Friday, March 28, 2008


Today I will tell you the secret of successful blogging, if you do not have anything to write, write anything. In other words I want to say that I have nothing specific to write so I will write LBSNAA times….

Disappointment galores:

The report of Pay commission is out and media got it completely wrong, we have no such desire of jumping from the roof. Do you remember bold headlines, 40% hike for babus, of yes a good 40%. But did anyone forget to mention, hike is only in the basic pay. The real hike may not be more than four thousand rupees a month and the recommendations shall stay for next ten years. There is a feeling that in government, honesty is penalized. Previously we were having peanuts, now the honorable pay commission may enable us to eat groundnuts, indeed a qualitative improvement!

By the way, I just love news channels screaming, Holi bonanza for babus, showing money raining in offices and Newspapers asking SMS’s from their worthy readers if any hike in salary for civil servants justified. For a long time, I was missing a good comedy show.

A Learning Experience:

We are learning horse riding and I must tell you, horse riding is a real learning experience. By just sitting on horseback we learn to worship the person who invented the automobiles. We never even felt before how comfortable it was to enter a car, have a smooth ride and stop it as per our wish. Horses are ‘almost’ the same, just a few probability issues here and there.

And trust me horses are real fun too. It is funny to see, yes see (and not feel) a probationer kissing the ground when horse revolts thinking how can LBSNAA make a donkey ride a horse.

Inservice Jokes:

An auditor from Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS) audits an IAS and tells him that his working style conforms to the full form of his service, IAS= I am Safe. The IAS replies that you too exhibit the traits of your service, IAAS= I am absolutely safe.

What do you call the mess of Intelligence Bureau; An Intelligence Mess.

My Great Discovery:

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate. During Bharat Darshan we were having a lecture by a private organization. While explaining about Corporate Social Resposibilty, they elaborately told us how much they have done for the differently abled kids and they also added that they have opened many 'mentally retarded schools'. Oh I shouted Eureca!

I discovered the truth why I write such stupid blogs and moreover you read it. All of us studied in mentally retarded schools which told us what is right rather than allowing us to discover the truth. By the way, professional academies are not very different!

Monday, March 24, 2008

And this is how it began

Hope is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies. Looking back, he can say that it is true.

It was a perfect case of love at first sight. Angel was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen and this was the reason sufficient to fall in love. Though his previous ‘first sight loves’ proved to be a disaster, he still had hope. With full faith in his abilities, he decided to make a strategy to win over Angel.

The plan of action was to take help of Sandhya. Oh yes, I haven’t told you about Sandhya. She was the bubbliest girl in the class and had a horde of friends. Her laughter could be heard from a mile and everybody liked her. Incidentally she was also the best friend of Angel.

So he befriended Sandhya and soon started talking to her for hours. In a way they became the best of pals and he was awed by her ability to look deep into his heart. She could castigate him severely and still pamper him as a child. Their ease with each other was natural her company was a real bliss. Thus time passed and passed and days went and went.

Our protagonist was living a happy life when murmurings started in his brain “Actually Sandhya is the right girl for you”. Once again he discovered his true love; and this time he decided to tell her all. But loving a girl is one thing, and telling her that another.

That day as usual, she rang him and their long conversations began. They talked about their childhood, they talked about their friends. He again told her about his crushes and then he told her why Angel was not a right choice for him. That is when it happened.

She asked him bluntly, who was the new girl he had started liking. At times, it requires all the effort in the world to utter few words. He was taken aback, found it hard to breathe but he mustered all his courage to utter “YOU”.

Suddenly he saw stars in front of his eyes and before she could give any reply, he banged the receiver down. This was one of the few times in his life when he felt foolish. First he told her about his previous crushes; then he discussed about Angel and after telling all that he said he actually liked her. What a proposal it had been!

Next few days were filled with melancholy. He was too scared to go to school, so he kept bunking it. He started appreciating Ghazals; and felt all of them applicable to his life. Without being formally rejected, he felt being one. In a way, life seemed all right but everything is not that voluntary. Soon his mother forced him to go back to the school.

He did not know how to behave, so he acquired a permanent sad and hurt look. He rarely talked to Sandhya and continued behaving bizarre. When it became quite uncomfortable, she came and said “Can’t we just be friends?”

Well he agreed; actually he had to. The story remained in the same phase for quite some time. The strange thing was that he still had hope!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bharat Darshan Chronicles-II

This is in continuation to the first article on Bharat Darshan. If you have not read it, you may see it here.

Early in the morning we started for Kirandool block. It is two hours drive from Dantewada. The BDO of the block had come to pick us up and we were going to stay in the government quarter allotted to the BDO. He himself stayed in another town which was good for the education of his kids.

