Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bharat Darshan - The dream of every IAS aspirant

It was first week of December 2004. Foundation Course got over at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie. Other than IAS, all other officer trainees (IFS,IPS,IRS,IRTS,IAAS etc) left to their respective training academies after Foundation Course at Mussoorie. Phase 1 training for IAS got started. Our Course Coordinator came to the class and announced that we should leave LBSNAA within 2 days as 'snow fall' will start soon in Mussoorie and we should not be seen in Mussoorie for next 3 months. Hearing that, all of us were happy because the much awaited 'Bharat Dharshan' was about to start. Our Course Coordinator announced that our batch of 90 IAS officer trainees was divided into 9 groups with 10 members in each group. Each Group will start in Mussoorie and end in Mussoorie after 3 months but had different travel routes. She also announced that each Group will have one member as a Group Leader who will coordinate the entire travel. After the announcement we rushed to the notice boards to know about our travel plan. To my surprise(also everyone's surprise), against my name the word 'Group Leader' was mentioned. I was surprised because I did not actively participate in any activity(cultural, sports, clubs etc etc  etc) during Foundation Course. I was internally happy, thinking that even without participating, maybe I had displayed some leadership qualities. When I was rejoicing internally but trying to put my face as if I was worried with this new burden of Group Leader, one of my batch mate (and close friend) looked at my face. Maybe he was a mind reader. He told, "Don't think too much of yourself. In LBSNAA, Mussoorie, training is different. One who didn't exhibit any leadership quality during Foundation Course, are made Group Leaders so that atleast in next three months during Bharat Dharshan, they start knowing the problems of being a leader and learn some techniques on how to manage a situation". I was irritated hearing his blunt comment. I looked at the notice board again to see other Groups' Group Leaders. None of the names I knew. Maybe all  were silent and non participants during Foundation Course like me. Realized that the blunt remark of my friend cum batch mate was a fact.

My Group's first part of Bharat Dharshan was 'Army Attachment' in Kashmir. My Group consisted of 6 Male IAS officers and 4 Lady IAS Officers. All 10 of us landed in Srinagar Airport in a chilly cold 2nd week of December. An Army Officer who was made the liaison officer received us in Srinagar Airport and took us to an Army Camp. We had our night stay there and next day early morning we started our journey towards Kashmir Border. As we were moving in our Army Jeeps, we were mesmerized seeing the natural beauty of Kashmir. No words to describe. I realised why the girl Kashmir decided to remain single on 15th August 1947, when both India and Pakistan proposed to marry her. Maybe she was arrogant due to her extraordinary beauty. 

After 6 hours of journey by road, we reached our destination. It was a Border Post and from there within few meters we could see few Pakistani Border posts. We stayed in bunkers for next 7 days. We interacted a lot with our Jawans. I had heard of snake bite, dog bite but first time in my life, I heard the word 'snow bite'. Some of our Jawans lose their fingers because of snow bite. We  realized that to make our life comfortable, our jawans are sacrificing their lives. I saw an Army Jawan having Cricket Bat and Ball in the bunker. Asked him whether they play cricket in that snow laden mountain. He replied, "Sir, I got it from Srinagar when I went on official duty yesterday. Next week my leave which I get once in every 6 months is due. My son was asking cricket bat since long. So eagerly waiting for next week". I could see his love for his son from his face. I could see the pain of separation from his son for past 6 months from his face. Till that point of time in my life, I always thought, Army people are like robots without feelings. His reply made me to realise every Jawan in the border has a loving son or daughter waiting for him back home in some far away village. But some of them don't return but 'returned' if they are caught in the shelling from the other side of the border. Realised that they are the people who really serve our mother land.

We landed in Delhi in the last week of December after our Army Attachment. Our next assignment was 'NGO Attachment'. We were attached to a NGO called 'MKSS, in Rajasthan. I called one Ms.Aruna who was the head of that NGO over phone and told her that we were proceeding on road from Delhi and may reach around 10 pm. She told our stay arrangements have already been made, and we can meet her next morning for breakfast. We reached MKSS around 10 pm. One person received us and we were taken to a hut.  He told that we can sleep there. There were only some wooden benches in the hut . We were taken aback. How can IAS officers sleep in wooden benches that too in a hut. We started grumbling. Some of my group members commented that I was a useless Group Leader who didn't communicate properly with MKSS. I told that MKSS person that we are IAS officers on training, thinking that he had mistaken us for some other group. But he replied that he already knew it and MKSS has only huts. There was no choice for us. We slept. Breeze was better. It was cool without Air Conditioners. We slept like logs after that hectic road journey . Realized huts are better than palatial bungalows. Next day morning we were taken to a nearby hut for breakfast. The head of MKSS Ms.Aruna Roy welcomed us. She was sitting on the floor and we all of us were made to sit on the floor for breakfast. This time we were not grumbling because we got used to it and atleast breakfast was there because we were very very hungry. We introduced ourselves. Once she started introducing about her, we became dumbstruck. She told that she was also an IAS officer and she resigned from IAS after few years of service and started MKSS. She told that her batch mate was the Chief Secretary of Rajasthan at that point of time. She started telling about the suffering MKSS members underwent for fighting for 'Right to Information'(RTI) in Rajasthan. First time we realised that India is built by so many good souls from different walks of life and we IAS think too much of ourselves.

