Shri. Sharad Pawar was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra during period 1993-95. The bomb blasts had just happened in Mumbai. Shiv Sena was trying to come to power and would launch agitation on any perceived issue of public interest.
One such agitation Shiv Sena carried at that time was about supply of vegetable oil through ration shops. Dhara Oil was being marketed by the Gujarat Co-Operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF). Their Mumbai sales activities were being looked after through their office near Victoria Terminus.
Dr Kurien meets the Chief Minister of Maharashtra
Maharashtra Government had written to NDDB/ GCMMF and requested for supply of Dhara Oil to Govt. of Maharashtra through Government ration shops.
The Government of Maharashtra also wanted that supply of Dhara Oil for ration shops be made at prices less than the wholesale price with delivery at each ration shop by GCMMF.
However, GCMMF was ready to supply Dhara only at wholesale price and that too at only one point in Mumbai and not to each and every ration shop.
This was the period when Shiv Sena used to highjack oil godowns of private companies and would break them open and distribute the oil at Maximum Retail Price and deposit the money with the godown keeper. This agitation was to show that the private oil companies were hoarding oil and a making profit. They also targeted the GCMMF office near Victoria Terminus.
The activists of Shiv Sena accompanied by media persons and photographers entered the room of the Manager, and Shiv Sena leaders put black colour on the face of the Manager. Photographs were taken and next day it was a front page news in the local media.
This was the backdrop of events when Dr. Kurien who was also the Chairman NDDB and GCMMF was to visit Mumbai and meet Shri. Sharad Pawar , Chief Minister, Maharashtra at Mantralaya.
The officers in NDDB and at Mantralaya were both worried about the meeting being held under such circumstances.
However, the agenda and the date of the meeting were already decided and it could not be postponed.
Dr. Kurien was a fearless person never worried about the consequences as once he took a call on what has to be done he would just get it done or do it himself.
However, the responsibility to ensure that his meeting with the Chief Minster went on smoothly naturally came upon NDDB Mumbai office.
I along with my colleagues visited Mantralaya several times to discuss the timing of the meeting and more importantly identify extra care needs to be taken for smooth conduct of the meeting.
There are four gates at the Mantralaya for entrance and exit. Normally, two gates are restricted for the use of VVIPs.
The two other gates, Garden Gate and Aarsa Gate are for the use of General public for which a gate pass with proof of identity is a must.
Today also, the same procedure is followed except one has to stand in queue and give thumb impression and the security contractor’s man takes visitors photograph.
That day, we divided ourselves into two teams and one group each stood in front of the two gates mentioned above. The idea was that if Shiv Sena got the information of Dr. Kurien’s arrival then they may try to create some hurdles.
Also Dr. Kurien was known to be very particular about entering the meeting hall at specified time. He never liked to go and wait in the meeting room.
The traffic in Mumbai is very unpredictable, Dr. Madhavan with Dr Kurien had to start early from Goregaon office and they reached Churchgate a few minutes before the time scheduled time of the meeting.
The NDDB vehicle in which Dr Kurien was travelling circled around Mantralaya a couple of times and at exactly five minutes before the time of the meeting Dr. Kurien arrived at the gate. Rather than entering from main gate, we brought his vehicle from the side Garden Gate inside the Mantralaya annex.
He was accompanied by Dr. Madhavan. We were standing at the entrance of the main gate.
The liftman had already been requested to block the lift only for VVIP visitors so that there was no delay in waiting for lift. Dr. Kurien was taken to the 6th floor for the meeting.
I was with him and we were walking towards the Chief Minister’s office on 6th floor.
We NDDB officers were a bit in tense. However, Dr. Kurien was unaware of the tension we were experiencing. He was in his usual combative mood.
He looked around the corridor of Mantralaya and could see some almirahs stuck with old files. It was a typical government office look all around.
Turning towards me he asked, “Ghanekar, what these files are doing here? Why don’t they just burn them? They are of no use”.
I could not only smile and not give an answer to his question.
Only when we reached the Chief Ministers office C.M.’s office I felt a bit relaxed for some time. As he met the Chief Minister alone, I do not know the outcome of the meeting. But we all were happy to see that the meeting went on peacefully without any incidence from Shiv Sena side.
Now, when I look back, I remember the remarks of Dr. Kurien about burning of Mantralaya’s files, I realize how his prediction actually came true.
After several years, when Shri. Prithviraj Chavan was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. During the period 2010 – 2014, these files caught fire on 6th floor and Mantrayala burnt for several hours. Later on the premises were cleaned and matter was never investigated.
Dr. Kurien had uttered those words out of disgust that day. Those files had no value, and they really deserved to be burnt. They were lying there without any purpose.
I realize why he said what he said about those files.
NDDB succeeded in implementation of OF programme because NDDB never behaved like a Government body. NDDB did not rely on file movement and nothing’s there on. On any issue after discussions relevant data and references would be collected discussed threadbare and a note would be prepared for approval of the competent authorities basis which actions would be initiated.
Reliance was more more on real time work and results. That was the message Dr. Kurien always wanted to give to the bureaucrats working in various government offices.
That day too he was probably observing the futility of files lying there in the corridors of power.
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