such as the Land Reform Act, take-over of private forests without compensation, law on agricultural labour, gratuity of industrial workers, one-lakh housing scheme, etc., not to mention significant steps towards industrialization of Kerala. .
It was this ministry which enunciated a Science Policy and established a number of “Centres of Excellence” in Scientific research in the state. .
Achutha Menon proved that a coalition government of different political parties could function successfully and carry out basic reforms. He had a clear grasp of socio-political forces and realities and could assess to what extent reforms could be carried out. He was sufficiently firm on principle and at the same time flexible to be able to persuade other parties and groups to take progressive positions and he could easily win and retain to the last the confidence of all the coalition partners. .
The necessity of thorough overhauling and reform of the bureaucracy and overcoming its lassitude and resistance to innovation was very much his concern and he initiated several steps for administrative reform and for democratic decentralization. .
All these made him one of the most outstand chief ministers that India has seen. His honesty, incorruptibility and integrity of character have always been beyond question. .
Achutha Menon laid down office in 1977. After retirement he was active as ever in the service of the people and used to react to every development through writings and speeches at scores of meetings he addressed every month in all parts of Kerala. .
The last ten years of his life was devoted for the larger part in the sponsoring, establishment and development of an organization styled COSTFORD (Centre for Science and Technology for Rural Development.) He was also interested in the movement for full literacy, protection of environment, decentralized democracy, womens’ problems and the many other questions currently agitating society. .
Amidst the heavy schedule of daily activities Achutha Menon found time to write on subjects pertaining to literature, literary criticism, and reviews. He was a prolific writer and an author of repute. His last book was the one entitled Peristroika and After, in Malayalam. .
It is well-known that he lived a Spartan simple life. Earning no material wealth he lived on the pension he was entitled to. .
C.Achutha Menon departed from us on 16th August, 1991.