It is a fact that a NDDB State Coordinator regardless of the state he was posted in, would soon find himself interacting with a large number of people in his official dealings. That was the nature of the job that a State Programme Coordinator had.
It is also true that over a period of time, many of such people start getting a feeling that whenever they face a problem or get into a difficulty the State Programme Coordinator is there to help them out. In a way this is a nice thing as it indicates acceptance of the State Coordinator (SPC) among a large number of people.
This helps and facilitates meeting the objectives for which the SPC has been assigned to a state. But on the other hand, it has some side effects as well.
In this write up I would be dwelling-upon one of such incidences, I mean the side – effects. But before that some background information which will help the reader have a better grasp of the event.
Three postings and three roles and three Managing Directors
I have to my credit the honour of getting posted in Bihar at different stages of Dairy development in Bihar and my own professional development.
This helped me to understand the Dairy development activities of Bihar right from the beginning. I was first posted to Bihar as a Spearhead Team Member in the year 1975. I was at Patna for a period of two years and later got transferred to Sikkim project.
I felt honoured to be posted to Bihar again when the Patna Dairy Project was launched. That project, beyond any doubt, was one of the most difficult projects where prestige of NDDB was at stake. I was elated when my name was included in the management team of the Patna Dairy Project(PDP). I was at Patna again for over two years till I got transferred to Guwahati. I was posted at Guwahati as Regional Coordinator for the North Eastern states.
And finally, the third time, I got posted at Patna (1988-91) as the State Programme Coordinator for Bihar.
During my three years’ stay in Bihar as State Programme Coordinator, I got to have official dealings with three Managing Director(s) of the Bihar Milk Federation (COMFED) one after another. I feel privileged that I enjoyed the confidence of all the three officers equally well. Because of this privilege that I had, all three officers used to involve me in all important decisions, formally or otherwise.
Pay revision and strike by employees and officers of COMFED
It was my last and final leg of stay as State Programme Coordinator that the issue of Pay revision came up before COMFED management. This pay revision, if implemented as proposed, would have had serious financial implications.
The Milk Unions and Federation Units, mostly being nascent, would have been put to a financial crisis. A committee was, therefore, constituted to go into the details and prepare recommendations for the COMFED Board’s consideration.
As per the usual practice, I too was made one of the members of this pay revision committee. In normal circumstances the COMFED Board used to decide to suitably revise the pay of the employees, generally in line with the recommendations of the committee.
Employees also, by and large accepted the pay revision but for its arrear part there was a dispute. Since the institutions were not financially strong, the Board decided to pay only a lump sum to the employees in lieu of the arrears. But the employees found this amount of lump sum not attractive and the employees greatly resented this decision.
With the passage of time, resentment started mounting and employees started giving representations, one after another. Since the financial situation was precarious the management had no option but to refuse to consider the demand of the employees.
The employees, in an unprecedented move, eventually, resorted to a strike.
And to add insult to the injury , as the saying goes, the officers also joined hands and they also went on strike in support of the staff. It became very difficult to run the dairies and even maintain the milk supply. How the dairies were run and milk supply was maintained is altogether a different issue to be discussed separately.
Intervention by the Labour Commissioner
The employees through their Union filed a case in the court of the Labour Commissioner. The Labour Commissioner issued a notice to COMFED and the matter got referred to reconciliation process by the Labour Commissioner
MD, COMFED, in turn, called a meeting and constituted another committee. This committee had to represent the management in the court of the Labour Commissioner. The committee comprised the following officers;
1) Dr.P.N.Roychoudhary, General Manager
2) Sh.D.K.Sinha, Chief Manager
3) Sh. Verma, Asstt.Registrar
4) In-Charge of P & A
In addition, I was made a nominated member on this committee.
State Coordinator as driver of the committee
Labour Commissioner had his office in the New secretariat building called Vikas Bhavan which was the venue for the meeting. However, the difficulty was ‘ how to reach the meeting venue . The place was quite a few kilometers away from COMFED office and even the drivers were on strike.
Anyway, the committee members suggested that we take the station wagon allotted to the Programme Coordinator for travel to the Labour Commissioners Office.
The consensus was that the State Coordinator takes the committee members to Vikas Bhavan. Since the situation warranted us not to delay any more and reach for the meeting on time, I had no choice but to take control of the steering wheel. Things went well. We reached the venue on time. I parked the vehicle and then we reached the office chamber of the Labour Commissioner on time.
With usual formalities, the meeting started. The office-bearers of the Employees’ Union were also present. The meeting continued till lunch break but it remained in – conclusive. The Labour Commissioner wanted us to again turn up at 4 PM, the same day, for another round of discussion. We therefore got down to the ground floor and went straight to the parking.
The unfortunate accident
As usual I sat on the driving seat. It was time of lunch break so a lot of people were moving around. I purposely drove the vehicle in very slow motion. Since the vehicle was running in slow motion, I did not feel the necessity to paddle the brake. But while going out, at the gate I saw a cycle rikshaw coming, opposite us, inside the premises, in its usual speed. The rikshaw had only one passenger with a big carton. I found the need of pressing the brake paddle or else the rikshaw would collide with our vehicle.
I immediately pushed the brakes but to my horror it did not work, not even a bit !
And that was the most unfortunate moment when the rikshaw and our vehicle collided. I could see in a flash, that the rikshaw rolled down and the the passenger was thrown out. The carton which he was holding and also the rikshaw puller, they all rolled down.
It stunned all of us. People around started gathering. But thank God, I did not lose my senses. My presence of mind worked. By the time the people could have gathered and created a commotion, I took the vehicle out of the premises. I got on to the road which led to COMFED office.This road used to have very less traffic. I purposely took this road not the usual one.