After MKSS attachment we spent our next one week in visiting different places of Rajasthan. We were proud seeing the magnificient forts built by our Kings across Rajasthan. We also visited Chokidhani which was a small model village which depicted the life in Rajasthan. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Rajasthan. Our next attachment was 'Cooperative Society' attachment with Amul.We took a train and got down in a station called 'Anand' in Gujarat. We reached Amul Guest House, refreshed ourselves and visited the factory. We were given presentation on 'Milk revolution' in India. We were told how Dr.Verghese Kurien started this concept of cooperative movement in dairy. After our lunch we were taken to the Conference Room for our meeting with 'The Father of Milk Revolution' Dr.Verghese Kurien. He gave a brilliant speech. He gave us the conceptual clarity on Cooperative Movement. He narrated us on how he quit his lucrative job in Tata Steel and started experimenting cooperative movement for milk in Gujarat. He briefed us on the initial challenges he faced. We realised that he was a Great Great Human Being. But one thing we were told even before we left for Bharat Dharshan in Mussoorie was, Dr.Kurien doesn't like IAS officers. So we were asked to be polite and talk as less as possible. However when Dr.Kurien's speech was over and I was about to give  'Vote of Thanks', one of my batch mate dropped the bomb shell. He asked, "Sir, we heard that you don’t like IAS officers. Why". Dr.Kurien's face changed. There was a dead silence in the conference room for next few seconds. Then he replied, "What you heard is true. I don’t like IAS because you people are the final decision makers in our system but you people are 'Jack of all but Master of none'. You people are posted in Agriculture one day, Defence next day, Science and Technology the third day and Education on fourth day in your career. Then how can you become an expert. I am not the most intelligent person on earth. But I became an expert in milk cooperatives because I am living with cows and milk for past 50 years". Once he completed this sentence, immediately I got up and started my ‘Vote of Thanks’ to avoid further discussion on that topic. We realized that what he said was 100% true. If Dr.Kurien would have joined civil service instead of spending years of his life with cows, milk today would have been a scarcity in India. 

Our next 2 months were full of realizations. We visited Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, Lakshadweep, Coimbatore, Chennai, Odisha and finally Delhi. Each place has several memories attached to it but if I start narrating maybe it will end up in several pages. In Odisha, we lived in a tribal village for a week without electricity. In Delhi, we met Mr.Sreedharan, the father of Metro Rail in India. Our Bharat Dharshan got culminated at Rashtrapathi Bhavan where we had a long discussion with the then President Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam. At the end of Bharat Dharshan, each one of us were different from what we were before our departure from Mussoorie. We could meet eminent souls who built our nation. We could realize the ‘Unity in Diversity’ of our nation. We could realize how beautiful India is and how great Indians are.  We could also realize how much sacrifice our Jawans are making at our borders for ensuring our safety and happiness within the borders.

During Bharat Darshan, we in the Group used to spend our travel time and leisure time in playing cards. Every evening(8 pm) after our day's work got completed, our card games started. I remember even in the Dornier flight from Cochin to Lakshadweep, we were playing cards, up in the sky.We became experts in different card games. We used to even cheat in card games. Once caught, we used to fight like kids and not talk for next 2 days. Again we used to start our card games. At the end of Bharat Darshan, despite so many fights, we were the closest friends after reaching LBSNAA, Mussoorie. That bonding still continues. The reason may be because of the famous saying, 'Known Devil is better than an Unknown Angel'.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Goliath kills David"

Thousands of years before the birth of Christ(BC),in the Jewish kingdom, there was a giant called Goliath. He was a man of might and was unchallenged.All were scared including the King. One fine day, a small boy named David took up the challenge to fight with Goliath. It was similar to a battle between a Giant and a Lilliputian. David,using a catapult killed Goliath and later became the famous 'King David'. There ends the story.Few days before, Goliath took up a fight with David.Tharoor never realized that he was just a Lilliputian in front of mighty Goliath( Lalit Modi).Instead of going for a truce by surrendering 'Kochi IPL franchisee' to the whims and wishes of Goliath,he thought after all he is Minister of State, and accepted Goliath's offer to fight. Entire nation witnessed. History DID NOT repeat this time.Goliath killed David. A month before, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu made a remark in Rajya Sabha which created laughter in the Upper House.He remarked that Tharoor's Twitting(he meant tweeting)will lead to his Quitting.Venkaiah Naidu was alomost right. Tweeting led to quitting but it was Modi's tweeting.Shashi Tharoor has been forced to resign because prima facie he appears to be guilty.Lalit Modi is Goliath not because he is IPL chairman, he is Goliath because he is ‘Lalit Modi’. Forget Tharoor, even the Cabinet Minister for External Affairs cannot take a decision when it affects the relation with foreign country like Pakistan without the consent of Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister.But our Goliath took a decision with his cabinet colleagues Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta to ban Pakistani players from attending IPL 3 which severely affected relations with Pakistan at that point of time.But our Goliath got away unharmed. When most of the middle class population run after LIC agents during March to save few thousands of rupees to save from tax, our Goliath tried to evade around two hundred crores of rupees as entertainment tax from Maharashtra Government(which could have been used for infrastructure projects) citing the reason that IPL is promoting a sport. Is cricket an endangered sport in India and whether our IPL missionaries are promoting an endangered sport to get tax exemption? Our Goliath who never played cricket could also threaten to remove from Cricket academy, the cricket icon in India, Kapil Dev, when the latter was supporting Indian Cricket League(not IPL).

