Saturday, December 04, 2021
image
Op-Ed

My Years in Service

1
By EMN Updated: Feb 27, 2014 9:27 pm
A A A

Khekiye K. Sema 

CONTINUED-27…

“Though I had already heard quite a lot of ‘not very complementary commentaries’ about Lotha characteristics from my senior colleagues, I felt it was only fair to deal with the people as I went along rather than have my thoughts and actions dictated by a preconceived conclusions of others. But the land owners tested my resolve of fair play to the limits, right from the word ‘go’. I received a notice from the Wokha Village land owners asking me to vacate the DC’s residence because compensation had not been paid. They did not come to meet me personally and I of course paid no heed to their notice either. Nevertheless it was their way of wanting me to know who was the boss in town.”

[dropcap]I [/dropcap]was now on my 20th transfer in 21 years of service and headed to Wokha as DC. I felt a touch of unfairness, being sent down to an assignment below my present bureaucratic status and so I shot off an official note to the Chief Secretary rather candidly expressing my dissatisfaction as to why I should always be the one to get picked up from the bureaucratic basket for a humiliating treatment such as this…a full-fledged Secretary being sent as a DC which was the first of its kind. Mr. AM Gokhale, by now the Chief Secretary, asked me over and said that as an IAS officer, (since I had then been inducted), covering a District was an essential regulatory requirement and that this formality had to be met. To sooth my disgruntled mood he added that Wokha needed a firm administrative hand as well. He however assured me that I was being sent for a very short stint of 6 (six) months period at the outer limits and would be withdrawn promptly on completion. Despite my annoyance, I acknowledged my limitation as a bureaucrat… this donkey packed up and headed for Wokha.
The first thing that attracted my attention as I headed for the official residence of the DC Wokha, was the public garbage dump overflowing right onto the approach road junction. The repelling odour was overpowering. I had no intention of breathing this stench like having a breakfast lunch and dinner, on my way to office and back every day. The first order was therefore issued for a public social work to clean up our town….starting 7.00am. It was not a pleasant morning with a sprinkle of threatening drizzle. The Lotha Hoho President, Mr. Yanthan and the Town Committee Chairmen My. Yanbo and a few of my DBs were the only folks at the junction when I walked down from my residence. We waited for the public to join us…but even close to 8.00am the public response was dismally disappointing. I concluded that waiting was not going to achieve us anything. I then asked the driver of the PWD truck to park his vehicle close to the main garbage dump. I climbed on to the rubbish heap with a spade in hand and kick started the social work by loading the truck. I could see that Mr. Yanthan, Mr. Yanbo and my DBs were beginning to feel uncomfortable seeing me at work alone and finally had no choice but to chip in with retarded grins. They too climbed the dumps. Within minutes word had spread like wild fire that the DC, the Hoho President the Chairman of wokha Town Committee and the DBs were physically clearing the rubbish dump. The whole Town came alive. With every passing moment, the town folks in their hundreds converged. I still remember a slightly mentally challenged women walking up and down the town road shouting something at the people at work…what she was saying, perhaps as an encouragement, I knew not but I did hear her unloading a lot “R” this and ‘R’ that. We had a very successful clean up job completed. I was quietly satisfied with the public response in the end but the fact that the public had actually seen me hoisting the garbage into the truck with my own hands seems to have inspired awe within the community. I earned a serious plus point right away…public support.
Though I had already heard quite a lot of ‘not very complementary commentaries’ about Lotha characteristics from my senior colleagues, I felt it was only fair to deal with the people as I went along rather than have my thoughts and actions dictated by a preconceived conclusions of others. But the land owners tested my resolve of fair play to the limits, right from the word ‘go’. I received a notice from the Wokha Village land owners asking me to vacate the DC’s residence because compensation had not been paid. They did not come to meet me personally and I of course paid no heed to their notice either. Nevertheless it was their way of wanting me to know who was the boss in town. This was followed by another contemptuous affront of starting the construction of a line of temporary “pan ghumtis’ along the road wall cutting, right at the Police traffic point junction in the main town. I instructed my SDO(C) to order the land owners to stop work and dismantle the ongoing construction with immediate effect failing which the District Administration would take it down and confiscate the building material and have it auctioned. My SDO(C) instead gave them a weeks’ time to comply to the order. I let this miscarriage of instruction pass and waited for a week. Instead of dismantling the structures, the land owners daringly continued their construction. On