The schedule for the day was to visit some nearby villages. The BDO decided that first he will take us for lunch which was organized on a Waterfall known as 'Phoolpada'. I was amazed by the beauty of the waterfall and its surroundings. Some years back it used to be a favorite picnic spot for the tourists but today hardly anyone went there as the region was badly naxal infested.

The arrangement of our lunch was done by men from a nearby village. They had carried with them utensils, cooking material, vegetables etc inside that dense forest. Lunch arrangements for four of us had required not less than forty people!

There I interacted with the Sarpanch of the village. He was illiterate, naïve and knew nothing about the government schemes. But he told me about the reasons for rise of Naxals, also called as ‘Andarwale’ in the region. I was also not aware that Dantewada has been declared as the capital of the red corridor by the Naxals.

Incidentally I also discovered an interesting fact there. Tribals still hold their arrows with forefinger and middle finger and they never use their thumbs. Does that remind you of Eklavya’s story?

After having our lunch, we went to visit the village. From a long distance we were welcomed by a Gaur dance party which escorted us into the village dancing and our entry became almost like a procession.

Tribal villages are divided into small ‘Padas’. Not more than six seven houses are clustered in a Pada and the next Pada can be half a kilometer away. This causes a big burden on the administration in providing electricity, water supply and roads.

Also, people live in joint families and they never go for division of agricultural land. They still have big plots of lands registered in names of their ancestors deceased long ago. This causes a big problem in providing them the government benefits as majority of them are designed for small and marginal farmers.

We came to our quarter in the late evening. On TV, news was being flashed that a police station in a nearby district has been attacked by the naxals. The peon staying with us consoled that naxals ‘generally’ do not attack civil servants, only police is their target.

We were slightly worried that night and our worries got magnified by the gunshots we heard in the late night. You might like to know that we were in a house whose front doors even could not be bolted due to misalignment. I forced myself to sleep but I remember having restless dreams. Early in the morning we called the SP who told us that everything was all right. The gunshots were fired by the police itself to check their preparedness.

Next day, we went to visit a local ‘Haat’ or the markets organized weekly which were marked by heavy police presence. There are two things that shall always be present in a Haat. One is the traditional cock fight. Blades are tied on the nails of the cock and the winner cock bleeds its opponent to death. A considerable amount of money is gambled on such fights.

Second is the ‘Sulfi drink’ or the ‘Bastar beer’. This is local booze made from the Sulfi tree found in the region. Enjoyment of life is a major component of tribal society and social drinking is also a part of it. Both men and women consume liquor and in the late afternoon many of them can be seen drunk.

They have many customs which we may not be looked favorably in ‘cultured’ society. During spring season, unmarried boys and girls go in the forest to collect forest produce. In the night they sing, dance and booze in the forest and spend the night there itself. It is also a method of finding one’s spouse.

Tribals live a contended life. They are happy with their lives and many times they do not like the externally enforced ‘development’. They also do not want to work hard for improving their lives. I still wonder what is important in life; to be happy or to be ‘developed’.

We also interacted with other government officials posted in the region. They have their own set of problems. A doctor told us that naxals coerce them to treat their wounded members. After that police harasses them for helping the naxals. Police also at times pressurizes them to issue fake postmortem reports when they have not even seen the dead bodies. And then we wonder sitting in cities why no doctor is ready to serve in interior areas.

Two days passed away safely in the block. We had to see the same ‘Gaur dance’ three times, drink ‘Sulfis’ everywhere and take petitions for electricity, hand pumps and government benefits. The initial enthusiasm was waning away and it was becoming difficult to maintain the same zeal. Next day we came back to the NMDC guest house. A major thing in the area that was left till now was to see a ‘Salwa Judum’ camp.

Literally Salwa Judum means meeting for peace. When Naxalism was deeply entrenched, naxals started targeting innocent villagers in order to force them for joining the naxal movement. They also started imposing heavy levies on the traders. This created resentment among the general public.

In one Haat, people decided to march towards interior villages and convince the villagers to quit naxalism. When a big crowd entered the village, naxals were not able to frighten them away. This became a method and it caused a sharp decline in the cadre strength of naxals.

They retaliated by brutally killing innocent villages whom they suspected to be Judum members. Exodus of villagers started from the villages towards the cities.Thousands came abandoning entire villages and Sulwa Judum camps were set up.

So next day we went to visit Dornapal camp. Its population is more than 17000, which is many times the original Dornapal village. It looks like any other city slum with narrow lanes, bad sewage system and dense population. But I must say that administration is taking good care of them considering their scarce resources.