In my view, Shashi Tharoor became a casualty in this episode. Mamata tried to make Indian Railway Budget a Bengal Railway Budget, Lalu did the same for Bihar and Maran did the same in Telecom for Tamil Nadu.This is a standard practice because,after all they are elected by the people of their home state and they have to go back to their electorate after 5 years. This practice may be wrong but still it is not illegal. Tharoor did the same. If he had the intention of getting stakes through his friend, he could have done it silently. He openly acknowledged to the media that he is a patron of Kochi franchisee because Kerala is his home state. He supported openly. If he had intentions of misusing his office for getting stakes for his friend Sunanda, then he could have silently done it. Even the Congress feels that Tharoor has done a SILLY BLUNDER which means that Tharoor has become a casualty because he did act silly.One can argue that Tharoor did not promote Railways or Telecom for his State, but it can also be genuine that he could have decided to promote IPL seeing the craziness for this sport. Anyhow since Tharoor was holding a responsible post and there are prima facie doubts about his involvement in alleged transfer of stakes to his friend Sunanda, it’s good that he was removed from the post of Minister. On the other hand Modi who took the moral stand of exposing Tharoor, was a failure in all his business ventures till 3 years before, but has bought a private jet, a luxury yacht , a fleet of Mercedes and BMW cars after he became IPL chairman. Times of India report alleges that Modi’s brother in law Chellaram has stakes in Rajasthan Royals and Modi also has Benami stakes in Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders Teams. Times of India report also claims that IT raids have found Modi’s involvement in IPL betting and money laundering.

Its good that Goliath-David battle took place, not because Goliath may also be killed soon, not because Goliath’s betting scandal has got exposed, but good because some section of MPs in Parliament have started demanding the ban of IPL. Modi who claims that IPL’s aim is to promote cricket across the world, should have not opposed ICL if that was his true intention because ICL was also a league which could have promoted cricket.BCCI actually started IPL to counter ICL and it used all arm twisting activities and removed ICL from the arena and has become the sole proprietor of the Gold mines. Even though cricket is a lazy sport and has spoilt the sponsorships of other games, one thing good about cricket is, it unites the nation. If Rahul Dravid played well, Tamils, Biharis, Bengalis and the entire nation praised the iron man of Karnataka. Similarly if Harbhajan Singh bowled well, the Haryanvis, Kannadigas, Bengalis , Assamese and the entire nation praised the Punjab Tiger. IPL on the other hand has removed the only positive factor in Cricket. It has led to balkanization of Indian Cricket. and India The other day one of my friend was about to cry because 'Chennai Super Kings' lost. I asked him whether Dhoni was from Chennai. He told Dhoni likes Chennai and that’s why he opted for being a player in 'Chennai Super Kings'. He also told that Dhoni out of his love for Chennai, has recently bought a house in Chennai. Nowadays my friend staunchly opposes Sachin, Ganguly etc because they play against Chennai. Some may argue that IPL is equivalent to Foot Ball league and County Cricket of European countries and it has not led balkanization in those countries. Its true for Europe, but India is not Europe where there is single religion and single language.In next few years, the youngsters will start really believing that Dhoni is playing for Chennai out of his love for Chennai and will start fighting with Kannadigas if 'Royal Challengers' win 'Chennai Super Kings', like the way people react when Indo-Pak cricket match takes place.I conclude with the remarks of Geeth Sethi,the Billiard player, who won the first individual Olympic Gold medal for India, “The fanatical obsession called cricket has just joined hands with the film world to create a new pastime (I consciously refrain from calling it a sport) where it will gain even further visibility and media hype fuelled by both cricket and Bollywood,this in turn will almost certainly divert sponsorship which could have gone to disciplines with a genuine chance of winning India that Olympic gold.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"We the people"

In 2008 May, there was Panchayat Election in West Bengal.I was Additional District Magistrate of West Midnapore District at that time. On the day of elections, I was busy moving to different polling booths since early morning and things were normal. Around 1 30 PM, I got a message from Election Control Room stating that there was a panic call from one of the Presiding officers of Jamboni area. Jamboni is a very disturbed place known for its criminal and anti social activities. It took around an hour for me to reach the polling booth from where the panic call was logged. The presiding officer was sweating and his face was pale. I asked him whether there was booth capturing. To my surprise, he told that everything was normal and peaceful. I got irritated and asked him why he gave a call to control room if everything was normal. He told that due to intense heat, he became abnormal and so he made a call, which was a very foolish answer. I could make out that he had been threatened not to talk. I checked the voting register and found that voting percentage was normal till 1 pm, but suddenly there was drastic increase of approximately 30% of votes between 1 and 2 pm, which was a clear indication of booth capturing. I searched for polling agents of different political parties but none were found. If I recommend for repoll without Presiding Officer’s report, State Election Commission may not accept. So I thought of trying my last option. I took the presiding officer to a nearby room and told that he would be suspended (He was a teacher in Govt School) for raising false alarm when polling was peaceful. His face became blank and the he started weeping for next 5 minutes.Then he told that one of the election candidate came with armed personnel around 1 PM and drove away the polling agents and cast bogus votes.When he saw the presiding officer calling for help to control room, he threatened to kill if presiding officer gives any report.After much of persuasion, the presiding officer agreed to give a report on booth capturing, on the condition that I would stay in the booth till the polling is over and I would accompany him up to DCRC where he would deposit the ballot boxes. State Election Commission on receipt of Presiding Officer’s report along with my recommendation, ordered for repoll.

