Delhi - P&T Board
Continued from Previous Page
After completion of the Advanced Professional Programme on Public Administration I reverted back to the Department but not to Nagpur from where I was deputed. I was for the first time in my career appointed in the P&T Board. It was still a composite board of Posts & Telegraphs – “Telecom” was yet to get into the lexicon of the Department. The Secretary used to be from the ICS/IAS until the Departments split up into two – the Department of Telecom (DoT) and India Post. On bifurcation in 1985 the two independent departments got their secretaries from amongst officers of their respective organized services.
I was still in the Junior Administrative Grade and hence was posted in the rank of Director in charge of Materials Management & Printing. The work was largely uninteresting but I had to be careful to see that I did not become a victim of foul play by others. The Materials Management outfit also handled procurement though most of the items were procured through the Directorate General of Supplies & Disposals (DGS&D). There was, therefore, very little chance of getting involved in a corruption case contrived by others.
And yet a case appeared to have occurred where a junior official was involved in indiscriminate local, i.e. not through DGS&D, procurement of paper. My boss, Deputy Director General (DDG), had once asked meto have a particular file sent to him as the Member in-charge of the Board wanted to see it. I passed down the instructions but a few days later the DDG again called me up for the file. I was surprised that the file had not been sent. Hence this time I summoned it through my PA only to find sure signs of indiscriminate placement of orders. The file had never come to me. A senior clerk, much known for his clairvoyance in the entire office, was found responsible and was proceeded against. A very senior junior level officer close to retirement lost heavily in the amount of his pension. All for the crooked clairvoyant!
I had spent hardly a little more than a year in the post when one morning the Member rang me up to tell me that he had nominated me for a course on Postal Statistics to be run by the Universal Postal Union, the specialized agency of the UN for matters relating postal communications. The course was to be run in India for four weeks, in China for four weeks, in Japan for two weeks and in Thailand for two weeks. The course was to last for three months after which the participants, who were from different South Asian and South-East Asian countries, were to disperse to their respective countries.
I have written separately about the course and our visits to the three countries. The only thing that seems to me to be worth mentioning is that China then was not the economic and industrial giant that it is today. It was then in the process of opening up. Some hoardings of a few multinationals were visible on street corners. There were practically no privately owned cars on streets – only Russian-made or their Chinese copies were visible. We were, however, taken around in Toyota mini buses. Bicycles were much in use and in the evenings huge hordes of cyclists, like I had seen in Pune or even bigger than them, would invade the roads as theywent back home from their work places. Today China is perhaps the biggest market for cars, more so for luxury cars. Japan, it is needless to say, was much ahead with its two or three tiered flyovers, shinkansens (bullet trains) and multi-storied malls. Thailand, I might add, was doing much better than India. Its traffic of a million cars was highly disciplined. The city was still growing which I later witnessed during my couple of visits.
On return from the tour I submitted, as required by Government of India instructions, a rather lengthy report to the higher authorities but, sadly, it came back without any comments by the higher-ups, including the Secretary. Be that as it may, I was posted as Director Mechanisation temporarily as a lady officer had asked for the post I had vacated before going to join the course.The post dealt with mechanisation of various postal operations.
It so happened that a company that was in correspondence with the department quoted an extravagantly high price for the improved version of its registrex machines. Instead of negotiating with it I communicated with approval of the DDG the inability of the department to consider it. The representative of the company never came back to me. I had forgotten about it and had moved on to the post I was originally appointed. Then on an April day my DDG rang me up saying that I had not mentioned the case of purchase of registrex machines in my Annual Confidential Records form. I told him I had forgotten about it and, in any case, it was a small matter. He said he did not think so as because of my refusal to entertain the inflated price the government had saved thousands of rupees. He said, never mind, he would make a mention of it. People like him were rare and hard to come by. The DDG was none other than Shamsur Rahman Faruqi who is now a big name in Urdu literature and Urdu literary circles.
After about two and a half years in post I was promoted in 1984 to the Sr. Administrative Grade as Dy. Director General of Postal Life Insurance. For those who are unaware of this organization I might add that the system was introduced by the British Government in India for insuring the departmental employees to alleviate their pecuniary circumstances, especially after their retirement. It has become a mammoth organization today extending its tentacles to all departments of the government of India and its public sector undertakings, state government employees, nationalised banks, autonomous bodies of the Centre and so on. The Centenary celebrations were held in 1984 during my stewardship of the organization.
Having completed four years in the P&T Board it was time for me to move. A senior officer of the Staff Branch came one morning to ask me where I would like to be posted – Srinagar or Lucknow. Having worked in Srinagar earlier I expressed my preference for Lucknow. They, however, posted me to Bombay (which was yet to become Mumbai). This is how the governments function – generally in an unpredictable manner.