Government has given support to many for building houses. Ration is provided to every family free of cost. There are Aanganwadis, primary schools and ration shops. And these families keep waiting for the time when they will be able to go back again to their homes.

The strategy of Sulwa Judum has always been controversial. But one thing is certain. The tribal way of life is completely changed in the camps. Many houses have got electricity connection, TV’s and their clothing now is similar to the urbanized people. I doubt if anyone in camps shall ever go back. The question remains that, is changing the way of life of tribals an affordable price in fight against naxalism.

Our official assignments were over and the plan for the day after was to visit the Kanger Valley National Park. The park is famous for the ‘Gandak’ limestone caves. Dripping water causes formation of protruding limestone structures. It is completely dark inside and we had to carry many torches and a horde of guides with us. Then we went to the Tirathgarh waterfalls where steps have been made by the falling water. Chattisgarh has good potential for tourism and this part had considerable presence of tourists as effect of naxalism was less in the region.

In the evening we met the collector, briefed him about our observations and thanked him for making our stay comfortable there. Next day early in the morning we went to the famous ‘Danteshwari Devi’ temple. From there we started our journey to Vishakhapatnam, where we were going to have our Navy Attachment. In the evening when we were reaching Vishakhapatnam, we got the news that Jail has been broken in Dantewada and more than 300 naxals have escaped!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bharat Darshan Chronicles-I

As promised earlier, I shall share with you all my experiences of Bharat Darshan. They will be long, they may be boring….. but trust me they will tell you about ‘Bharat’; which may be different from your perception of India. To minimise the boredom, I shall keep the chronicles in small episodes.

With the beginning of December, the cold was getting worse in Mussoorrie. Foundation course had just ended and those not into IAS had gone to their respective academies. LBSNAA wore a deserted look and we all who remained here wanted a desperate change. So we were happy to pack our bags and move on to Bharat Darshan.

Bharat Darshan Tour, alternatively known as the Winter Study Tour is an integral part of IAS training. It is an eight week tour of almost entire India starting from first week of December. The course handbook describes its purpose as “to expose officer trainees to a wide range of organizations and situations they are going to run into during their careers and also give them a glimpse of the diversity of our cultural heritage.”

Our journey began on 8rth Dec. The group had 11 members with one lady officer. Our first destination was Dantewada, the heartland of Naxalism where we had our tribal attachment. We started by a bus from the academy to Ambala and from there we took Chattisgrah Express to Raipur.

The entire journey was more than 48 hours long. I chatted with the group, started reading ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth, sat idle, walked in the train and tried to kill the long idle hours. I sat at the window for hours looking outside. Civilizations came and went; lone lights twinkled at the far ends and fields made way for the cities. At times the monotony was broken by the rivers; and also by the the sound of train passing over a steel bridge. Looking outside the window was a serene bliss and when I look back, the path was more beautiful than the destination. Perhaps the same holds for life too.

We reached Raipur station on 10th morning. And that was the place where realization came that we are into a premier service. Five Boleros had come to pick us up, there was a horde of local officials present and a meticulous arrangement was in place to welcome us. From the station we proceeded to the newly built State Transit House.

Raipur is a mid sized city, still very much different from the densely populated cities of north India. Roads do not qualify for being of the capital of a state. Big construction works are visible and the State Guest house was also recently made. A small surprise was waiting for us. Dantewada was still eight hours away and these Boleros were meant to carry us there.

We started within an hour as it was not advisable to get late in reaching Dantewada. The countryside of Chattisgarh is full of forest cover. Teakwood is abundantly present along with other dense vegetation. After half the journey when we passed a district called Jagdalpur, there was a noticeable difference in infrastructure. Roads became narrower, they were in bad shape and the signals of my Reliance mobile went away. There was unfinished work going on at many places and the number of police pickets increased. Incidentally, the naxals heartland had just begun.

It was quite late when we reached Dantewada and we were taken to an NMDC guest house. I was surprised to see a public sector maintaining such a good guest house. The rooms had all the modern facilities and the staff was very cordial. Most of them were Malayalis and the guest house had the entire staff from Indian Coffee House. Next day our tribal attachment had to formally begin by a presentation by the DM and SP.

On the way to collectorate, a small program was arranged for us in a village. We were traditionally welcomed by flowers and garlands and the local villagers presented the traditional ‘Gaur dance’ for us. The dance was performed by more than thirty men and women with all the paraphernalia like big drums and head-gears having Bison horns. We also met some orphan physically handicapped children who were looked after in a nearby ‘Ashram’. The Ashram system in Chattisgarh is a kind of boarding school. Books, dresses and food are provided there and children go to their houses once in a fortnight.