Last month, I was returning from Delhi after attending a meeting. The person who was sitting beside me in flight was in White Shirt and White Dhoti, and from his attire I could make out that he was a politician. After initial exchange of pleasantries, I came to know that he was a political functionary of a prominent political party of Tamil Nadu.He told that he came from a poor fisherman’s family and he still owns fishing boats which goes for fishing. To get respect within his community he joined politics and after few years his work got recognized by the party high command and he was made the candidate for an election. I found him to be very down to earth person and very friendly. We started serious discussions about the current political scenario. I shared my Jamboni experience with him. On hearing it, he asked me whether I voted in last election. I was surprised by his question. I told him that I voted, but not in Tamil Nadu but in West Bengal, as I was registered voter of West Bengal. He again asked whether my friends and relatives voted in last election. I could not make out on why he was asking such question. I told that I did not know whether my friends and relatives voted. He told, “ Mr.Israel you go and ask them whether they voted. If they are honest to you, then the answer would be ‘no’. Of course they would say that they have lost hopes in politicians of India. Middle class and upper class people always are critical of politicians. They argue that military rule is the only solution for India. They talk very big but on the day of elections, around 50% stay at their home without coming to polling booth and watch TV because all TV channels would be broadcasting new movies on the day of election. Don’t think that the remaining 50% would have come to polling booth. Rather they would have left the previous day itself to the nearest tourist location along with their friends or families because Election day is a paid holiday in India. So when we go back to electorate asking to vote on our constructive work, our middle class and upper class voters are missing. It is the poor people who come to vote and as they are vulnerable due to poverty, we start bribing for votes. We are left with the option of booth capturing or vote buying. As Election Commission is very strict these days, booth capturing is ruled out. So currency plays a crucial role. Today the rate of one vote is approximately Rs 1000 in Tamil Nadu.” As he was getting emotional I changed the topic of discussion. Even though he was not 100% correct, still I found his argument was very logical to a great extent. Once we landed at Chennai, we exchanged our visiting cards. The following Sunday, he sent to my house, large quantity of fishes and prawns.

Yesterday I was reading the blog of Shri L.K.Advani in which he had written a post on compulsory voting (March 7th, 2010 post). Shri L.K.Advani is of the view that graduates, post graduates etc, try to shy away from voting and hence he argues for compulsory voting. He says, “I read about a remarkable incident that occurred in eighteenth century Britain.A member of the House of Commons received a letter from his constituents in which he was asked to vote against certain excise proposals in the Budget. According to the BBC feature, the M.P. sent a stinging reply to his voters as follows :
“Gentlemen, I have received your letter about the excise, and I am surprised at your insolence in writing to me at all.
“You know, and I know, that I bought this constituency.
“You know, and I know, that I am now determined to sell it.
“And you know what you think I don’t know that you are looking for another buyer.
“And I know what you certainly don’t know, that I have found another constituency to buy.”
So during next election, either we people should vote or if we are busy with tourist places or TV, we should stop talking like intellectuals on the status of democracy and politicians in India. I know most of the middle class and upper class would prefer to stop talking rather than voting. So in my view, compulsory voting is the only solution for India.Some people who may argue that none of the candidates are worth voting, may exercise Rule 49-O after reaching the polling booth.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Our Father in Heaven..."

On 31st March, suddenly I had to visit National Institute of Rural Development(NIRD), Hyderabad.Since it was financial year ending, my visit was crucial for my organisation.On 30th evening only I decided due to a sudden development.When I told one of my colleagues about my plan to visit Hyderabad,he asked me to postpone because of the curfew imposed due to communal disturbances.I explained him the importance of my visit but still he insisted not to proceed.When he found me adamant,he asked how I would move from Hyderabad Airport to NIRD.I replied that there is no curfew in that area and so I would take a taxi from the Airport.He then gave me the phone number of a driver who took him to NIRD few months before when he visited Hyderabad.I called the driver and asked him to be at the airport around 7 30 AM of next day.Next day when I landed at Hyderabad, I found the driver waiting for me with my name written in a placard..I asked him his name and he told Rahim. Once I reached NIRD,I became too busy with my work.An employee of NIRD called Srinivasan was attached with me by NIRD to sort out the problem. Around 2 PM Srinivasan took me to the NIRD guest house for lunch.I started having lunch but suddenly Srinivasan vanished.After few minutes I found him bringing Rahim Bhai for lunch.Then only i remembered about Rahim bhai and felt ashamed that I forgot about his lunch because there was curfew and he cannot have lunch outside.Srinivasan and Rahim bhai were sitting in a nearby table and had lunch happily chatting about some telugu movie.I asked them whether they know each other earlier, I was told no.

Around 5PM my work got over I started to airport.I was thirsty and asked Rahim Bhai whether drinking water was there in the car but he was not able to find.As my trip to Hyderabad was suddenly planned,i forgot to take sufficient cash and since I had debit card and credit card I was not worried.Around 200 rupees was there in my wallet.I asked Rahim Bhai to stop near a ATM.Most of the ATMs were closed and finally when when i found an ATM , it was closed due to insufficient cash.Seeing my worried look Rahim bhai asked me the reason.I told that I did not have sufficient cash to pay his taxi bill.He asked me not to worry and pay him next time when I visit Hyderabad.I told that I didn't have plans to visit Hyderabad in near future and asked him his bank account number so that I could transfer fund to his account.He laughed and told why should a poor person like him have bank account and told me to pay the taxi bill whenever I return next time to Hyderabad and asked me not to worry even if my future visit is after one year.Suddenly he stopped the car and asked me to wait for few minutes and went to a nearby shop.I thought he went for smoking or to get pan.After few minutes he came back with a mineral water bottle and a frooti packet.As i earlier told him that i was thirsty he bought these thinking that I was not even having a single penny.I was moved by his attitude and paid him the money for water bottle and frooti.Luckily there was a ATM near the airport and so I could pay him the taxi bill.I bid farewell to my new friend Rahim Bhai and boarded the aircraft.

