‘The Kingdom of GOI’
Around four hundred years ago, while they went about setting up their business in India, one of the daunting hurdles faced by the businessmen of the East India Company (EIC) was their paperwork. Everything had to be ladled out and a ‘bill of lading’ prepared so that the ships could be loaded on even keel, official and personal correspondence made in quadruplicate and sent by different routes and means so that at least one of them would reach it’s destination. Never ending mountain of paperwork. Only a few of the Englishmen engaged in EIC’s business in India at that time could read or write English or any other language. So they brought in stenographers and calligraphers, mostly young English boys, who had a smattering of education, to take dictations, read out letters and make the bill of lading. These boys were called ‘Writers’. Several illustrious men of that time, including Robert Clive, started their professional career in India as ‘writers’ in trading stations.
As their businesses grew, with more and more trading stations, it became imperative to create armed security guards to protect their innumerable godowns as well as goods in transit. As the business grew even further to incredible proportion, the number of writers and security guards also grew to incredible proportions. The smart and intelligent ‘writers’ eventually morphed into the ‘administrative service’ (Writers building at Cal as also political assistants all over) and the mostly uneducated musclemen ‘security guards’ morphed into an army (at fort William, as also all over). Most of the writers could turn soldiers in times of trouble and war, like Robert Clive, but the soldier had much trouble turning to being administers, like pupa to butterfly, in peace time. It was but natural that the military held the administrative and political ‘service’ in great awe and jealousy, and in return the administrative service tolerated the lesser intellectual military morons with some well justified contempt.
After the 1857 mutiny, the English became more benevolent. India became a Dominion, snatched from the clutches of the East India Company. The administrative service replaced the White Moguls, Nawabs and the Rajas. They spread out amongst the length and breadth of India as ‘Collectors’ of tax, District Magistrates, Commissioners and Secretaries to the Govt, the new power house executives in a distant land and strange Govt. Towards the end of the 19th C, due to far reaching changes in mental outlook, both in India as well as in England, Indians began to go to England to not only become as English as they could get, but also learn the ropes in governance, as well as war. There now emerged a new smarter cadre in administrative service called ‘Indian Civil Service’ (ICS), as also King’s Commissioned Indian Officers (KCIOs) in military, who began to have more and more role to play in the governance of India. Like before, some of the ICS held military ranks and KCIOs held political appointments. Like before, the KCIOs held the ICS in great awe and jealousy, and in return the ICS tolerated the lesser intellectual KCIOs with some well justified contempt.
The equations between the ICS and the KCIOs changed, completely reversed, when the second world war brought the Germans to Africa and the Japs to Singapore in 1941-42. The KCIOs, and their English superiors, took complete control of the governance of India. The ICS were relegated to second position, lowering of their status, power, influence and hence their income. After the world war ended, the military continued to rule the roost on Raisiana Hill, almost till 1950, well after the independence. The houses that the military lived, during the world war and afterwards, the period immediately after independence, this may be a reflection of the power they wielded and their and social position in Delhi. The largest houses in the capital (now Rashtrapathi Bhawan, Tin Murthi Bhawan, Up-Rashtrapathi Bhawan, all the large buildings around India gate) these were all occupied by the military brass. Most of Lutyen’s bungalows were occupied by junior military commanders or the ICS gentlemen. The political, including Nehru, mostly lived in the outhouses or the servant’s quarters in the same Lutyen’s Delhi, or in bungalows in Old Delhi. .
Barring a handful distinguished stalwarts from the independence struggle, the politicals of post independence era were generally unsophisticated, unlearned and uninspiring nonentities. The political parties were shot through with corruption, inefficiency and favouritism. India's economy was a schizophrenic mixture of state and private enterprise, left leaning socialists with the mindset of capitalists. Religious fanaticism and factionalism grew strong. To the last man, the politicals were frightened and at loggerhead with both the ICS as well as KCIOs, who just refused to acknowledge the political class superiority, all except probably a few very pliable ones, who were then looked down upon by the rest of the ICS as well as KCIOs.
The KCIOs took shelter behind British chiefs who were retained by the politicals to manage the snooty KCIOs. The armed forces withdrew into a shell, locked themselves in their cantonments and refused to come out even during the cataclysm of partition or to prevent the politically inflamed passions and genocide. With no one to protect them, the ICS fell victims to the political wolves. Under an atmosphere of anarchy and paranoia, the political class made a focussed effort to get rid of the very experienced and non parochial ICS as well as KCIOs. They unleashed a juggernaut, the ‘Babu’ class, a different breed of lesser educated, highly parochial and mutually supportive, self serving pliant cadre, and formed the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), who then proclaimed themselves as the executive branch of the government, usurping the power of governance from both the political class as well as the military. As time went, their power imploded, they became the silent manipulators of the Govt of India. Who was the Govt of India, I doubt any one knew, except the executive branch, the IAS.
