Achievers' Index

Virendra Dayal

Virendra Dayal's Schooldays 

Mr. Virendra DayalEarly evidence of greatness to come can be gleaned from the pages of old school magazines. At first we do not hear much about Virendra, but by 1945 there are the first stirrings - a general proficiency prize in class IV. By the next year he was in full cry, claiming special prizes in Mathematics, Science and the fortnightly orders apart from class prize. He carried his colours outside the classroom winning honours in Music, a feat he had already achieved in the previous year. 

We gather from Col. Alan Thompson, an old classmate of his, that somewhere along the way Virendra was given a double promotion, but that was no handicap as it might well have turned out to be. We see from the Prize list of 1948 that Virendra makes a virtual sweep of all the prizes: Class prize, Mathematics, Science and the languages (both Hindi and English).

In 1949, apart from his usual class prizes, he made forays into the literary world earning commendation in Junior English Prize examination and walking off with the Senior General Knowledge Prize and the Under-15 elocution.

His dramatic talent flowered in 1949 when in the Mock Trial he was the exalted Hon'ble Justice Victor Leopard - Scare! In Charley's Aunt his performance as 'Charles Wykeham' the undergraduate was described as 'well portrayed'. Later his role as Mr. Sticklebck in 'Good-Bye, Mr. Chips', earned him this comment- "Mr. Stickleback (V. Dayal) had a range of facial expressions which many of the others lacked; it gave vigour to what otherwise might have been a stilted part; and his interpretation of Mr. Raltson, the bullying headmaster, was the best piece of acting in the play.

His final year was a fanfare of trumpets-the Hindi essay prize, prizes for English, Science, Hindi, Senior English Elocution, General Knowledge and a special mathematics prize - a truly brilliant academic career at school culminating in final glory and honour when he won the Taylor Memorial Prize in the Cambridge School Certificate for the best result with distinctions (Honours in modern-day parlance) in as wide a spectrum of subjects: English, Religious Knowledge, Hindi, Elementary Mathematics and Chemistry. He was placed 4th on the Provincial List.

Virendra then attended university at St. Stephen's College,
Delhi, where he read History. 

We give below his biographical note: 

Biographical Note

r. Dayal was born in Allahabad India, on 29 January 1935. He schooled in Sherwood College, NainiTal and attended university at St. Stephen's College, Delhi (1951-56) and, as a Rhodes scholar, at University College, Oxford (1956-58). 

In 1958, Mr. Dayal joined the Indian Administrative Service. He served in Naini Tal, Rampur and Moradabad districts before being posted to the Government of India in the Ministry of Community Development and Cooperation in 1963. 

In 1965, Mr. Dayal joined the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), serving in Geneva between 1978-79. During the latter period, Mr. Dayal worked as Executive Assistant to the High Commissioner. Between 1968-78, Mr. Dayal served in the Regional Office of UNHCR at United Nations Headquarters, first as Deputy and then as Regional Representative. During this period with UNHCR, Mr. Dayal undertook numerous missions for the office, notably in Africa, Asia and the Americas. In 1972, Mr. Dayal worked as a Special Assistant to the head of the UN Relief Operation in Bangladesh. 

In 1979, Mr. Dayal was appointed Director, office of Special Political Affairs, in the Offices of the Secretary-General. He was responsible for peace keeping operations, notably in the Middle East. 

In 1982, Mr. Dayal was asked by Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar to serve as his Chef de Cabinet. This he did until the end of Mr. Perez de Cuellar's term in December 1991. During this period Mr. Dayal held the rank of Under-Secretary-General. As Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Dayal's functions required involvement in all aspects of the work of the United Nations, not least Human Rights. Mr. Dayal was thus closely associated with the exercise of the Secretary-General's "good offices" functions in remedying instances of Human Rights violations.

With the election of Mr. Boutros-Ghali as Secretary-General, Mr. Dayal continued to serve as Chef de Cabinet until the end of February 1993. He thereafter retired from the career service of the United Nations. The incoming Secretary-General, however, requested Mr. Dayal to assist him in the writing of "An Agenda for Peace~, required in response to the declaration adopted by the Summit Meeting of the Security Council of 31 January 1992. He also asked Mr. Dayal to undertake a mission to South Africa with Mr. Cyrus Vance in July 1992 and, subsequently, as his Personal Envoy, in September 1992.

Since returning home to India later that year, Mr. Dayal has been asked to serve on the Indian delegation to the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in June 1993. The President of India appointed him to a five year term as a Member of the recently constituted National Human Rights Commission of India in October 1993. 

Mr. Dayal was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1992.

He is married to Indra Gupta. They have two daughters, Divya and Jaya. 

To get a wider vision of him, we read extracts from an article in 'The Pioneer' entitled 'An Officer and a Gentleman': "Recently awarded the Padma Bhushan, Dayal has spent nearly three decades with the United Nations, Born in Allahabad, the only attribute that can be considered a legacy of his home state is the excessive politeness and graciousness that he exhibits. St Stephen's and then a stint at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, he was determined not to work abroad and was interested in the development of his own country, and therefore opted for the IAS. But, "fortuitously", he joined the 
U.N. and was with them for the last 27 years."
During this period his responsibilities were varied and interesting, but there were situations that he recalls as high points. One was while he was with the refugee front, and in this connection, he remembers the Bangladesh crisis, as "an immense experience both in professional and emotional terms - to see what people can do to each other both to cause injury and to help." Immediately after Independence, he and his UN counterpart in Pakistan, were responsible for the repatriation of a quarter of a million people and this was even before the POWs were returned. The world acknowledged the role the UN had played in this area, by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. 

In the interview he talks of "the exhausting and fascinating" assignment as 'Chef de Cabinet', working closely with the former Secretary - General, Perez de Cuellar, a man he describes as one with "absolute impartiality and a determination not to be discouraged". At the time, "nothing was simple. There was the problem in Afghanistan, in Nicaragua, in South Africa, in Angola, in the Horn of Africa and in Cambodia - all had deep overtones of the Cold War, and before the game had ended, it was played to the hilt in all its violence and capacity to paralyze efforts at sensible governance. It was a difficult time made worse by the financial crisis". And Dayal recalls that at the end of a particularly difficult day, the Secretary - General would say, "Viru, I don't have the right to be discouraged." The change in Russia's outlook, the era of perestroika brought about by Gorbachev, signified a change in climate which came to its fullness at the end of the Iran-Iraq War. "That was really a moment of transcendence, of joy, because the war had taken such a heavy toll of life and so much suffering, and nobody quite knew how it would end." Significantly, when the Nobel Peace Prize for Peace, was given, Dayal and the Secretary-General both went to Oslo.
Later he says, "The new Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali asked him to serve on a mission to South Africa, "for the situation there was getting ripe for change". Dayal went first with Cyrus Vance and then alone, and made certain suggestions on the way in which the UN could help. "And the ideas seemed to make sense to all concerned, as a consequence of which, the UN now has a very healthy presence in South Africa." At the time of the second mission, the immediate problem was that Mandela and President De Clerk weren't speaking to each other, because of the violence that had broken out in the township and the ANC felt the government should be more responsive in the control of violence. There was therefore, the immediate necessity to create an environment that would bring the two leaders together. "So I met Mr. Mandela a few times and President de Clerk, and as a result of intense discussions between the respective representatives, they did meet. I was very happy because I think the support and encouragement of the UN was what greatly helped in bringing this about. 

On a question on the future role of the UNO, he said that the organisation would have greater significance in times to come - economic and social development, protection of human rights and the care and understanding of the environment. The functions will be increasingly "encyclopaedic".

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