On my return journey I was reading a news item which stated that many poor labourers had lost their daily wages due to curfew and curfew may be imposed to new areas of the city the following day . I was worried that my friend Rahim Bhai would loose his daily earning.Why such communal fights happen in a country where around 40 crore people depend on their daily wages. Anyone who has read The Holy Bible or The Holy Quran would agree with me that thousands of years before the birth of Christ(BC), a patriarch named Abraham lived and he had two sons named Isaac and Ismail.Descendants of Isaac are Jews and descendants of Ismail are Muslims.Both religions agree on this.Jews worship God of Abraham and Muslims also worship God of Abraham.This is an undisputed fact accepted by both the religions. Jews were waiting for God to send Messiah.Whoever believed Jesus Christ as the Messiah became Christians.Jews who did not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah are waiting for his arrival.According to Christianity,Jesus is the Messiah and he is the son of God.All Christians worship God of Abraham and his son Jesus Christ.So it is a crystal clear fact that Muslims,Jews and Christians worship only God of Abraham.Barring few most of the Historians are of the view that Aryans migrated from central Asia and share common ancestors with Jews.The sacraments of Jews and Hindus are very much similar.So when every religion is worshipping the same God why there are Crusades, Jihads and Hindu militia in which thousands of innocents are killed.Our Father in Heaven will definitely disallow in Heaven, the clerics and politicians of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism who use religion to unleash violence.On the other hand there are people like Srinivasan who take care of the Hunger of a Muslim and people like Rahim Bhai who is very generous towards a Christian, ironically when their relatives are fighting with the people of other religion just few kilo metres away in Hyderabad.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stages are made in Hell

I was 6 years old at that time. It was Children's Sunday in my Church and the entire focus of that day's sermons would be on children. As part of Children's Sunday, children should go to the altar of the church and sing songs and recite biblical verses which they had learnt in Sunday School. My Sunday School Teacher in the previous week asked me to learn just 2 verses in 23 rd Chapter of Psalms in Bible and recite in front of everyone. Each of the Sunday School Children had different tasks and as I was just 6 years old, my assignment was just to recite 2 verses.I memorized those 2 verses the entire week and was very confident. My brother's assignment was to recite around 10 verses from a different chapter.As he was 5 years older than me, he was given a bigger assignment. On Children's Sunday,I was sitting beside my mom.The service began and the Church was full because the entire congregation of around 200 people were present . My mom asked me whether I remembered those 2 verses.If anyone had asked Abdul Kalam whether he knew basics of missile technology how he would have reacted, the same way I reacted.The proceedings started and children started performing their tasks with lot of applause from the church. After few minutes, Sunday School teacher called my name in the microphone and told Israel would recite verses from Psalms. I got up confidently. I saw entire crowd seeing me. As I moved forward to the altar of the Church, I could see all eyes watching me. I had an unusual sensation which I later realised as 'fear'. Once I reached the altar, microphone was adjusted to my height.Once I faced the entire crowd looking at me, that unusual sensation became acute.I could feel the lub dub of my heart. I started reciting "The Lord is my Shepherd". Next line was "I shall not want". But seeing around 200 faces in front of me,I forgot the verses. I started repeating "The Lord is my Shepherd". My head became blank. I could not move forward to the next line.I could see my brother who was sitting in first row, laughing at me.Again I tried, but nothing came out of my mouth.My Sunday School Teacher realised that Lord had let down Israel.She came forward, adjusted the microphone,completed the verses and called the next name. I did not walk back to my mom.I could hear giggling here and there. I went to the back door of the Church and sat.I felt that whole Sky had fallen on me.It was terrible feeling.I was sitting not knowing what to do next. Then I could hear my Brother's name called.My prayer to Lord was that he should also forget otherwise he would make fun of me throughout my life.As he confidently continued his verses, my confidence declined. Once my brother successfully completed, I got up and went back to my house which was nearby before the service got over. In my house I was waiting under the cot with so much of tension for my brother to come back.After an hour, I could hear my brother shouting "Where is the Shepherd" and was searching me.Once he found me, he was so happy.I told that I deliberately forgot to tell the verses because I wanted to check whether Sunday School Teacher knew it, knowing very well he wont believe it.Naturally he made my life hell for next few months by teasing me on "The Lord is my Shepherd".

