My Years in Service
Khekiye K. Sema
I ordered him to drop his weapon. He however would not let go and we arm wrestled for eternity…at least that’s what it felt like at that moment. Then the wonder of wonders happened…the police personals very intelligently discovered that the door was locked from outside…finally! In the pressure cooker emergency, James my peon, had forgotten to tell them what he had done. When they entered and saw what was happening, they stood there stock still, watching the ongoing drama like a shell shocked spectators without helping me. I yelled them out of their stupor to grab the weapon in Lanu’s hand. Only then they reacted.`
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]andidly expressing my deepest resentment to the Chief Secretary, Nagaland and to the Director General Police finally had the desired result. The meeting with SP Kohima and SP Special Branch was certainly not a cordial one, for having me exposed to an unnecessary risk in a highly volatile unpredictable times with such casual indifference. They however sportingly absorbed my pent up emotional vitriol. This time the SP (Special Branch) ensured the detailment of six SB personals under the command of DSP, Mr. Singh, all fully equipped with weapons and communication set. Even as a chair-bound bureaucrat, I too was now diligently attending office with my loaded pistol…the situation was that bad. In all, we formed an eight man army…so I thought. Together, we went through the whole security arrangement one more time but I forgot to mention that the latch to the inner door was removed for fear that the goofies would lock me in. The placement of the emergency light in the room of my PS was shown to them for a round the clock surveillance during the official working hours. The wait for 29th September 1994 began like we were waiting for the New Year…except in this case it was with apprehension not anticipation.
The tax collectors failed to show up on their dateline. It helped the security personals to go back to their normal casual ways. At that time the New Secretariat building had been commissioned and our Department was scheduled to move out from our present Office building in “Phoolbari Midland” area on the 6th October 1994. We were very busy packing up our file and other office materials for the shift. I was certain that ‘they’ would have noticed the hectic packing going on. In the first hour of 5th Oct. ‘94, I assembled the security personal and forewarned them that if at all the tax collectors were serious, it was more than likely that an attempt would be made today otherwise they would have lost a convenient opportunity once we moved out to the New Secretariat building…so to remain on high alert. Sure enough around 10.45 am SS Lt. Marsoba of Lonjang village and SS Lt. Lanuangshi Imchen of Chungtia village came to my office for the last time. Most unfortunately, despite my warning, none of the security personals were in the outer room at that crucial moment. Only Mr. James, my office peon was there and he recognized the two extortionists, since this was their third visit. He also saw the alarm light go on. In his nervous haste he first quietly latched the door from outside for fear that the extortionists would escape after hurting me. He didn’t think for a moment that by doing so, he had also locking me in with the extortionist. (Thank you very much Mr. James). Anyway I knew that he did it with good intention. He then ran to inform the security personals who were just playing cards in another room despite the forewarning of the morning. James had then gone to the branch to inform the rest of the staffs who too knew the pressure we were all working under. There was a major pandemonium…chairs and tables being toppled and the wooden floor resounded the mad rush of people running helter-skelter. This was followed by the seven men army banging and kicking the door without realising that the door was latched from the outside. Hearing the commotion outside, SS Lt. Lanuangshi swiftly got up from his seat, took a couple of steps towards the door, then retreated behind the steel almerah which was next to my desk. He then drew his M 20 pistol and began to load it. The seven men army were still unable to open the door and continued pushing and banging it. Seeing Lanu begin to load his weapon, the lone 8th man army inside had no option left but to intervene as quickly as possible. At the back of my mind I was equally apprehensive of the police as I was of the extortionist who may just open fire indiscriminately on entry if Lanu opened fire…my being there being of no real consequence. SS Lt. Lanu was fully concentrating on the door with his back towards me. He did not consider me a threat. I immediately ambushed him with my loaded pistol. That he was left handed was conveniently. I grabbing his left weapon arm with mine