Treading Down Memory Lane

Adhip Chaudhury IAS


“Time”, they say, “flies”. Today, I am convinced that time does not merely fly but flies at the speed of light. 14th July, 1967 is yet etched so fresh in my mind. That was the D-day on which I joined the Indian Administrative Service at the National Academy of Administration (NAA). Sometime later it was rechristened as the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA). It appears to me like a happy dream with a span of “fifty” short years. We are now on the threshold of the Golden Jubilee Reunion of our batch.


The Director of the NAA during our yearlong training was M.G. Pimputkar, an upright person endowed with impeccable integrity. A strict disciplinarian, his sense of punctuality was proverbial. He was one person who practiced what he preached. He was more dreaded than revered. To my luck, from day one, I had struck a positive chord with him and never ran into any problem. His rare qualities endeared him to me. His sense of justice and righteousness enhanced my regards manifolds for this unique administrator. Another common bond was “music”. On several occasions we exchanged notes on this subject. During our probation he had organized a concert of the celebrated artiste Gajanan Rao Joshi who excelled both in vocal and violin which I cherish even to-day. I have no hesitation in confessing that Mr. Pimputkar was my ‘role model’ as an administrator and all through my 37 years of service career it was my constant and consistent endeavor to emulate him. Even after the Mussoorie phase I had kept in touch with him and called on him whenever I visited Delhi.


Another incident that shaped my service career which I fondly recall was the very first lecture on Public Administration during the “Foundation Course”. Mr. Bagchi of the Indian Postal Service was the lecturer. Even after fifty years, his words “A civil servant must be endowed with the three qualities of integrity, neutrality and anonymity” ring loud and clear in my ears. Very modestly I can claim that all through my service years these three words were my “Bible” and very passionately and vigorously did I pursue them.


I was promoted to the senior scale in July 1971. Within a month I went on deputation to the Bangalore University. I was appointed as the Controller of Examinations. The Registrar was a senior colleague from the IAS, a wonderful person. Many important incidents occurred during my term. However, I shall recount just one of them. One day 33 young men came as a group to see me. They were all students of M.E. – Machine Design in the Mechanical Engg. Department. Though they had completed their University Examinations quite some time back their results were not declared. They complained that they were losing job opportunities. On enquiry I found that all their written papers had been evaluated. What remained was the “evaluation of their dissertations and viva voce”. The whole matter was the result of personal rivalry between two Professors of the Mechanical Engineering Dept. I requested the Head of the Dept. to meet me. He said he was unable to solve the matter because he did not have a doctorate. The other Professor made a prestige issue and stopped all further action. If he had cooperated the problem would have been solved long back.


At that point of time the Vice Chancellor of the University was on an official foreign trip. In his absence, the Registrar was officiating as the VC. I had a long discussion with him. He advised me to apply the “IAS medicine” to the truant Professor. Without prior notice I visited his office and requested him to solve the problem. He jumped out of his seat, dashed for the steel cupboard and locked it up. Then bluntly he told me that he would not hand over the Dissertation copies to me. Left without an option I decided to apply the “IAS medicine”. I addressed a personal letter to the SHO of the local Police Station detailing the “emergency” that had cropped up. I also requested him to come over to my office for a cup of coffee. The letter was personally handed over. I also apprised him of the VC’s order. It clicked and all too soon. The SHO went over to the office of the Professor and requested him to hand over the Dissertations. He also reminded him that failure to do so would result in his arrest for obstructing a law enforcing officer to carry out his duty. The Professor at last realized the seriousness of the matter and caved in. Meekly he handed over all the dissertations which were promptly lodged on my table by the SHO.


I requested the Head of the Deptt. Of Mechanical Engineering of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore to bail us out. He readily cooperated and evaluated the Dissertations within 3 days. On the fourth day I fixed the viva voce for all the students in my officer chamber. The Viva session began at ten in the morning and folded up around seven in the evening. Everybody involved rendered yeoman service. On the 5th day the results were compiled and officially declared bringing to an end a vexed problem.