18 years later, I got appointed as Lecturer in Sri Ram Engineering college.I was assigned to handle one subject for final year students, 2 subjects for 2nd year students and one subject for 1st year students.That was my first day in College and unfortunately I had to give lecture to Final Year Students on my very first day. I had to handle the 3rd period.During first 2 periods I was sitting in the library and was taking notes for my lecture.Once tea break was given I could hear students rushing out and my lub dub suddenly started.The same uneasy sensation in my heart which I felt 18 years before again started.It was 10 minutes 'tea break' and after that I had to go and give lecture that too to final year students.After 10 minutes, bell rang and I started moving to the final year class.Students were rushing in and my lub dub increased.Instead of entering the class, I went back to my chamber.My HOD Prof Radhakrishnan saw me and asked me why I had not gone to class.I told I came back for chalk piece.He then took me to class(may be he would have thought seeing my pale face that i would run away)and introduced me to students as the new lecturer and left the class.I did not know what to start because I was blank. I saw the attendance register.There were around 40 students and in the pretext of introducing to each other,I took attendance and asked each of the student,his schooling, place of birth etc to kill the time.As I was nearing the last 10 students I was scared what I would do next after 'Attendance'.So I started asking more details for last 10 students like their hobbies, parents occupation etc.I heard the bell ringing when 2 more students were left. It was a great relief as the period got over.I told 'thank you' to students and rushed out.I went straight to my HOD's Chamber and told that I was going to resign.He smiled and asked me to sit and asked whether students teased.I told no and and explained how I managed taking attendance.He laughed for next 10 minutes. Then he gave me cup of tea and started giving me lecture. Like Lord Krishna tutored Arjuna, for next few hours he tutored me on how to manage "stage fear". The focus of his advice was, everyone including PM of India would have fear in their maiden speech but they manage the fear positively.He canceled my classes for next 2 days and tutored me whenever he found time.He gave me very practical tips on how to capture the attention of audience.I gained lot of confidence and when I went for next class I had the lub dub but I managed it effectively.I started using the tips he gave.Within few days the lub dub stopped totally and I became a very popular lecturer among students, thanks to Prof Radhakrishnan.

I worked as Lecturer for next 4 years.Later I joined Indian Railways and then IAS.In Railway Academy(RSC,Baroda) and IAS Academy(LBSNAA,Mussorie) the trainee had to do presentation invariably once in every 10 days on some topic.So I became seasoned and I totally forgot this 'stage fear'.But once I started working in West Bengal as Sub Divisional Officer(SDO),a new problem arose.It was 'language fear'.I could read,write and speak in 'Bengali' language but I had a fear to address public gatherings in bengali language. Speaking with common man in bengali is different but once we address in 'stage' we should follow certain grammar and I was not good in it.So whenever I was invited to any public function, my first condition was that I wont address the gathering and I used to take a deputy magistrate(State service officer) who used to address on behalf of me.I managed this way for more than a year in Bengal.,Almost after a year, things changed. I was to launch a new tribal health programme called 'Jeevan Jyothi' in one of my naxal affected blocks called Belpahari block.Few days before the launch,I invited my 'District Magistrate' to inaugurate this scheme.DM was Mr.Narayan Swaroop Nigam, who is an young, honest and efficient officer.He was a mentor to me.Happily he agreed to be the chief guest for the occasion.On the day before the programme he asked me to send the programme schedule by email. I did not include my name in the programme because the tribals would not understand speech in English and I cannot make speech in Bengali.Once DM saw the programme schedule he called me and asked why I was not addressing the gathering. As if I was too generous I told,"Sir I want to complete the programme within a short time so that tribal people can return to their villages before dusk".He told that my speech of 10 minutes wont make a big difference and he told that he would reduce his speech by 10 minutes so that I could address the gathering. I was taken aback. I tried to give few more lame reasons but he told that I had to address.I did not know what to do.I decided to tell the truth and told him about my problem in addressing the crowd in Bengali. He told," Israel, I knew it even before you telling me.I don't want my SDO to avoid giving speech in Bengali.You are like my younger brother.You have to start learning instead of avoiding.So tomorrow you have to give speech in Bengali.Its an order".My first reaction was to fall sick and avoid next day's function but I knew it wont work with my DM who was a very good person by heart but was also a very strict officer. I did not have any option.I called my deputy magistrate and asked him to prepare a speech. I then started memorising till 3 am. Next day when my turn came, lub dub and unusual sensation in heart started.I don't remember what I talked.Somehow I managed and completed my speech.The entire gathering including DM clapped for next 5 minutes.Once I got seated after my maiden address,my deputy magistrate came and told in my ears,"Don't worry sir.Only you and me know that you have forgotten 75% of speech.Anyhow,speech was not bad".

P.S-I gradually picked up public speaking in Bengali language within few months because I did not have any option.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The other side of "Indian Hockey"

Tamil Nadu Express was about to start.Passengers were busy in keeping luggages and bidding farewell to their dear ones.It was 2003.I was in Indian Railways and I was going to Delhi for official work.It was 2 tier AC coach and normally in 2 tier AC coaches you can find many Railway officials who use their free railway passes.In the opposite Berth , a Tall Dark Handsome person who may be around 50 years old was seated.His face was familiar .I was observing him and he found me observing and gave me a smile.I smiled back but my brain was busy in recalling who this person was.Suddenly it flashed in my memory.I asked him," Are you Baskaran?". He was so happy that atleast someone recognised him. He was Vasudevan Baskaran, the captain of Indian Hockey Team which won Olympics Gold Medal in 1980. That was the last Gold Medal India won in Hockey. Baskaran's achievment was part of Tamil Nadu School Curriculum and I told him that I had read about him in my school days.He was more than happy. He was Senior Sports Officer in Southern Railways at that time and he was going to Delhi for a meeting. He started asking about me.Tamil Nadu Express takes around 32 hours to reach Delhi. Except the sleeping time, we were discussing during the entire train journey.Even though we discussed on many topics, our discussions were centred mostly on Indian Hockey. We became very close friends after this train journey and I used to visit his office whenever I was in Chennai.