before he could load it and stuck my pistol to his head with my right arm over his shoulder, disabling free movement of his right hand from loading his gun. I ordered him to drop his weapon. He however would not let go and we arm wrestled for eternity…at least that’s what it felt like at that moment. Then the wonder of wonders happened…the police personals very intelligently discovered that the door was locked from outside…finally! In the pressure cooker emergency, James my peon, had forgotten to tell them what he had done. When they entered and saw what was happening, they stood there stock still, watching the ongoing drama like a shell shocked spectators without helping me. I yelled them out of their stupor to grab the weapon in Lanu’s hand. Only then they reacted.` During all this goings on SS Lt. Marsoba, the accomplice, sat rooted to his seat without raising a figure to help his ‘colleagoose’. Since I was totally focused on his friend, I too had not for a moment remembered that he was there…but thankfully he was unarmed on that day. It was my lucky day by the grace of The Almighty! I survived the ordeal unhurt.The tense moment had subsided with the two goofies hand cuffed when hoards of CRPF personals barged into my room unceremoniously, under the command of a Sardarji DSP. He ordered the police to un-cuff the two culprits and started to collar SS Lt. Lanu, totally ignoring my presence. Restraining myself as best I could, I quietly asked him to stop it. He did not listen. As it is, I was already pretty tensed up and I just couldn’t tolerate his insolence any longer and so I then loudly roared at him to stop it and get out of my office. He had no business to be interfering in this affair, especially when everything was well under control. He argued with me saying I was insulting him and then left in a huff vowing that the CRP will henceforth not do my duty… not that they ever did in the first place. Another row between the Government of Nagaland and the CRPF brass later ensued on this issue of insult of the CRPF by me. I explained to the Chief Secretary that in fact I should have been the one who should have lodged the complaint for the insult by the CRPF in arrogantly entering my office chamber unannounced without any curtsy being shown. I got no further information as to how the matter was concluded. On 17th October 1994 I submitted a five page exhaustive report of the whole incident to the Chief Secretary with a copy endorsed to the DGP, the Home Commissioner and the SP (Kohima) vide my letter No.TPT/AS/CON/1/94. A few days later, Mr. TCK Lotha, Chief Secretary summoned me to his office and this is what he said: “ Do you want an award for what you did”? It sounded more like an insult… asking me like this rather than take the merit of the case independently as a Government should, if at all. It upset me immensely. “No Sir”, I retorted, “I was only trying to stay alive”. He didn’t do anything after that…neither did I pursue the matter. The subject died its natural death. At a time when all Government servants were under tremendous pressure of being cowed down by unlawful elements, standing up to them was an unheard of event. That someone did, for a change, stand up made no difference to the Government. In fact this episode was swept under the carpet..a well kept secret. “Good thinking Mr. Chief Secretary” was all I could think of with distaste. This was a man who professed that “the right hand should not know what the left was doing” during his pre-election exhortation to the Officers. He really lived up to this… He would use the clout of his office to raise political party funds with his right hand and unknown to his right hand, fund politicians with his left hand … he would issue “no payment” order with his right hand while paying tax to the undergrounds with his left hand. He was the perfect image of an unscrupulous politician…which he did become after his retirement.
My Minister at that time was Mr. Changkong Chang…a fine gentleman. We had a very cordial working relationship. At that time a proposal had been pending with the Government for a creation of District Transport Office for Dimapur, prior to his and my joining the Department. When the approval did arrive finally, I broached the subject with my minister questioning the logic of a District Office for a Sub Division when some of the Districts in fact did not have this infrastructure. I therefore requested him to consider approval of the shift of the proposed office for Dimapur to Zunheboto District HQs which still was without District Transport Office (DTO). It was a time when all the ZBTO based vehicles were being registered at Mokokchung with extreme public inconvenience. After a review of the vehicle population of Zbto District, Mr. Changkong promptly approved my proposal and the DTO was finally opened and inaugurated at Zunheboto.
