Shankar Minakshisundaram IAS
My first posting in the newly formed state of Haryana was as Assistant Commissioner (Training) in Jind in June 1968. In those days Jind was at best an overgrown village. It was such a cultural shock for me that I seriously considered chucking it all up and returning to academia and research. In fact, my teacher and one of the people I hold in high regard as a model in my life, Reverend Father Lourdu M Yeddanapalli S.J. was unhappy that I joined the I.A.S. after doing M.Sc. in Chemistry. He had two U.G.C. research fellowships with him and apparently, he had reserved one of them for me. When he learnt from my classmate who wanted that fellowship that I was appearing for I.A.S. he had remarked that if that was my intention why I wasted so many costly chemical reagents and expensive equipment’s to study Chemistry! He was always at pains to remind us during his classes that our fathers were not paying for the costly chemicals we were pouring down the drains but that the Government was funding it in the hope that we will use the education to uplift the under-privileged Indians. He used to say that his classes were meant for teaching us morals and ethics and to develop a social conscience and that we can learn chemistry by reading books. He had risen to great academic heights from humble beginnings. He studied in Madras University and did research in Louvain University, Belgium and did postdoctoral work in Princeton University, when Albert Einstein used to live there! He had met de Broglie when in Louvain University. I would never forget the way he impressed upon us the importance of every word in any definition. There is this definition of a buffer solution in Chemistry that it is a solution whose ph. value does not change for small additions of acid or alkali. He then narrated to us how after the First World War Belgium was created as a buffer state between Germany and France but the buffer was of no avail when Hitler with mighty force of tanks rolled across Belgium and occupied France. (He had to run away to London). So, he used to say that if you pour a ton of acid or alkali, the buffer solution will no longer be a buffer solution.
Haryana became a separate state on 1st November 1966 and we were the first IAS batch to be allotted to Haryana. It consisted then of five full districts and two half districts. Of the two half districts Ambala, the district headquarters, was retained in Haryana and Ropar the subdivision went to Punjab. On the other hand, Sangrur, the district Headquarters, was retained in Punjab and Jind which was a sub-division came to Haryana. I was assigned for training to Jind. Even in 1968 the Zilla Parishad was common with Sangrur district. The day I joined was van-mahotsav day and the Zilla Parishad Chairman of Sangrur was present in the function arranged to celebrate it. Jind at that time had no traditions of a district. I remember that the only copy of the Jail Manual was available only in Urdu. We were required to study the Manual thoroughly if at least to pass the Departmental Examination in Criminal Law Part-1 which was without books.
There was this dear friend of mine, Pritam Singh Chaudhry, an H.C.S. Officer who worked under me and was later promoted to the I.A.S. He used to rue the fate of Punjab which once stretched from Khyber Pass to Delhi. He had been with Pratap Singh Kairon, one of the powerful Chief Ministers of Punjab. He used to say that Yashwant Singh Parmar who later became the first chief minister of Himachal Pradesh was so low in the party hierarchy, that he could not even get an appointment with Kairon. He used to say that the Himachalis should replace the statue of Lala Lajpat Rai which adorns the Mall in Simla, with that of Master Tara Singh, whose fasting for Punjabi suba resulted in a trifurcated state with Himachal Pradesh as a gift to the Himachalis!
After Jind I was posted as Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Nuh Sub-division of Gurgaon District. The day I joined as S.D.M. both the Tehsildar and Naib- Tehsildar were placed under suspension. In those days the Commissioner of the division could suspend up to tehsildars in the revenue department. There were complaints about disbursal of Taccavi, an agricultural loan given by the Govt. directly to agriculturists. Since both the revenue officers were suspended, they handed over the keys of the Treasury to me!
One of the main events in my time (1 1/2 years) as SDM was the visit of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, otherwise known as Badshah Khan or the frontier Gandhi. After partition his first visit to India was in 1969. The Government of India had declared him to be a State Guest and drawn up an elaborate itinerary for him to visit the Temples of Modern India and meet with business and industry. But as soon as he landed in Delhi the Ahmedabad riots broke out and he preferred to visit Ahmedabad and later on wanted to visit Mewat, the land of Meos. (more about this later). The Deputy Commissioner (D.C.) of the District was celebrating the marriage of his daughter and it fell to my lot to accompany the V.V.I.P. I remember the detailed instructions on the food habits of the V.V.I.P. One of them was that he does not like ‘heeng’. It was in English and the General Assistant (a State Civil Service Officer who assists the D.C.) who was conveying the instructions to me on phone had difficulty with the English word for this and told me that he had found out from the Foreign Service people what it meant and that it was ‘heeng’. Luckily, I knew the English word for heeng and floored him by spelling out Asafoetida! It was another matter that it was Ramzan and the V.V.I.P. was observing roza.
Nuh, Firozepur Zhirka and parts of Palwal subdivisions of Gurgaon District were peopled by the Meos. At some point in History they had all become Muslims but they were still following many old practices. For instance, they followed the system of gots and marriage was not permitted within the same got. During Partition some of them migrated to Pakistan but they came back when they discovered that they did not have much in common with the people in Pakistan. On their return they were formally received in a village called Ghasera in my sub-division by Gandhiji and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Badshah Khan wanted to revisit the village and we arranged a function. For three days he drove around in the area meeting the villagers. His sojourn in Haryana culminated in a big public meeting at Faridabad with the people donning the Khudai Khidmatgar Uniform. The refugees resettled in Faridabad were from the frontier areas of Pakistan and had actively participated in the movements of the Frontier Gandhi.
At the time I joined the state in 1968, the morale of the state civil officers was pretty low and the only meaningful posts they could look forward to were to sub-divisions as S.D.M.s When our batch got posting as S.D.M. in March 69 even 4 months before the formal end of training, they were quite envious. One of the H.C.S. officers remarked that I was the son of Haryana since I am getting Nuh. In Punjabi, the daughter-in-law is referred to as Nuh! (Though I suspect the name stands for the Biblical Noah in Urdu.)
These are my initial experiences of my life in Haryana. Over the years I
came to like Haryana very much. Now I miss it.
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