After the failure of our Indian Hockey Team in World Cup that too when it was home ground, I was remembering my discussions with Baskaran.He told that changes in international playing conditions, infrastructural constraints,internal politics etc have eroded India's supremacy in Hockey. In my view,yes these factors are important for India's declining performance in Hockey, but the most important villain which has destroyed Hockey in India is 'Cricket' .Whole country is crazy about cricket.Even if last Indian Batsman is batting, and if 18 runs are required in last ball, every Indian watches with a hope that there will be two 'NO' balls and our last batsman will go for hatrick sixers and will win the game.India has won world cup in cricket only once but UNFORTUNATELY it coincided with advent of TVs in middle class homes. Industrial sponsors preferred 'Cricket' because it gave them 'whole day' for advertising whereas Hockey gets over within 70 minutes.TV channels also preferred cricket because of the same reason.Some may argue that Hockey's failure should not be related to cricket. If sponsorships are there only for cricket, where will the fund come from for making international standard hockey grounds in India.Our hockey players practice in 'low quality' grounds and get defeated when they play in 'international quality grounds'.

Some may say that only 'Cricket' has got recognition for India. They forget to remember that India has not won a world cup after 1983.The only recognition cricket has got for India is,world recognises that there are crores of Indians who sit at home in office hours and watch cricket even if their office is Indian Parliament and compare their players (who stay in studios and are busy before cameras in giving advertisements) with their jawans (who stay in bunkers with snowfall and enemy's shell fall around).On the contrary, hockey gave a recognition to India even before India got freedom.In 1936, Berlin Olympics, Indian contingent headed by a Major named Dhyan Chand sang Vande Mataram and hoisted tri colour national flag in its dressing room. During opening ceremony march past, teams from all over the world saluted Nazi salute to Adolf Hitler, except USA.The only other team which did not salute Hitler was the Indian team(called British India those days) and the flag bearer was Major Dhyan Chand. The finals of Hockey match was between the home team Germany and India. Adolf Hitler was seated in the stadium and was supporting his team to prove the world that Germany is invincible in every field. In the "first half", India was '1' and Germany was '0'. In "first half", Germans played a rough game and Major Dhyan Chand had lost his tooth.The Indian hockey contingent knew that if the lead was just one goal, things would change in a moment in Germany's favour in the "second half "of the game.Major Dhyan Chand, the captain of Indian Team got first aid for his tooth,then removed his shoes because he thought he was not getting grip to run in wet ground(when all the Germans were in attacking mode and were wearing shoes with spikes). He played with bare foot and scored 6 goals against the Germans in second half.India not only won gold medal but also got recognition for India that Indian nation is a nation with fighting spirit.

Berlin Olymics was not the only occasion in which Indian Hockey made us proud.India is the only country in the world to win 6 consecutive Olympic gold medals. Our grand parents and parents used to listen to the live commentary of Indian Hockey's onslaught in field. It was 1948 and England was the host for Olympic games. Indians participated first time as an independent country. Our tri colour national flag was officially hoisted.As usual our Hockey team was slaughtering its opponents and moved to the finals.Interestingly the other team which moved to finals was England. The finals was between the conqueror(England) and the conquered(India).Whole world watched with eagerness about the outcome. Kishan Lal who was the captain of Indian team and his boys massacred England by scoring '4' goals and not allowing England to score even a single goal. Probably this was a retaliation for Jallianwalla bagh massacre but in a Gandhian way. Whole world applauded when India won Gold medal against England. This winning episode continued(with occasional setbacks) till our Baskaran's team won gold in 1980 Moscow Olympics. Things changed after 1983 Cricket world cup win.People forgot the national game. If India wins a cricket match against Holland or Bangladesh, it became a first page news item whereas if India wins Asia Cup in Hockey, its a last page two line news item.The lazy game of cricket has been found very lucrative for sponsors, media etc.Under these changed circumstances, where hockey players are like orphans, even if they don't win medals, we should feel proud of them because when all their friends in schools and colleges took cricket bat, these brave boys took hockey stick and are trying to win. Even if they don't win, they are the real winners.


(2) Dhyan chand sang Vande Mataram in 1936 Berlin Olympics

Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Night at Flood Centre

Jhargram is a very old Subdivision in West Bengal.It borders with Jharkhand and is a very beautiful subdivision.Jhargram Subdivision is blessed with 2 rivers,one is called Kangsavathi river which flows in the northern part of subdivision and the second river called Subarnarekha river which flows in the southern part of Jhargram Subdivision. I was working as the Sub Divisional Officer of Jhargram Subdivision, West Midnapore District, in West Bengal.Jhargram Subdivision has 8 blocks (Block is an administrative unit.Many blocks together form a subdivision and many subdivisions together form a district). It was first week of July 2007. It was raining heavily for 3 consecutive days.Only 2 blocks of Jhargram Sub division(Nayagram Block and Binpur 1 Block) were flood prone.I was busy in sending relief material to these 2 affected blocks.Even though the remaining 6 blocks were partially affected,only these 2 blocks were historically and geographically flood prone and were drawing attention all these years.

It was around 9pm and I got a phone call from BDO( Block development Officer) of Sankrail Block.He told me that water level in Sankrail was increasing. Sankrail Block is located in the eastern most part of Jhargram Subdivision and even though River Subarnarekha flows through it, its drainage system is proper and historically no severe flood was reported from this Block.The BDO of Sankrail was an efficient officer but one problem i found with him on several occasions was , he always over reacted even for a small problem.So when he told that water level was raising, I started laughing and told him not to overreact and told that I was busy in sending food material to Nayagram and Binpur 1 Blocks.Boss is always right and so he had to keep the phone. Around 10 pm, District Magistrate called and reviewed the flood situation.Mr.B.P.Bharat was the DM at that time and he was a friend, philosopher and guide to me.He used to protect me, whenever I, as a young officer fought with ruling party.He always used to tell that I was like his son and really took care of me.After reviewing the flood situation of 2 worst affected blocks,he told that he recieved a call from Sankrail BDO. I laughed and told him,"Sir, Sankrail BDO is like a child and reacts for everything.Historically no flood is reported from Sankrail". In bureaucracy precedents decide and I was a bureaucrat.Mr.Bharat laughed with me and he kept the phone.Then around 12 midnight,after planning for next day's relief operations,I went to bed.