In March 1982 I was appointed as the Commissioner of the Bangalore Development authority (BDA) in the Supertime Scale of the IAS. One of the primary functions of the BDA was to acquire land, develop them, form sites and distribute them for housing and other activities to eligible applicants prescribed by the BDA Act & Rules. A service colleague was allotted a site by the BDA well before I joined that Organisation. Before he could prepare a building plan some mischievous element trespassed and installed an idol of Ganesha which was followed up by rituals and puja. When our friend and colleague were ready with his building plan, he visited the site. He was shocked to find somebody had encroached and installed the idol of Ganesha. He approached the authorities of the BDA to remove the encroachment and facilitate the construction of his house. No one was willing to disturb an installed idol. It was around this time that I took charge as Commissioner, BDA. Our friend approached me and narrated his tale of woe. After listening to him I sent for the officer in charge of removal of encroachments and ordered in writing to clear the site. He was advised to bring the idol of Ganesha to the BDA and keep it in a convenient place. After the site was cleared our friend constructed a house on that site and has been residing peacefully ever since. I left the BDA in Oct 1983. I cannot say whether the idol of Ganesha is still lodged there or not.


In Oct. 1983 I took over as the Commissioner of Public Instruction in the Department of School Education. Sometime in 1984, two monks of the Ramakrishna Mission, Bangalore called on me in my office. They told me that the Ramakrishna Mission wished to start a primary school at Shivanahalli, a remote village in Anekal Taluk of Bangalore District. The records were sent for. The prevailing norms for starting a primary school in a village were examined. The main criterion was the population of the village. According to this criterion Shivanahalli did not qualify for a second primary school as there was a Govt. primary school there. The population of the village was low and a second primary school could not be permitted. But the fact was that the existing primary school was languishing with poor enrolment, quality of education imparted was sub-standard. The dropout rates were very high and attendance was poor.


The ground realities did not justify opening of a second primary school at Shivanahalli Village. I started weighing the pros and cons. My conscience told me that any educational institution run by the Ramakrishna Mission was a model. The Govt. Primary school already in existence was in a bad shape. I had to make a decision. On the spot I ordered the closure of the existing Govt. Primary School at Shivanahalli and in writing requested the Ramakrishna Mission, Bangalore to take over the existing school and develop it. Within 6 to 7 years all the relevant parameters showed significant improvement. Enrolment, attendance and quality of education improved remarkably: The dropout rate fell drastically. The mission had arranged for free uniforms and text books and organized wholesome midday meals for the students. The students were supremely happy, so were their parents and the villagers.


Today when I reflect on this unusual decision I made in 1984, a question crops up – whether I had acted beyond my charter. My conscience consoles me that I had acted in good faith keeping in mind the track record of the Ramakrishna Mission in running educational institutions. The end result was very positive. It did not cause any harm to anyone. The principle of utilitarianism is probably the best litmus test.


My service career spanned over 37 years. It was almost throughout smooth sailing though thrice I received adverse remarks in my ACRs – in 1968 as a Probationer, 1970 as a Sub-Divisional officer and in 1983 as the Commissioner of BDA. Till 1970 the Govt. of India had not framed any Rules to file representations against adverse comments. The Rules were framed in 1970 and for the years 1970 and 1983 I was able to get the adverse remarks expunged through my defence.


In my thirty-seven years I signed the CTC form as many as thirty-five times. On an average each tenure lasted barely a year: The longest was 40 months. I also had two fairly long stints of 36 and 32 ½ months. And the shortest, would you believe was just a day. In Nov. 1989, I was posted as the Chairman, Karnataka Housing Board. The very next day I was shifted as the Director of Mines and Geology. Between March 1975 and 1978 I was on deputation to Tripura. I returned to Karnataka in June 1978. Till my retirement in July 2004, for 26 years I remained in Bangalore though I was virtually transferred every year.


Today, almost 13 years after my retirement I have mixed feelings. Sometimes I look back with a feeling of satisfaction that I had tried sincerely to give my best. At times I also have a feeling of remorse that I could achieve precious little. Whether I succeeded or not can only be judged by the people who worked closely with me and saw me at work. Whatever is the judgment I shall accept it gracefully. In a corner of my heart there is a hidden grief that out of the nine officers of the 1967 batch in Karnataka only four have survived the Golden Jubilee. Let the departed R.I.P.






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