Back in Kolkata
Having very largely got the hang of more important areas of Bengal I was back in Kolkata for the home stretch. It was time for me to get the orders of my promotion but inexplicably these were being delayed. I knew the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had cleared my name and the Department of Personnel had issued the orders but it was being held up somewhere in the department. I did not wish to remind anybody, including the Secretary who was only a batch senior but somewhat cantankerous. Obviously someone had organized a game and I thought I, too, would play along. The question of availability of vacancies did not arise as out of the three sanctioned posts all were vacant. In fact, the Postal Board just did not exist. Only the Secretary who was ex-officio Chairman could not have constituted the Board.
There were many instances where the higher officials in the Board were inclined to play games to bring senior officers including Chief PMGs to grief. There was a national strike in the middle of 1993 which happened to last for one whole month. The minister, Sukh Ram, negotiated a settlement and the workers came back to work. Soon after the resumption of work I started getting letters from two senior officers of the Board to cut the salaries of employees who had struck work. I was told that some heads of circles had succumbed to the pressure and brought to heel, some others had been charge sheeted for not obeying orders. These gentlemen who were orchestrating their views that the month-long absence deserved a salary cut had forgotten that after every national strike the Board issued the necessary orders regarding treatment of the period of absence. This time, therefore, it was for the Board to issue the orders but, seemingly, it was trying to fire the guns keeping them on the shoulders of chief PMGs.
I resolutely refused to issue any order and wrote back every time that it was for the Board to issue the orders as it was a nation-wide strike. As luck would have it, the minister happened to come to Kolkata for a telecom conference accompanied by a member of the Postal Board who was awaiting orders for elevation as Secretary. It was from his wing that the letters referred to above were being issued. As soon as the conversation revolved round to the Postal strike during the conference I butted in asked him whether there should be a pay-cut for the strike. Sukh Ram said in very clear terms that there should not be any pay cut as the issues with the unions were settled in a spirit of goodwill. I looked at the Member, he had nowhere to hide. Here was a matter that was resolved by none other than the minister himself and the Board wanted to punish the employees through the PMGs. The unfairness of it all did not seem to have occurred to any of the worthies.
I was asked to hold Kolkata for around six months. But when a vacancy arose in my own grade at Delhi at the end of six months somebody else who was anchored in Delhi for years was appointed. Such things happen and when I mentioned this to the Secretary at Kolkata his response was “not in this vacancy, I say!”. There was nothing else to do but to cool one’s heels. One couldn’t have picked up a fight with the Secretary although I had known him from the beginning of my career.
So I reconciled myself to a needlessly delayed promotion, not that the promotion would have given me any far greater amount of money. Instead of September I got the orders in February – a clear five months of administrative delay. So we collected our meagre personal effects, said good bye to the office people who had been very nice to us, said the same to many of our relatives and caught a flight for Delhi.