I was in deep sleep and I heard heavy knocking of door.I got up and saw the time.It was 2 30AM. I could hear the voice of my Bungalow peon.I opened the door and asked him what happened.He told that BDO Sankrail was on phone line.Generally no one has the guts to disturb his officer at midnight unless the issue is really important.So I went to my Bungalow Office(Bungalow Office is attached to residence but has all communication facilities like phone, Computer,Fax etc and the officer can meet public during holidays). When I lifted the phone I could hear that BDO Sankrail was breathing heavily.He was stammering.He was almost crying.He told that around 10 villages had been marooned(Villages had become island- fully surrounded by flood water) and within next few hours those villages would be submerged totally.First time, I realized that situation was grave and very dangerous. I asked him whether country boats (boats used for fishing by local population) can rescue the marooned villagers.He told that country boats could not go beyond a point because the current was heavy.BDO also told that the youth who went for rescuing in country boats could not go near the villages but could hear villagers crying for help that many were in trees because water level was increasing.It sent a chill in my backbone.If people were in trees, then any person with common sense would understand that within next 3 hours,these people would be submerged if water level increases.I asked him about water level.He told that still it was raising.I asked him not to worry and kept the phone even though I was thoroughly shaken inside.Immediately after keeping the phone I dialed District Magistrate's Bungalow Office.I could hear the beep sound which indicated that BSNL phone was dead due to maintenance in Midnapore town(As I did not have BSNL connection,my phone was alive).I then dialed his mobile but unfortunately his mobile was also BSNL connection.I redialed several times hoping suddenly it may ring.It didn't ring.

I was sitting and smoking continuously without knowing what to do next.I saw my Bungalow Office clock showing 3AM.I thought to wait till 6 am and pass the message to DM through special messenger but again what DM could do.He could requisition army but army cantonment was located in Fort William in Kolkata and it would take at least 5 hours for the Army to reach Sankrail.So even if I sent a special messenger, he could reach DM's Bungalow in Midnapore not before 4 30 am and so army can not reach before 10 am to Sankrail even if all paper formalities to requisition army were completed in 30 minutes time.If rescue was not completed by 8 am, many would die.So option of sending a special messenger to DM was ruled out.I was cursing myself for not taking BDO's warning seriously.

I was smoking continuously and was totally helpless.Suddenly it struck me.IAS probationer who was undergoing training in my Subdivision told me the previous day that she went to purchase some items at subsidised rate in Kalaikunda Airforce Canteen.Kalikunda is an airforce station located in a place called kalaikunda which was in my neighboring Sadr subdivision.But as per protocol, only DM could requisition Army.Another thing which worried me was, even if i broke the protocol whether Airforce would listen to SDO because, later they may have to face serious problems because defence rules are very stringent.Another worry was, who would respond at 3AM.I thought for a minute and decided to take a chance.I took the telephone directory and found Kalaikunda Air force station's number.I dialed and no one lifted.Again I tried.This time after several rings, a person asked who I was.I explained the grave situation.He told that it was 3 AM and he was just a telephone attendant and asked to call at 8AM.I again explained.Finally he transferred the call to next level in hierarchy.I explained to the next person.He was polite and transferred to some Wing Commander.It was a surprise to me when I heard the voice of Wing Commander.I could make out from his voice that I awoke him when he was at deep sleep but he asked me politely what he could do for me.I told him the situation.He told that he will call me back after discussing with his seniors and got my telephone number .I thought Air Force door was closed because according to their rules they can be asked for help only by DM .So I thought he tried to avoid by telling that he wanted to discuss with seniors, which is a common practice in civil service to buy time without hurting the other party.So again I was back to square one without knowing what to do next.I started smoking another cigarette.

My telephone rang in another 5 minutes and wing commander told that "Station Commandant" of Kalaikunda Airforce Base would call me and kept the phone.Station Commandent is a very very senior person in defence hierarchy and was the senior most officer of airbase and I was very very junior in civil hierarchy.So I was surprised because hierachy was inbuilt in my system.In another 2 minutes my telephone rang and I heard the friendly voice of Station Commandent.He asked me why I disturbed his sleep at 3 AM in a laughing tone.I explained him the situation.He told me not to worry.From his voice I first time felt in that night that people would be rescued.In a friendly but firm voice he told that he would start the rescue operation with motor boats immediately and with helicopters from 6 AM onwards.When I thanked him he said," Young man, who are you to thank me.Its my duty for my country".It happened at 3 15 AM when in normal days I would have been in deep sleep and if any person would have asked for help at 3 AM, I would have kicked the telephone if not the person away.After few minutes of explaining the details of rescue operation he kept the phone. Around 4 15 AM, again my phone rang and Sankrail BDO was on the line.He told that IAF personnel had reached the spot with trucks loaded with speed boats.Around 6 AM I could see an helicopter flying.I saluted the helicopter and Indian Air Force and it was a salute from my heart.
(P.S.As usual my DM protected me for breaking the protocol.)