By virtue of working in the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) and few other organisations in India and even abroad, I have the opportunity to meet many IAS officers and around 15 senior IAS officers were my bosses. While I was in abroad (many countries) many foreigners appreciated our IAS system of recruiting.
I have to agree that all IAS officers whom I met and interacted with were knowledgeable and vibrant in different fields. Some of them were publishing articles also. I am now a senior citizen and around 65 years of age but two names I remember whose articles inspired me – one is T. L Sankar sir and another one Rajeev Sadanandan sir. I had the opportunity to work under both of them when both were in NIRDPR as Director General and Deputy Director General in different periods.
Recently, I have the opportunity to go through the book written by Chinmay Basu sir, an Odisha cadre IAS now retired on superannuation and settled in Kolkata. He also worked in NIRDPR as Deputy Director General. After retirement he has published (February 2021) a wonderful book in Bengali titled ‘Jibaner Jharna Kalam’ (meaning, according to me Jotted Down Experience of Life).
There are altogether 23 chapters in the book and the volume is spread over to 128 pages including foreword and preface. The foreword is written by one IAS – Anita Agnihotri madam.
For the benefit of readers I am highlighting a gist of each chapter as the author has presented his experience during service life mostly during his experience in Odisha with some cases in each chapter.
First chapter has highlighted his experience when he was a student staying in the hostel of Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Calcutta, now Kolkata. According to the author most of the students were from different parts of India mostly from North East of India. Anyway, he has presented a sad case as he met one person, Sheikh Kader at YMCA whose family still has a renowned bakery in Guwahati, Assam. Kader finally became a medical doctor and a few years ago when the author with his wife went to Guwahati as tourists desired to meet Kader and accordingly went to Sheikh Brothers Bakery and came to know Kader passed away. Second chapter is interesting as when he joined Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy, Mussoorie, in 1977 as probationer, while filling up the form mentioned married as before joining marriage registration took place. But normally as per Indian culture social marriage is a must so when he wanted to go for social marriage top head of the Institute asked him to clarify and with interesting note he has clarified because registration and social marriage are two different phenomena. In the third chapter, the author has presented his experience when he went to join with his wife a small town Gunupur as SDO (Sub Divisional Officer), Korapout district. With a lot of hassles he joined and he was the first IAS officer to join as SDO in that place. In the fourth chapter, the author has narrated how a small rivulet (drainage type) became furious because of incessant rain. With a lot of difficulty the author crossed the rivulet with the help of local staff as there was an important meeting.
In the fifth chapter a case of corrupt practice has been highlighted as how an official harassed a small cinema hall owner. With the intervention of the author, the cinema hall was reopened. Sixth chapter also touched upon the corruption (bribery) case which the author has neutralised. In the seventh chapter exploitation of the bonded labourers by the big landowners has been presented. The author’s experience in Kalahandi has been presented in chapter 8 where he worked as district magistrate. Here also he observed some issues. In chapter 9 the author had to move by train by taking a ticket in another person’s name and the situation has been lucidly explained. An anomaly during recruitment of staff in Sambalpur district, where the author was the district magistrate, has been presented in chapter 10, and the author and his immediate colleagues tackled the issue as he received an anonymous letter about corruption during examination. In chapter 11 the author has explained how his childhood friend who went mountaineering lost his life. The chapter 12 is also interesting as the author was with his two children and wife while going to Nandankanan, a great and famous sanctuary of the animals by bus, and faced a serious problem because he forgot to take the required amount. And finally how it was resolved may be found in the chapter.
The author has explained his interesting experience in Chapter 13 about train journeys and the train left the station as within the stipulated time he along with his boss a chief secretary level officer could not get down in the station timely and finally the issue was resolved. In Chapter 14 the author has explained how the big industrialists exploit weavers. Health issue of the author’s teenage son and how the issue was tackled has been narrated in chapter 15 and chapter 16 as the author’s son suddenly suffered from nerve related issues in 1995. In chapter 17 former Prime Minister Honourable Rajiv Gandhi’s visit with Madam Sonia Gandhi at Kalahandi in 1987 has been lucidly presented. And unfortunately both could not visit a village because of heavy rain although it was scheduled. But later on the author visited and observed a few cases of corruption and highlighted these in chapter 17. When the author’s son and daughter were students at Symbiosis college in Pune, the mother of both (his wife) , used too many phone calls through STD. Those days cell phones were not available. So the author was disgusted as the phone was meant for official purposes. In view of this, the author joined in Mumbai as Chief Executive Officer in Khadi and Village Industries Commission. Time to time both husband and wife used to visit Pune to meet their children and similarly both the children on holidays used to visit their home in Mumbai. And in this chapter 18 behaviour of both son and daughter has been lucidly explained which is a simple example of generation gap.
The author had the opportunity to study in Harvard University of USA in 1989 under the scholarship of UNDP. Since it was a prestigious programme, he went there with his wife and both the children and had the opportunity to attend Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen’s class (chapter 19). In chapter 20, the author has explained a case in the USA as by seeing ‘Food Coupon’ which an old lady was using he puzzled and later on came to know these are given by the Government to the poor persons who are unable to work like Old-age pension in our country. The author has lucidly explained in chapter 21 his visit with family members to Niagara Falls in Canada. Here he has honestly explained about the visa issue because he came from India on one single entry visa but some people misguided him that multiple entry visas are required and finally the issue was resolved. The author’s experience with the former Chief Minister Honourable Biju Pattnaik and about his personality has been wonderfully jotted down in chapter 22. In the last chapter of 23 while the author was Chief Executive Officer in Khadi and Village Industries Commission in a programme Prime Minister Honourable Atal Bihari Vajpayee came as chief guest , the author’s embracing position while extending vote of thanks in Hindi has been explained. The author feels that he should have spoken like an extempore speech not by reading a piece of paper and with a humorous note he has concluded the chapter.
This is a wonderful publication although in Bengali so I suggest the author if possible it may be published in Odia, English and Hindi also. Also I suggest all the 23 chapters should be numbered by inserting 1, 2, 3 etc., as only the chapters’ titles have been mentioned in the content. Since, the publication has mainly highlighted his experience during service period and abroad so many of us faced such issues in our service life so I am feeling nostalgic.
Dr Shankar Chatterjee
Former Professor & Head (CPME),NIRD & PR ( Govt. of India), Hyderabad,