The Department used to condemn out-aged NST buses annually. That year we had 33buses being condemned, equivalent to the number of new buses being purchased. Allotment to applicant were worked out according to the laid down norms. The final selection of applicant were the prerogative of the Minister. After all formalities were completed and allotment orders had been issued there was a change of guard. Mr. Changkong was dropped from the Ministry and Mr. Tokheho Yepthomi became the Minister of the Department. I saw trouble at my doorsteps. The first file he wanted to see was the condemned bus file. He sent it back with an order to cancel all the allotments. I tried explaining to him for a rethink of his order because the Department would be liable should the allotees go to court. It was a legitimate legal order. I further advised him to consider showing due curtsy to the earlier Minister’s order as his colleague. He didn’t take my advise kindly and wrote a great deal of rather clumsy argument in file accusing the Department of not following the condemnation process faithfully. That was an official misrepresentation laced with vested interest. Unfortunately the then Chief Minister endorsed his views in file to cancel the allotment and reprocess the whole thing yet again. As per the Rules of Executive Business I could not object to this any further and so it was done. When the stage of allotment came he and his agents naturally capitalised most of it as was pre-intended. I felt pretty sick about it but I was a true bureaucrat…I swallowed the garbage. This Minister had earlier complained to the Chief Minister that I was not cooperating with him. One morning I was summoned by the CM and this is the summary of that discourse: “Are you having a working relationship with your Minister”? he asked. “Not that I know of Sir” I responded. “Well the Minister said you do not visit him frequently”. I explained to the CM that whenever there was important urgent file that needed clearing I had been going to his residence to have it cleared or report to him whenever called. Beyond that I was not in the habit of paying him casual social call. “Try and improve your relationship” said the CM finally. I frankly told the CM that if that meant that I should report to the Minister, do a ‘namaaz’ before going to office and do another “namaaz” on my way home after office, I would not be up to it but that I would otherwise always shown him due official curtsy and respect.
Then came the incident of the Department having received one new bus chassis, out of the lot being purchased, without the manufacture serial number. I had ordered the General Manager NST to have it verified from the manufacturing company at Calcutta then,(Kolkata now). Mr. Chakravarty the Joint GM had been detailed for this assignment. The TATA manufacturing company themselves certified the originality of the chassis, admitting their lapse in this and due serial marking was engraved on the chassis. From out of the blue the Minister took it upon himself to accuse the Department of conspiring with the company. He then ordered the suspension the Joint GM who had done the field duty, without even a preliminary inquiry. During those days, the unsavoury manipulative skill of Mr. Ahoto Zhimomi, Deputy General Manager, NST being in full flow was observed. It dawned on me that the whole scheme of the Minister was to suspend Mr. Chakravarty, Joint GM and promote Mr. Ahoto Zhimomi, to Joint GM. This was totally unethical and unacceptable. Mr. Chakravarty being a non-local was being taken advantage of… but as a Government servant he had every right to be protected in his service and could not be suspended without a legitimate cause. I adamantly refused to carry out this order on ground that Mr. Chakravarty had only done what he was ordered to do. I made a determined statement in file that since Mr. Chakravarty had carried out the assignment at my orders, the pointless disciplinary action, if seriously being intended, should be instituted against the authority that had issued the order..ME. I was therefore absolutely unwilling to carry out this unjustified, unsubstantiated order of the Minister. My firm official stand on this seems to have caused some discomfort upstairs.
While this rough out was going on I had another encounter with the Chief Minister. He painted a dream picture of what Tourism could do for Nagaland and wanted to upgrade Tourism into a full-fledged department and wanted an imaginative officer in command and whether I would be willing to take up the challenge. I got the message. The Transport Minister had farted in his room and he was opening the window to clear the air. I only told him that I was a bureaucrat and would go wherever assigned. Tourism which used to be an attached department was made independent and I took over in mid-1995. This was my 19th transfer in 19 years in service.
After my departure poor Mr. Chakravarty, Joint General Manager, NST was suspended and Mr. Ahoto Zhimomi, the Deputy General Manager, NST was promoted in his place as I had deduced. This gives you a revealing picture of our unscrupulous politicians and our pliable bureaucrats of Nagaland working in complete harmony.
The writer is a retired IAS Officer,
Forest Colony, Kohima