April 2002 - December 2002-Recollections

Recollections

T.B. Nagarajan*

  • a) Vyakaran Narahari Rao was the first CAG of free India. In those early days, some officials in the Finance Ministry adopted an easy method of tackling tough problems. They would mark the file, U.O., stating ‘CAG may kindly see in the first instance’ and send it on. M.S. Ramayyar (MSR), the Principal technical expert in Headquarters Office and his chelas would slog at it, and come up with some solution. Thereupon, the Finance Ministry would (generally) write ‘we may do as suggested by CAG’. One day Narahari Rao called for the dak, wherein he saw some files of the ‘first instance variety’. He saw through the game and wrote on those files ‘only in the second instance’ and marked them back to the Secretariat. The latter got the hint, and MSR’s load became lighter.
  • b) A Lower Division Clerk of Nagpur office had been dismissed as being ‘mad’. He came to Delhi and did ‘dharna’ at the gate of Narahari Rao’s residence and made a thorough nuisance of himself. He was got rid of somehow. He went back and sent a sum of Re.1/- to Headquarters office, by money order, stating in the message portion that it was "towards the funeral expenses of VN Rao". This was ‘routinely’ received in the ‘dak section’ and then bagan the tamasha. No section or person would receive it, everyone saying ‘not for me’. The matter was somehow hushed up and the amount taken to some credit head, as it had already come on record.
  • c) Also at about this time the Government of India issued a list of high dignitaries, for whose death in harness, a black bordered gazette was to be issued. The office put up a note that CAG was not included therein. This was put up to AArG(P), who put it up to the DAI Seshagiri Rao. Next, it had to go to CAG, but who was to bell the cat. The file was, therefore, given to EV Srinivasan, Secretary to CAG ‘for diplomatic handling.’ But EVS threw it back saying that he was a family man, and had certainly no intention of losing his job. The file was ‘pushed under the carpet’.
  • d) The present CAG office building was completed during the period of A.K. Chanda. Morarji Desai was the Finance Minister and had not agreed for air-conditioning the Conference room and CAG’s room. But Chanda refused to move his office till these two works were done. He was able to have his way. It was also during his period that the present AGCR office was completed and inaugurated. Incidentally, this entire function was photographed by me and there was no official photographer. I had camera, enlarger, and entire darkroom equipment. Chanda was happy with the albums I produced.
  • e) A.K. Roy the next CAG was an outgoing personality and did not stand on formalities. His guffaw was famous and he could laugh at himself. Once, when asked about the secret of his health and buoyancy, he said (with a wink) - ‘small doses of immorality’. Of a very senior colleague who was cordially disliked by all and who was self-righteous, Roy remarked, "He observes all the dictums of Sastras meticulously but has only one small drawback; he drinks human blood."
  • f) The age of retirement then was 55; but on account of extreme dearth of qualified hands, extensions were being given, the over-riding condition being that one should be ‘physically fit and mentally alert’. This certificate was a must in all cases. One senior officer, father of several children, was given extension and got a child during that period. The joke went round that he was the only one who deserved the certificate.
  • g) Bihar was in the grip of a financial crisis, and someone high-up in Finance advised the officials to return as many proposals as possible saying, "Cannot be agreed to now, kindly carry on as hithertofore" One day an application was received through proper channel, from a lady for remarriage while the first husband was alive, as he had become mentally unsound. The dealing assistant obviously did not read the file, but returned it with the laconic ‘no finances, please carry on as before’
  • h) In the early days, the State Trading Corporation was a mammoth organisation, comprising MMTC, Handloom Corporation, Handicraft Corporation, Cement Corporation etc. Officers with business background were very few and the cadres took time to build up. There was quite a sprinkling of retired, re-employed people and the Corporation was some time jocularly called ‘State Re-employment Corporation’. It was in this background that D. Sandilya, the then Managing Director had to struggle. He raised the Corporation to great heights, but literally and metaphorically, worked himself to death. Also the metric system had been introduced recently, and it turned out that even very senior officers had not heard of "Tonnes" or "Hectares". So when a very big contract with Japan was drafted and put up to an officer for approval, the only change he made was to correct all "tonnes" into ‘tons’, with the remark that office should avoid such spelling mistakes in future. Luckily, before the file could go to Sandilya, the papers were taken back to that officer and he was given a lesson (valuable) and the papers prepared afresh.
  • i) One of our brilliant AAOs was sent on deputation to a department, and within a couple of days of taking over, suspected that a fraud was going on. To lull suspicion, and gain time for investigation, he signed the cash book etc.; but remained long after office hours delving into records. He discovered that the fraud had been going on for a few years, and the officers before him had been ‘simply signing’. He gave a report and the cashier was suspended, and the matter was handed over to ‘vigilance’. Charge-sheets were issued to the officers who had held the charge during that period. To his chagrin, our AAO found he also was given one, the reason being that he had also signed for some days. He protested that it was he who had unearthed the defalcation and he had only signed to lull suspicion and save the old records from wanton destruction. But all this fell on deaf ears. In desperation, he wrote to me for help, as we were college friends. I was then far way in another Administration. I saw that it was a Gordian knot, and had to be cut. So, I wrote a personal letter to the then CAG A.K.Roy detailing the background, the injustice etc. To drive home the point, I added a para as follows: "Newton discovered the law of gravity by seeing an apple fall. But the apples (forbidden variety and normal ones) have been falling right from the time of Adam and Eve. It is like chargesheeting Newton for not discovering the law earlier." I learnt that the CAG laughed heartily on reading the letter, and asked his secretary to speak to the concerned officers and have their foolish move dropped; which was done.
  • j) When G. Mathias was an AAG, a clerk posted under him reached the E.B. crossing stage. Mathias did not want the clerk to suffer, but at the same time could not give a totally wrong certificate. He wrote, ‘This clerk is no worse than many others who have already been allowed to cross the E.B.’ The AG laughed and allowed the poor clerk to cross the E.B.
  • k) The toughest time in my service was, when I was suddenly posted as Authorised Controller of a textile mill, which was closed; and this was in addition to my duties as Finance Secretary at the height of the budget work. Here, the training I got under my first mentor, Sivaramakrishnan, stood me in good stead. One of the most challenging tasks was the reorganisation of Finance Accounting in Goa, just after liberation. Two of the most satisfying stints were in Bihar and West Bengal. In the former I had to tackle corruption, which was so dense that one could cut it with a knife (so to say); in the latter, indiscipline on large scale. This was a real fight and when MISA/Emergency came, I made full use of them, and can say, succeeded. A rather rare (and uncomfortable) experience was when contempt of court case was filed against me - once in Pondicherry and once in West Bengal. In the former I was found ‘not guilty’ and the latter was not admitted at all.
  • l) I have firmly held that honest subordinates should never be let down or made to feel small. Once, when I was Finance Secretary, and had gone on leave, my deputy had given some decision, not agreeable to the C.M. They waited for my return and asked me to ‘reconsider’. Actually, I found that my Deputy could have given the other ruling, but what he had done was not malafide or wrong. So I told the C.M. that if the file was marked to me officially, I would only record that I did not see any reason for disagreeing with the Deputy. I held that he had honestly used his discretion. Nothing untoward happened as a result.
  • m) All in all, though some postings upset my family life and children’s education. I should say that I fully enjoyed every aspect of my work. I was considered to be somewhat of a ‘fighter’ - perhaps the influence of my first mentor. I have firmly held that "powers vested, should not become powers wasted" and one cannot always look up to higher ones for instructions, as otherwise, one would be like the Railway Station Master who sent a wire to his General Manager, saying "Tiger on platform. Wire instructions".
Go to the top