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A top bureaucrat and a sports patron

Walter Devaram is better known for his heroics in the police department than in sports. At the same time, the former Director General of Police, whose exploits chasing the Naxalites in Dharmapuri and later Veerappan in the forest made him the living legend that he is, had played a big part in giving the modern sporting infrastructure to Chennai.

A top bureaucrat and a sports patron
Walter Devaram (Illustration by Varghese Kallada)


Having served the Tamil Nadu Olympic Association and TN athletics association for decades, Walter cannot move away from sports though he has retired (from police force). He is a regular at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium at his office (TNOA) attending to the various files that demand his attention.

It was during Walter’s time as police chief in 1995 that Chennai hosted the South Asian Federation Games and he was the main architect behind the construction of the stadia in the city such as the Velachery swimming pool, the tennis stadium and the multi-purpose indoor stadium.

Even today, they serve as the main facilities to the sports development of the city. “In sports, I would say SAF Games was my best contribution,” says Walter, now 77 and looking fit as ever.

Walter, born in Munnar as his father was working in the tea estate, had his college education in Chennai (Madras Christian College) and a one-year sports course in YMCA College of Physical Education. When the Chinese war started, his NCC background helped him get a posting in the army but by then he had also appeared for the IPS examinations. While serving in the army, he passed out top-ranked in the civil service exam and joined the police force.

While in Annamalai University, Walter had represented it in football, hockey, athletics and weight-lifting. He added one more sport to his profile, shooting, after joining the police department. “I won the Tamil Nadu State Police Shooting Championship 25 times and All-India Police Championship four times, the last one 10 days before my retirement,” says the former police supremo. 

Devaram singles out Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa as the biggest patron of sports in Tamil Nadu. “Money was not a constraint when we planned the big projects. If we asked for 25 lakh, she would sanction 50 and she was always the first to acknowledge achievements in sports,” says the former DGP.

As an aside, Walter recalls the incident when the Player of the SAF Games in 1995 was chosen where the chief minister showed her true sportsman spirit. “Shiny Wilson was chosen as the athlete of the event because she was the first Indian woman to go under two minutes in 800. Someone mentioned to the chief minister she hailed from Kerala and she immediately silenced him, asking whether Shiny was not an Indian,” Walter recounted.

Walter’s first event as organiser in Chennai was the international football tournament in 1992, then he was behind the conduct of the international athletic meet in 1994 before his signature project (SAF Games) in 1995. 

Walter was also the chief security officer of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. He held various positions in the Athletic Association of India. With his trademark moustache on and head sporting a hat, Walter could be the cynosure when he comes for public functions.

  • Walter’s first event as organiser in Chennai was the international football tournament in 1992.
  • Walter was also the chief security officer of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

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