Sometimes things happen in the most unexpected way and you often wonder,
“ How did this happen”?
Something similar happened with me as the NDDB Regional Director, Southern Region. This incidence relates to the oil project-specifically getting the approval of the state governments on the model bye laws suggested by NDDB for the oilseeds growers cooperative unions.
We had sent the bye laws to the Registrar of Cooperatives, Government of Karnataka for approval. As expected, there were a number of objections raised by the office of the Registrar and they suggested that a meeting be held between Regional Director NDDB and the Registrar. I therefore called on the Registrar in his office accompanied by Dr. NV Belawadi.
The Registrar, a young IAS officer offered a solution. He said, “Sir, I will send my Joint Registrar to your office tomorrow for a detailed discussion. He will discuss each point with you and your team and I will agree to whatever is agreed between the two of you”.
That sounded simple. I promptly accepted the proposal and agreed to the meeting time suggested by the joint registrar. Since he was busy in the morning, the Joint Registrar agreed to come a little before lunch the next day and also agreed to be with us as long as needed. The idea was to iron out all the issues in one meeting.
He arrived the next day at the appointed time. I offered him a working lunch so that we can “eat and meet” at the same time. Over the next 3 hours, we ironed out all the issues, barring one- a board WITHOUT the registrar or his representative on it. This was the most contentious issue on which the Joint Registrar was unwilling to budge.
And then he announced, “Sir, it is 4.30 pm and I have some urgent issues to handle today itself. So I will get going now and we can meet some other time to iron out this last point”.
I knew that if we don’t resolve this pending issue today, it would be long before we can have another meeting and the approval of the bye laws will get delayed. So I made an offer, “Please take my car and after you finish with your work, my driver will bring you back. He will wait for you at your office. We can then thrash out this last point and then I will have you dropped at your residence”.
He couldn’t refuse the offer and came back to our office around 530 pm.
Before the Joint Registrar came back for the meeting Dr. Belawadi asked me, “Saab, what are we going to do? He won’t agree to not having the Registrar on the board and I think we will have to give up unless you have a strategy”. “No, I don’t have a strategy and I have no idea how will we carry on discussion on this point. Let us see what happens”. I was totally clueless.
Now we started on the most contentious issue-should the Registrar or his representative be on the Board of the Cooperative Union or not? He cited the provisions of the act that made the presence of the registrar or his representative mandatory on the boards of the Cooperatives. He expressed his helplessness on this particular issue.
At that time, I suddenly remembered what Dr. Kurien always pointed out and that is, in the cooperatives societies act of every state there is an enabling provision that authorises the registrar to exempt a cooperative from any or all the provisions of the act. So, I thought if somehow I am able to convince him that the presence of Registrar was not in the best interest of the Cooperative, we would be able to convince him to use the enabling provision.
Just when he was getting ready to leave, a brainwave hit me. And I told him, “Frankly even we would not like to be on the Board, but as the funding agency, NDDB has to ensure the the funds are used only for the purposes for which they are released. The borrowers, naturally constitute the board. The Government as guarantor is represented by the Secretary Cooperation. So, what is the role of Registrar on the board, just cosmetic?”
“Not at all sir. The registrar takes active part in the proceedings of the Board and votes. So, how can you say that his role is just cosmetic”?
Now the brainwave worked. I immediately asked, “if there is a dispute between the borrower and the funding agency, who arbitrates”?
“Of course, the Registrar ”. He was emphatic.
At this point, I said, “But by being a party to Boards decisions where unanimous decisions are not possible and voting is required, the registrar doesn’t remain neutral. And any person who’s neutrality is in question can not be considered fit to arbitrate”.
I then added with hand gestures, “I am trying to keep the registrar above board- here -like a judge, but if you want to lower his profile and bring him down over here at the level of disputing parties, i.e. at par with the rest of the Board , the choice is yours”.
This hit him like a bullet. He immediately agreed to our proposal to keep the Registrar out of the Board of oil unions. I then asked him, “Will your bosses agree”? To this he replied, “I will convince them Sir, leave it to me”.
I looked at Dr. Belawadi, our jaws dropped in total disbelief.
I then had the Joint Registrar dropped at his residence. After a couple of days, we received an official communication from the Secretary cooperation, Government of Karnataka , that the bye laws proposed by NDDB for the oilseeds growers cooperative union were approved in toto.
A couple of weeks later, when I reached Karnataka Oilseeds Growers Federation for a board meeting, the Secretary (Cooperation), Vatsava Vasta, who was also on the board, looked at me and said, “So. you finally had it your way. What did you do to the joint registrar? He was fiercely arguing for you”.
I asked her, “Would you like to lower the profile…..”. And before I could complete the sentence, she stopped me, smiled and said now don’t try some new trick.
Years have passed and I am not sure what is the current status of those bye laws but one thing is sure- such sudden brainwaves are sent only by an unseen divine power.
The brainwave had indeed worked.