In my long journey in journalism I worked with hundreds of journalists. Nimmakauyala Ranganath was one of the best I came across. An exceptionally talented journalist and a good human being, Ranganath passed away on Monday (7 February 2022) night. We worked together at Udayam and Vaartha.
Ranganath came into contact with Tarimela Nagireddy, brother-in-law of former president Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, when he was young. Nagireddy was a communist leader who broke away from CPI(M) and walked out of AP Assembly in late 1960s to plunge into revolutionary politics. Nagireddy headed Andhra Pradesh Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (APCCCR). He differed with Charu Mazumdar’s line and started his own group and then merged with two other splinter groups. Incidentally, Friday(February 11) is 105th birth anniversay of Nagireddy. Ranganath, hailing from Konaseema in East Godavari, also was a radical. He married inter-caste and dreamed of a world where there would be equality sans exploitation. He was one of Nagireddy’s vehement supporters and close aides. He translated Nagireddy’s magnum opus, India Mortgaged, into Telugu titled ‘Taakattuloo Bharatadesam.’
After Nagireddy passed away in 1976, Ranganath settled down as a journalist. He was a quintessential newsman – gifted with analytical mind and a strong commitment to truth. I met him for the first time in December 1984 when we launched Vijayawada edition of Udayam daily which was edited by ABK Prasad who lived in Hyderabad. Ranganath was our correspondent at Kakinada. Whenever he visited the office he came with a script of an investigative story. He worked mostly on irrigation. Many engineers at Dhavaleswaram and Eleru dams lost their jobs because of his stories. I used to get a lot of pressure from engineers and politicians to stop his stories but there was no question of letting down the reporter who was conscientious and meticulous with facts and detail. NT Rama Rao was the Chief Minister and his instructions to the officials were to consider reports published in Udayam daily as First Information Reports. Almost all the stories we published were proved right and disciplinary action was taken by the government. Before publication of an investigative story, Ranganath used to give me the telephone numbers of his sources and asked me to cross check. I never called anyone since I had immense faith in his integrity and his dedication to the profession. He had no personal likes and dislikes. Public good was his motto as was the case with most of the active journalists in those days.
Rivalries and jealousies were common among journalists as with other professionals. But I never heard Ranganath talk bad about anyone. He was always objective and broadminded. We worked together on a number of investigative stories. In fact, Udayam was known for investigative journalism, at least during the first four and half years it was run by Dasari Narayana Rao who gave us full freedom. We used to have a system of roving correspondents based out of Hyderabad and Vijayawada. After I left Udayam and went to Delhi, the politicians succeeded in getting Ranganath transferred out of East Godavari and he promptly resigned. He launched his own newspaper, Vaartha Kiranam. He burnt his fingers but derived utmost satisfaction when fellow journalists and politicians spoke high of his editorials. After I joined Vaartha as editor in 1998, Ranganath was taken and sent to Delhi as a special correspondent as he was keen on working in the national capital. Then he came back to Hyderabad to head the bureau of AP Times, a Hyderabad-based English daily in which I used to write a weekly column, thanks to my friend Vazeeruddin. Sam Rajappa, a great journalist who broke Rajan’s story in Kerala, was the editor. Sam was also known as a master of Queen’s English in Indian journalism. He passed away in January this year at 82. Ranganath was one of a few Telugu journalists who could also write in English. After AP Times was closed, he started a Telugu news agency. When Mutha Gopalakrishna, Kakinada MLA, invited him to join his news channel, Ranganath encouraged the businessman-cum-politician to buy Andhra Prabha which had a hoary history under Goenkas. After the change in management, Ranganath worked for that newspaper as editor of news network. That was his last formal assignment. Even after that he did not stop his investigative journalism. He used to contribute to HMTV and Sakshi where I was working. His fight against corruption continued till his last breath. There are a couple of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) cases filed by him pending in courts even today.
Ranganath used to say that there is no retirement in journalism which is more than a profession. He was active till the last moment on his facebook composing messages even while undergoing treatment in ICU at hospital. His son Vamsi Srinivas, who followed his father’s footsteps, is an accomplished journalist, now Bureau Chief of Deccan Chronicle. One of his two daughters lives in the US. His wife used to work as a teacher.
A journalist who enjoyed iconic status among rural and district reporters whom he mentored, Ranganath, 80, lived as a true journalist without compromise and an activist with an unflinching pro-people attitude. He was close to Mudragada Padmanabham, a rare, emotional politician who is known for his impulsive nature. Though we parted ways after the stint at Vaartha, we always remained in live touch and exchanged notes on current affairs. Wherever I worked, I used to call him for clarification and confirmation, especially while writing my editorials, since dates and names were on his fingertips. He told me a couple of months ago that he was very happy enjoying his stay at Vijayawada for the sake of his granddaughter’s education. Ranganath’s demise is a loss that can never be filled.