While the military turned to RIMC in Dehra Dun or to churn out a self reliant army of the new independent India, the political class and their new minions, the IAS, turned to the rival school, the ‘Doon School’, for creating a new breed of administrative service that was completely subservient to the political class. Every pampered seedling (sons) of the political class, IAS, as well as prominent businessmen were sent to board at Doon School to inculcate the qualities that would help them form the new ruling class. Unlike the ICS, which the British had created, the ones with the brawn and the brains, Doon School excelled in creating a new breed IAS which believed that if you have the brains and a political sponsor, you don’t need the brawn.
I had no knowledge of all this when I was born a few years after independence. I was just a simple, cuddly, chirpy, cheerful baby with nary a care for the newly formed Indian union.
When I was a child, I observed that my father was most pleased with me when I said ‘I shall do it’ rather than ‘I don’t want to do it’ or ‘I will not do it’.
While in RIMC, when I showed enthusiasm to ‘do it’ (anything, even mischief), I was popular, and if I refused to ‘do it’ (anything), I was scorned and punished.
During my growing up years I noticed there were two classes of people, the ‘Doers’ and the ‘Don’t want to do’ types.
I was brought up, like all Rimcolians, to be like the former lot, the ‘do it’ kind.
However, as I went along, a class distinction was created in my mind, ‘Them’ vs ‘Us’. The ‘Don’t want to do it’ types, vs the ‘Do it’ kind.
While in RIMC, we played foot ball, hockey, cricket and debated with Doon School. We also aggressively competed for the affections of Welham Girls and ogled side by side, with equal zest, at the scantily clad Anglo Indian Oak Grove girls. I recollect Sanjay Gandhi, Kamal Nath, Amarinder Singh, Navin Patnaik, Kobad Ghandy, Arun Singh, as well as several faces who subsequently went on to become the who is who in politics, IAS, as well as Captains of industry (surprisingly some in military too). While Doscos generally argued better with theatrics at declamation contest, and totally won the affections of all the girls from Welhams and Oak Grove, Rimcolians usually kicked the shit out of them in sport. We had brawn and they had brains. Most of the contest ended with Doscos parting with a challenge, ‘Tere Ko Dekh Loonga, Saale’, to which we always hooted, ‘Abhi Dekhle, Saale’. Doscos were quite different from Rimcolians, chalk is to cheese. While in RIMC I put Doscos in my ‘Them’ type hate list, I never had a Dosco friend, then or now. I was always very jealous of them, probably because of their friendship with Welham Girls.
As a young officer in IAF, the ‘Them’ vs ‘Us’ class distinctions in my mind grew further apart. I wished to become more and more the type who did things without being told, because I felt that was the right thing to do, even if I was deemed ‘Impetuous’ and it led to punishment. In my mind the ‘Us’ lot grew smaller and smaller, and it made me more determined to remain in the ‘Us’ group. Majority joined the ‘Them’ lot who found rules and regulations to quote and justify not doing things, or do only those things which drew little or no criticism and punishment.
As I grew older, I found more and more people to club into the “Them lot”. There was the ‘Self Before Service’ kind, there were the lot who asked ‘What can the service do for me’, the kind who misused every perk and privilege, the kind who took no pride in what they did but just hung around and did nothing...... so on. I kept clubbing all of them in my mind as the “Them” lot. As I grew up in a ‘peace time’ AF, I also discovered the ‘Yes Boss’ kind, as also the compliant and very law abiding folks, the ones who liked to be told what to do. In my mind I shunted all of them into the “Them” kind.
Eventually, after 24 yrs service, the ‘Them’ class morphed into the ‘System’. I was the rebellious kind, an outsider to the “System’, hence an outcast.
Quite frankly once in a while I jump a red light and get a chalan, I always tell the traffic cop, “Constable Saheb, Tum par Garv hai’ (I am proud of you). I always put him immediately into the ‘Us’ group, they are the pillars of society, without them the veneer of civilisation vanish. Long ago, in late seventies, I was sent on ‘election duty’ to Bellari, where I met and was beholden by an incredible IAS officer. She was as attractive as a film star and as tough and officious as my drill Havaldar ‘Limbu Saheb’ in NDA, and ever since all IAS officers are part of my personal ‘Us’ lot. Saw Crane Bedi clean up Delhi traffic, and ever since she is No 1 on my ‘Us’ lot. So who really are the guys in my ‘Them’ lot ? To be honest, some of them were my peer group or immediate superiors in the Fauj, and of course there was Govt Of India.