The scene inside the vehicle
I found the situation inside our vehicle very tense. Dr.Roychoudhary was sitting next to me on the front seat. While he was very calm and quite not making any hue and cry, my friend, Sh.D.K.Sinha, on the contrary, who was sitting on the back seat with other two officers, was in a frenzy.
He was shouting ” BHAGIYE MANUBANSH JI – BHAGIYE – AUR TEZ BHAGIYE NAHI TO HUMLOG SABHI MARE JAAYENGE ” and much more.
It took us quite a few minutes to reach our office. Thanks to the Almighty. Yes, these are such moments when you realise that some super power is there. To our good fortune, none of us got any injury, not even a scratch. I slowed down the vehicle with the help of gear control, because the brake had totally failed, and entered the premises of COMFED office. It was a big sigh of relief to all of us.
Story of the Rickshaw puller, passenger and the carton
Now the next part of this real life drama. In the afternoon, finding no alternative, we took the official car of the MD, COMFED because he had a driver borrowed from some other department. We had to reach the secretariat for another round of meeting at 4 O’ clock. We purposely took entry in the secretariat from another gate. This we did with the intention of avoiding any ugly scene which may come up as a consequence of the accident which had taken place during lunch break. Anyway, the meeting went all well though we could not reach to any conclusion.
This time again, we took a different staircase for getting down from the floor where the office of the Labour Commissioner was situated. Driver was instructed to keep the vehicle not in the parking but just at the opening of the staircase. This was arranged for our swift movement for going out of the secretariat premises.
But to our surprise, the moment we alighted, some people surrounded us. One of them came straight to me and caught hold of my wrist. My other colleagues, in the mean time, got inside the car. The fellow who was holding my wrist spoke something which I could not understand . What I could catch was his accent. My presence of mind worked here as well. I immediately spoke to Roychoudhary sab, in English that ‘Sir this fellow who is holding my wrist is a Bengali. You talk to him in Bangla and ask him to come inside the car’.
Roychoudhary sab immediately responded. He politely asked him in Bangla to come inside. Listening that someone has called him in his mother tongue, he leaned towards the car. I, in the mean time, pulled him inside the car and closed the door. Driver immediately drove us away. In other words, that poor fellow was whisked away from there. Our action was so swift that his associates got no chance to interfere. They were left high and dry while we got away from there.
This time again we all reached back to our office all safe. The poor fellow whom we had brought to our office was taken to the chamber of Roychoudhary sab. We could gather from him that he was a personal staff of a Cabinet minister. The carton he was carrying on the rikshaw was full of new sets of crockeries.This was bought for the use of his minister.
He further told that he had sustained some minor injuries. As per his version, the rikshaw-puller sustained a severe fracture in his left thigh and was hospitalised. The rikshaw was heavily damaged. He said that through some people who were around at the time accident took place he found that we all are were high officials, therefore, going to the police would have made no sense.
He therefore brought some of his associates. He said that he could collect information about us and thus waiting for us to return from the afternoon meeting. They also told that they would again come back for the meeting.
From his statement it was but obvious that the group of striking people had guided this fellow. Anyway, this fellow appeared genuine, rather submissive. Realising his problems, I/C P&A and the Accounts I/C were called and requested to take him to their chamber and give him adequate monetary compensation. Another staff member was deputed to meet the hospitalised rikshaw puller and arrange for his proper treatment. He was also advised to take care of his family needs. With this the unfortunate part of this ugly incidence came to a close.
Now I would share that what all happened, during our absence, in the office. It started with a phone call, cell-phone was not available those days – only land line phone. This phone call was from my wife. She said that she had received a anonymous call. The caller said that AAJ TO SAAHEB BACH GAYE LEKIN AAGE NAHI BACH PAAYENGE. Nothing more and the call got disconnected. It was enough to make my wife get into a panic.
She immediately phoned on my office number and wanted to know that where I and how I was. She was told that I have gone to secretariat for a meeting and there is nothing to worry about. I, on my return to office, called her up and told not worry and that I am fine.
Some more development took place in the office during our absence.
As the trend goes, important functionaries also, in every establishment, keep their own intelligence. A loyal staff, though officially on strike, called up his boss, one of our colleagues. He narrated that who all were involved in cutting off the brake pipe and instigated the minister’s staff etc.
It would not be out of place to mention that a mob lynching incident had taken place, some time before our accident and it was fresh in the mind of people
It was a road accident which took place in Sultanganj town of Bhagalpur district. It was a jeep which had hit some one causing death on the spot.
The driver managed to escape but the gentleman who was traveling in the jeep could not escape and was lynched by the mob then and there. The significance that why it was so much highlighted and got coverage on the front page of the news papers was that the gentleman who had fallen prey to the mob was a senior Govt. official, a magistrate.
How the strike ended
I recollect, almost a month had passed but the employees were not at all appeared or in a mood to call off the strike. Keep the dairies running and maintaining milk supply had become very very difficult. Employees from Barauni and Patna Dairies were found to be in lead role. Review of the developments had become a regular feature at COMFED Hqs. Finding no respite, I thought of trying a way out and decided to meet a few selected striking officers and have a one on one meeting with them. I did not disclose my plan to any one.
I met a few of them at their residence and chatted very leisurely on tea with each of them. Not showing any disrespect or discomfort. I honestly feel, my very presence and that too at their door-steps made all the difference. They all agreed to withdraw the strike. The leader with whom I sat for quite some time called all others over phone one by one and informed of calling off of the strike. From the very next day the strike was called off and the best part of it was that calling off was unconditional.