We were touched by the elaborate arrangements done and the respect shown to us. We could not understand why they are taking so much pain for entertaining us. We were just probationers and we could have done nothing for them even if we wanted to. But then we realized, they did not want anything from us. It was due to the respect that IAS still commands. The dancers were elated when we took their drums and headgears and had a photograph with them. Our appreciation of the work that Ashram was doing for the orphans was good enough to bring a smile on their face. There are times when one feels good to be in service, and this was certainly one of them.

The meeting with the DM and SP turned out to be an eye opener. We came to know about the gravity of situation in Dantewada. DM and SP were not using government vehicles due to the frequent landmines. Most of the policemen were in civil dress. The entire district is in a complete war like situation and battle lines are clearly drawn. And the administration is fighting a real war when the region is not even declared as ‘disturbed’.

The big deal about declaring a region as ‘disturbed’ is that special schemes can be adopted there. For e.g. there is 50% lack of administrative staff but no incentives can be provided to those working in the interior areas as it would be against general financial rules. If shoes have to be procured for the policemen, it will take the normal hierarchical chain where a file may have to pass through twenty tables, and a small query at any level may send it downwards tracing the same path.

Before visiting there we all knew that Naxalism is a socio economic problem. The simple solution is, develop the region and Naxalism will vanish. But we were wrong. Reasons of emergence of Naxalism are socio economic, but once it finds its roots, it becomes a law and order problem. Why will Naxals allow development if it can threaten their own existence. Hence in the interior villages, there are no schools, no connectivity, no electricity and in short no government. In case you want to know what is ‘interior’; today also there are police stations where it takes 72 hours for any outside help to reach!

Next day we had to move to interior areas, live there for three days and understand the ground situation. No security cover was given to us as it could have invited trouble. Our drivers told us that naxals must have by now come to know by now that we were going to visit their terrain. To tell you the truth, we were all little scared!

The chronicle shall continue. I have many more things to tell, so keep coming back.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Why I became a Civil Servant?

This article by cosmic voices has prompted me to write my answer to “Why I became a civil servant?” The reasons are very much the same as mentioned there but I could not resist imparting my wisdom on this vital subject.

There are questions like what is truth, what is morality, what is right. And then there is Dholpur House’s (UPSC Office) variant of these, “Why you want to become a civil servant?” Somehow I could escape/fool/convince board members about my reason there and now I can calmly blog the truth.

My answer is, I had nothing else to do.

Not convinced, OK, I shall elaborate. I come from middle, middle class and my parents are in government service. I knew what they knew, what the township in which we lived knew. My license to success in this world was education. And what is the biggest success one can achieve through education. You got it right, civil services. I wanted the biggest TV, smartest car, largest house, the most beautiful girl in the town, and along with all of them, the best job.

Some of you might not be very happy about my platonic reasons. Till now I have given reasons that came in my adolescence. Where was the zeal to do something for the country, where was the motivation from inside to do what I really wanted to do, where were the ‘more mature’ reasons. I shall give them too.

I hated the slow way in which the clerk in a government office did his work. I could never forget the nurse in the government hospital that misbehaved with the patients. I turned my eyes from the horde of beggars on the traffic signal as if they do not even exist. And then, adrenalin gushed in me too when I watched Rang De Basanti.

After all such incidents, I heard a voice inside me, do something about it. The answer available was, become a civil servant. In fact as I grew, I could satisfy all my ambitions by dreaming to become a civil servant. I wanted to have a social status, a secure future and a challenging work. I also wanted to make my parents feel proud. Whenever I had an ambition, I asked myself, “Will it be satisfied if I became a civil servant?” The answer was always yes.

As I grew, it became an obsession and I had to achieve it. No other service could have offered me even half of these. The bug of becoming an IAS entered in the childhood and I had no escape.

The reasons may sound selfish, but in my philosophy of life, everything has to be done in one’s own self interest. I help somebody not because of my kindness, but because I feel good after that. I would like to work for my country not because one should work for his country, but because ‘I’ shall feel happy after doing that. I never believed or unfortunately could not have any 'benevolent' reasons.

I do not know if what I was able to state the truth, or if I even know the truth. That is why I said, this question is a variant of all those philosophical questions which do have ‘right’ answers. Everyone has to seek his/her own definitions. I even doubt if UPSC members are really serious when they ask “Why you want to become a civil servant?”

When all my ‘selfish’ goals are satisfied in this service, and I knew no other alternatives, tell me am I not correct when I say, I had nothing else to do!