Memories of Madhya Pradesh

B. K. Saha IAS

I was a keen photographer then and had been doing my own enlargements (black and white) since 1958. Dawra was in charge of Culture which included the photo processing lab (dark room). He had a budget of Rs. 150 for this was looking for photographers from among us who could get the lab going and wanted to know how much it would cost. Figures mentioned varied widely. When he asked me, I said that I first need to see what was there. It was well equipped and even had a stock of photo printing paper. I told him that all that we needed to get started was a bottle of ready mixed developer and about 250 gm. of hypo. We went to a photographer’s shop in Kulri and bought what we needed for Rs. 15/-. Dawra was skeptical and kept asking whether we needed anything more. I told him let’s go straight to the lab. I took some of my negatives and got going. Voila, we had our first enlargement!

My frequent visits to the lab got people interested or, may be, curious. A lady probationer was curious and I showed her how it’s done. She also tried her hand at it which meant a few visits to the dark room with her! Another lady was suspicious of the goings on and decided to check it out for herself. She also saw how to produce an enlargement of a negative. No more questions were raised. A lot of the photos of our Bharat Darshan were processed in the lab for the exhibition.

Preventing Cheating in Exams (1970):

The degree exams were on in Barwani and I was the Officiating Collector, Khargone then. The Principal of the Govt. College called me up to say that he had caught some students cheating and that they had threatened him with dire consequences when he stepped out of the campus. I assured him that nothing will happen to him and he should continue as usual. I ordered a truck load of police from the district headquarters (56 km. away) along with rifles, teargas and lathis and they set up camp in the local police lines which shared a three-foot high boundary wall with the college. The word went around very quickly. In the afternoon a large number of elderly people barged into my office asking about the police buildup. I flatly told them that I consider it necessary because of the threat to the Principal. They tried to assure me that the students would do nothing and that I should withdraw them. I told them that the police were in the lines and not even visible and that they would be there till the exams were over. The exams went off smoothly. Soon thereafter the same elderly persons came to meet me again. I asked them, what now? They said that they were grateful to me for what I had done. They told me that since then the students went from home to the exam centre and back home and studied till late into the night instead of loitering around.

Out of curiosity I asked my Intelligence Bureau chap what was the local gossip. He told me that now they were relaxed and chatting in tea stalls. What were they saying? “Itihas mein Nadir Shah aur Sher Shah ke bad ab B. K. Shah hai”.

Gun Licenses and Schools (1969-1971)

What have gun licenses have to do with schools? A lot, as far as I was concerned. While touring my subdivision (2144 sq. km with 80% Adivasis) I noticed that most primary schools were housed in katcha mud structures in pretty bad condition (leaky roofs made of local clay tiles and muddy floors). On enquiry I was told that no government organization had any responsibility for their maintenance, much less the PWD. Not even the Panchayat (no funds). I could not leave it at that. Many well to do farmers used to apply for gun licenses for crop protection (not from pests but from armed gangs who appeared from nowhere at harvest time and harvested the crop, preventing the hapless (unarmed) owner-farmer from intervening). A gun was a good enough deterrent.

The applicants were usually well-off farmers. I told them that apart from coming out “fit” in the usual police/magisterial enquiry they would also have to spend at least Rs. 300/- on repairing the local primary school structure and get a certificate from the BDO or Panchayat. They happily complied as I explained to them that it was for the benefit of their children who attended the school. Hundreds of schools were thus repaired. In some (embarrassing) cases the person thought that this was one way of asking for a bribe (my monthly salary was then Rs. 660). They put Rs. 300 on my table and said you (me) get it done. I told them that their children attend the school and not mine and returned the money. In any case I was a bachelor!

An interesting outcome of this practice was that a young Sarpanch (Panchayat head) wanted to build a middle school in his village but needed about Rs. 6000/- more. He told me that he had heard about my interest in schools and hence the request. He was well informed. He produced three farmers who wanted gun licenses and were prepared to donate Rs. 2000/- each to the Panchayat for the school if each got a license. I gave them the licenses and the school came up. One may ask why they couldn’t donate without the gun license. Well, it seems that the amount was the bribe being paid earlier for a gun license. Here’s proof. Early in my tenure as SDO, a lawyer came with three applicants for a license mentioning that I had refused to grant it earlier. I checked. The village from where they came had already a large number of license holders. The applicants’ argument was that their fields were far from the village and, hence, vulnerable. The lawyer told me that they were prepared to pay Rs. 2000 each (i.e., Rs. 6000 or nearly my one year’s salary) as a bribe. I remembered that a social worker in a Block headquarters had asked for Rs. 6000/- to provide electricity to some new rooms constructed to accommodate Adivasi school girls. I directed the applicants to go and deposit the money there and produce the receipts. They did so and got their licenses. That’s how it began.





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