GOI has been on my ‘Them’ list for a long time. It was always the rules and regulations of the GOI which prevented me from doing anything that I wanted to do. In my twenties, I had a girl friend in Calcutta and when I wanted to go and meet her often, I was told that the Travel regulation of GOI, forbade using more than 2 forms C’s in a year. That led to ‘Love Failure’. In my thirties my wife insisted on going to her ‘Maika’ every once in a while and the bloody leave regulation of the GOI almost caused ‘love failure’ once again. In my forties ............well I can go on about what terrible things the GOI did to me while I was in uniform.
All my life I have wondered, ‘Who is Govt of India ?’.
In 1978, I was interviewed by the president of India (Sanjeeva Reddy) for the post of an ADC. In my zealous enthusiasm, after a bit of chatting with the Supreme Commander, I asked him with sincere naivety whether he was GOI. He very absentmindedly said ‘No’. I was so disappointed that I immediately told him that I do not wish to be his ADC (Air Chief Mulgaonkar skinned me for it). During my stint at Air HQ, towards the end of my service career, I once asked fellow Rimcolian Air Chief Suri, ‘Do you know GOI ?’. Luckily he was in good mood and hence I got away with it. Whenever I got a chance to go to MOD I went around asking everyone there, ‘Are you GOI, do you know where I can find it ?’. To the last man, every one of them denied being GOI or know what it was. Once I even heard the Prime Minster Narasimha Rao on TV complaining, ‘the Govt is yet to formulate policy’. Poor chap, even he didn’t know who is GOI. Finally, the only man I discovered who knew GOI was ‘Yashpal’, the Desk Officer in the Air Wing of MOD. He often wrote letters to me which began, ”I am directed by GOI’, but when asked who is GOI, he refused to confide or confess.
My last act in uniform in 1993, as a lowly member secretary (clerical work) of a high profile ‘Empowered Modernisation Committee’ was to bring about radical changes to the IAF that would see it through the next 20 yrs. There were literally thousands of things to be done to modernise the AF. One by one all the watertight cases that I meticulously compiled and put up to MOD were returned by Yash Pal saying, ‘Turned down by GOI’. So it became a single handed battle of wits between an unseen and unknown demon called GOI and I.
On the last day in uniform I went to Yashpal with folded hands.
‘Yash Pal Ji, as a parting gift on my retirement, can you do something for me ?’.
I laid before him my last file, a small step towards modernisation, my humble offering to mankind in uniform. In the file was an exceptionally argued case for authorising a ‘self inking rubber stamp’ as a symbol of modernising IAF. Every officer had one. Unfortunately the ink dried up and one had to spit on it to make it work. In my low self esteemed opinion at that time, a self inking rubber stamp would have been the ultimate weapon of air war, to stamp the sky with glory. It would have cost around 20 additional paise per unit, and a total one time expenditure of Rs 12,426 to GOI. There were two sworn and signed affidavits in the file, from the DCAS and CAS which I had personally obtained with great tenacity and fortitude, that the IAF would meet this expense from internal accruals and would not burden on GOI. For me, it was the last personal battle of ‘Longe Wala’, the do or die kind.
Yash Pal offered me cup of tea and a ‘Samosa’ as an indication of this great concern for the man in uniform. He even spat out the pan in reverence. He sat up and drew his chair closer. He made a herculean effort to read what I had compiled in my file. Turned the pages one by one with serious intent. Finally he heaved a long audible sigh, opened his draw, took out a self inking rubber stamp and stamped on the note sheet, ‘‘Turned down by GOI’”.
Why Yash Pal Ji”, I asked with great sadness.
“Oh, Yeh Babudom me hoga nahin, don’t waste your time’. He then put a large pan back in his moth to discourage any further discussion.
I walked out of the Air HQ for the last time, around 1930 hrs, with inconsolable sorrow, and a kill at sight feeling for the faceless enemy of state, the ‘System’, GOI, Babudom as Yash Pal said ....whatever. Ever since then I refer to the ‘System’ as Babudom, the Kingdom of GOI. They are the most powerful of all in the republic of India, the ‘Them’ on the national hate list. The Indian political system had finally found the way to subjugate the military and make them into well heeled dogs, the ones without the ability to bark or bite. The military had lost the power to even walk outside the HQ to buy a self inking rubber stamp for themselves from the pavement shop without asking the permission of the faceless GOI.
After I retired, my wife finally went back to work for the Govt. Now and then I sleep with GOI. So, now and then I am not too sure about ‘Them’ and ‘Us’, they have quite morphed and merged in my mind. Now and then I take ‘Panga’ with my GOI, if she objects and issues Gazette notifications to my regular quota of 180 ml Rum every evening. But like a soul mate from Babudom, she says, ‘bloody man do it only now and then’. These days the Babudom is kind and gracious, now and then.