Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dharma Veera’s Dharm

By Sunny Kulathakal

Sri Dharmaveera who is known for his brilliance, hardwork, diplomatic prowess has retired from the post of Mysore Governorship. The extraordinary skill and courage he has manifested in doing away with the existing red-tapism in administration as well as corruption and nepotism is commendable.

Once news started appearing in the media about the just concluded Indo-Pak war, hoarders and smugglers started raising their heads. One morning a short person appeared in the Bangalore city market to personally assess the stock of rice and kerosene in big shops. It was nobody else but Governor Dharmaveera.

He warned that the corrupt would be mercilessly dealt with. The dynamic administrator in Dharmaveera raised his voice for the upholding and up keeping righteousness.

Dharmaveera was known as a Governor who demonstrated unusual boldness to bluntly tell anybody what he felt wrong. In this respect he did not mind even politicians, ministers or central government. Dharmaveera has also proved that Governors are not puppets and the post of Governor is as well a platform to express one’s own views. Recently a central minister has remarked that the governor who embarked on a cut throat bargain to wrest what is due to Mysore Government from the Centre. Following this Dharmaveera was summoned to Delhi to explain his stand to the President. He did not hesitate to convey to the central government the real fact that he had the additional responsibility to argue for the interest of the people apart from his role as governor especially in the absence of an elected government in the state. However he also had the humility to write a letter to the president seeking pardon if at all there had been any impropriety on his part. It was on the day when he wrote that letter, I got the opportunity to interact with him.

Dharmaveera who was recalled the memories of the past delved on his allegiance to the government, his service to the nation and the future of civil service.

He recalled the opportunity he got to take care of a sick Gandhiji at the house of Sivaprasad Gupta in Norus in the year 1918.

He said that while he was the Joint Magistrate in Almora in the year 1938 leaders like Nehru and M N Roy had been in the local jail. When he was appointed the district judge of Barila, he became the first Indian to occupy that post. It was during those days many prominent youths like Ghan Abdul Gaffer Khan known as “Athirthi Gandhi” (Border Gandhi) was jailed. This provided him the opportunity to acquaint with many of them.

When he was employed in Aligarh, the possibility of a transfer top native place arose due to the efforts of his father. Dharmaveera came to know that his father influenced the Chief Secretary due to the illness of his wife. Refusing the transfer offer he told the Chief Secretary “I don’t like to create the impression that I am being brought up by a great father. Certainly I don’t want a transfer granted on the request of my father”.

There is a secret behind the Civil Service success of Dharmaveera, who used to openly express independent opinion and decision in the above manner. Listen to the advice given to him by a senior officer. You should always do two things. Take a decision irrespective of whether it is right or wrong because the gravity of the consequences will be lesser than that of not taking any decision. Secondly is the fact that your are an executive officer. As far as possible you should keep your mouth shut. Talking is the job of the politician. You will be judged by not by what you say but b y what you do. So talk less and work more. Dharmaveera believes that this advice had a great influence in his career.

It was since his joining the Government of India service that Dharmaveera could really make his personal mark in adminstation. “Bull weevil” (the machine that can collect more wool) this was how Akbar Hydari, the Industries secretary used to describe Dharmaveera. The practice was to entrust him if there was anything important to be done urgently. Later India Government also made of him in this manner on several occasions.

After the 1962 Chinese aggression, India needed to urgently build temporary airports in at least seven important centres. The Military engineering service informed that it would take at last two years. Nehru called summoned Dharmaveera who was secretary in the central public works department, the concerned ministers and others and asked “the work on these airports has to be completed in six months. Can you do it?”. “Certain we can” replied Dharmaveera. Under his leadership the work was completed in just five months. Likewise he could complete the work on Lodhi Harlour (meant for foreign diplomats) in a very short time.

It was while he was serving as Chief Commissioner in Delhi, the then Prime Minister Nehru died. Those days the sprawling area between Raj Ghat and Railway station was the heavily waterlogged and was the breeding ground for mosquitoes. Dharamveera’s role in making it to the present level had no been small. That was a low lying area and marshy. Lakhs of people were expected to converge there and there was no place for them to either stand or sit. Leaders like Mannarayanan and congress who could not even imagine cremating Punditji in such a place were really in fix. Acting Prime Minister Nanda was nervous. He rang up the Chief Commissioner in the early hours and said “Baba there is lot of noise about this issue what can do?” Without any wavering, Dharmaveera said “Okay. You all please visit the area by this evening”.