the morning of the dateline expiry, I stood at the traffic point and ordered my DBs, the Town Committee personals and the Police to take down the structures. The dismantled materials were lifted to the Police station to be auctioned subsequently. The land owners seemed convinced that the DC would not dare to actually carry out his order. They were totally unaware that I worked under an administrative dictum “never to issue an administrative order that you were unprepared to act upon”. They found this out rather late in the day at their cost. Then I was faced with an awkward incident. An old man by the name of Orenthung Murry, with an unusually prominent lump on his nose came to my office the next morning requesting me to forgive the mistake of his younger generations. They had refused to listened to him he said. He pleaded for allowing him to retrieve the seized construction materials without the auction that had been ordered. He was the unfortunate land owner. He begged me with a sad humble sincerity. I felt deeply sorry for him seeing a father having to pay the price for his children’s misdemeanours but I had no relenting intention. I advised him to join the auction and bid, if he wanted his materials back. The poor man did. He vociferously participated in the auction, bidding for his own materials…large quantity of planks and bundles of CGI sheets. The people at the auction knew him well and showed him pity by stopping at his bid of three thousand five hundred rupees. Immediately after confirming his win, he was back at my office with the same request to pardon his children’s folly and spare him the burden. Seeing his desperation, I took out a thousand rupees from my wallet handed it to him, asked him to generate the balance amount and pay up because excuse will not be given. He silently stared at me for awhile, thankfully accepted my offer and slowly walked out of my office room. At that point I had not fathomed what a staunch friend I had cultivated that day within the crowd of aggressive land owners…he stood by me during the future remarkable event that transpired, despite the tragic circumstance.
A few Philimi Village youngsters had been drinking in the neighbourhood. It was a time of the evening when the children were returning home from their school. These Sumi drunken youths were recklessly backing up their Jeep when they ran over and killed a young child. It was the grandson of this old man Orenthung Murry with a significant lump on his nose…and it happened right in front of his house. What transpired next was an amazing story of how a little show of kindness had impacted upon the outlook of this grand old man. As would have been expected in such incidents, a huge angry crowd had gathered wanting to thrash the hell out of these Sumi boys and set fire to the Jeep. Here was the old man Orenthung, holding his dead grandson in his arms and pleading to the crowd that their retaliation would not bring back his grandson. He instead requested the crowd to quieten down, call the Police and have the Jeep and the culprits taken to custody. When the man, holding on to his lost child in his arms calmly talked to them without anger in his voice, the flame of anger in the crowd was doused within moments…the Sumi boys were left unharmed and their Jeep too was left untouched…a very abnormally unique conclusion to a tribal incident. By the time I got the news and came rushing down, the Police had promptly taken the Jeep and the culprits into custody. The crowd had already petered out and the old man was sitting by the bedside of his lifeless grandson with quiet tears streaming down his cheeks. Seeing him in a helpless state like this moved me much…I gently hugged him and thanked him for what he had done earlier in the evening. Knowingly he had averted what could have turned out to be an ugly inter tribal conflict. I was further amazed by his attitude of conciliation when I told him I intend to punish the culprits befittingly without mercy…”Sir” he said quietly, “ my grandson won’t come back whatever you do. I would prefer to settle the matter in our traditional way”. I sent information to Philimi Village for the families of the Sumi erring youths to meet the family of the deceased, which they did. Mr. Orenthung Told the Sumi families that he has forgiven the boys responsible for his grandson’s demise and refused to accept all offers of compensation. The Sumis had not expected such a compassionate reaction and felt very embarrassed…they pleaded and insisted that the old man allow them to help out in some way at least but Oren had said his piece. The Sumi boys along with their Jeep were set free with his blessing. Now this is what I call a true Christian charity and compassion so rarely visible in the lives of the present day Christians. I just heard from Mr. Odyo that Mr. Orenthung Murry had passed away sometime last year. This is what I would have said for him had I have known of his passing: Dear old man with a lump on the nose, you were someone who taught me a lesson or two and I had a sincere respect for the magnanimity you had showed that day. I would believe God will have recorded that with red ink in your book of life. God bless you and rest your soul in peace…that you truly deserve.

The writer is retired IAS Officer.
Forest Colony, Kohima

1
By EMN Updated: Feb 27, 2014 9:27:01 pm