With the help of bulldozer they reached the site near Raj Ghat. Mannarayanan pointed out that this was not the place he saw earlier. Dharmaveera asserted that it is the same place. “then it must have been changed drastically”, Manarayanan replied in a defensive tone. “Yes certainly there is change and that too significant change. Such a change was inevitable for this site. You thought that Punditiji will be created in a marshy plot”.

It was at a time when agitation led by Santhafitha Singh and his followers for Pujabhi Sabha was in its full vigour, Dharmaveera was appointed as Punjab Governor in 1966 June. Due to his brilliant interference many of the troubles could be avoided in thiose days. In a letter to the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi later he expressed his desire to have a posting other than that of the Governor so that he could do something more creative. Some excerpts: “I would like to be relieved from the post of Governor. Otherwise please provide be a posting in which I could do something substantial. The constitutional post of governorship is one of boredom and could not be carried on with composure in the long run”.

During that period, the Bengal situation was turbulent. The Prime Minister told Dharmaveera “what you have asked was for a posting in which you could do something substantial. What do you say about moving to Bengal?’ That is how he happened to accept the Bengal Governorship and do many things which were historical. He might be recalling with pride how he had faced many of the trying situations like dismissal of the Ajoy Mukherjee ministry and difficult situation in the aftermath of his refusal to read the portions which were intended to tarnish the governor in the governor’s policy address to the assembly.

Realising that the role and influence of the Governor will be limited once a stable government comes to power, Dharmaveera said “Since I feel that I still has a few moré years of active life, I would like to be relieved of Governorship once the Bengal polls are over and if possible entrust me with another job. I informed the Prime Minister that I otherwise I would like to quit on my own. But when the United Front Government demanded his recall, the Central Government did not succumb to that. This led to my continuation as Bengal Governor for some more time”.

It was after this he was posted as Mysore Governor. DharmaVeera succeeded in presenting a better rule for the progress of the state when a ministry was in existence as well as when it was not there.

It may of relevance to mention some of the incidents he recalled from the period he was working with Nehru.

Due to paucity of space the role played by Dharmaveera for the development of Bhandakarunyam and rehabilitating refuges are not being explained here. While serviing as Cabinet Secretary during Nehru’s time, he had helped Nehru for taking many an important decision. It was a time when complaints about leakage many important cabinet decisions including those related to Kashmir were widespread. Nehru who was too much worried about the same was told by Dharmaveera “Sir I regret that the leakage was not from the secretariat, but it was through your ministerial colleagues Nehru who could not believe it shouted in anger “what kind of a non sense your are talking?” A cool Dharmaveera said “Sir I am not talking non sense. In fact I could convince you about it”.

“how could you?” asked Nehru. Dharmaveera said “there is a cabinet meeting tomorrow itself. I shall keep the report of the meeting myself without giving it for typing. I shall collect all the relevant papers and keep them in the locker in my home. Let us what happens tomorrow morning” Nehru agreed. When many of the important decisions appeared in the newspapers next morning he asked Nehru whether he is convinced at least now. “How did this happen” Nehru asked with curiosity. He said that he could even name the ministers responsible but dot not want to create problems by revealing their names. But he suggested that it will be better to issue a circular pointing out that it is not right to leak out the cabinet decisions. It seemed acceptable to him. Even after the warning not to leak out cabinet decisions, many have repeated it. Nehru who came to know this through other means removed such persons from the ministry quite conveniently at appropriate time, recalled Dharmaveera.

He also narrated an incident that caused his posting in India instead of being posted in Foreign Service. After India became independent there was need for representatives in many Indian missions abroad. The dialogue following Dhrmaveera’s refusal to accept such a posting is interesting. Through the foreign secretary Nehru came to know about his refusal to go to Australia. “I want to know immediately why you don’t want to go to Australia” Nehru demanded. For this Dharmaveera replied like this:………….

Translation: saj mathjews

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