FIRST STIR­RINGS

KA­MAL KRISHNA SINHA

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IT was a taunt and bet­ter prospects of growth and emol­u­ments that brought Ka­mal Krishna Sinha into In­dian Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vice (IAS). Oth­er­wise Sinha, son of RKP Sinha, a pro­vin­cial civil ser­vant (PCS) in Bi­har Cap­i­tal, and Phool Ku­mari Devi, a house­wife, was more than con­tent teach­ing stu­dents of Re­gional In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (RIT) in Jamshed­pur. He had got into teach­ing at the age of 18 af­ter com­plet­ing his post-grad­u­a­tion in Chem­istry from Patna Univer­sity in 1958. To add grav­i­tas to his young out­look, he then kept a beard. “Mere ko kisi close ne kaha UPSC exam se darte ho (Some­body close to me said that I found the exam daunt­ing). More­over, an IAS’ start­ing ba­sic

had just been hiked to 400 per month, dou­ble than a lec­turer’s start­ing ba­sic, and the process of get­ting higher re­spon­si­bil­ity and emol­u­ments was much quicker there”, Sinha, now in his 80th year (78th of­fi­cially), re­calls. Civil Ser­vices was con­sid­ered a great sta­tus sym­bol in Bi­har then. He opted for Bri­tish His­tory, Law and Con­sti­tu­tional His­tory as sub­jects and ap­peared for the exam in 1962. On June 3, 1963, he joined Lal Ba­hadur Shas­tri Na­tional Academy of Ad­min­is­tra­tion (LBSNAA) as a pro­ba­tioner. On pass­ing, he was al­lot­ted As­sam cadre and ap­pointed as As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner (in As­sam, the Deputy Col­lec­tor or Dis­trict Mag­is­trate was called Dis­trict Com­mis­sioner) in Di­bru­garh, then a part of Lakhim­pur dis­trict. He got a bird’s view in trea­sury, ju­di­ciary, fish­ery, ru­ral gov­er­nance, po­lice sta­tions and sundry other de­part­ments. Sub­se­quently, he cleared a lan­guage exam in As­samese and Ben­gali to get his first in­cre­ment of 100. In 1967, im­me­di­ately af­ter his mar­riage with Nee­lam, a teacher, he was ap­pointed Ad­di­tional Dis­trict Com­mis­sioner (ADM) in Mizo Hills, then a dis­trict of As­sam, which was bat­tling in­sur­gency. Sinha rec­ol­lects there would be a daily cur­few in the dis­trict af­ter 6 pm and he would be al­lowed en­try into own his of­fi­cial res­i­dence with a pass­word. Be­sides, the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion had teething prob­lems in get­ting along with the army of­fi­cers. An army of­fi­cer in fact once called Sinha ‘God’s only cre­ation’, an id­iom used to mock IAS of­fi­cers. But sub­se­quently, the re­la­tions be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tion and army es­tab­lish­ment got bet­ter. So much so that when a three mile stretch of Silchar-Aizawl road caved in bring­ing to a halt trans­porta­tion of ra­tion to the dis­trict, army of­fi­cers helped the civil ad­min­is­tra­tion in tack­ling the prob­lem. “We could look af­ter our 500,000 peo­ple be­cause army agreed to pass on a part of its ra­tion quota. The army of­fi­cers even supplied foods for chil­dren and car­tons of Panama cig­a­rettes to be sold from ra­tion shops”, he re­mem­bers. The dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion and the army sub­se­quently di­vided vil­lages into groups and in­tro­duced an iden­tity sys­tem for them. This was a unique ex­pe­ri­ence to iso­late Mizo in­sur­gents. Sinha says dur­ing his lit­tle less than three-year long ten­ure, they greatly suc­ceeded in snuff­ing out militancy from their dis­trict. Dur­ing 1971 Indo-Pak war, Sinha was posted as Dis­trict Com­mis­sioner in Garo Hills, an In­dian dis­trict that shares bound­ary with Bangladesh. Apart from han­dling its own pop­u­la­tion of around 450,000, the dis­trict catered to eight lakh Bangladeshi refugees. Many refugees were set­tled along 28 km long Tura-Dalu road. There was a ma­jor emer­gency af­ter a bridge built on a river near the bor­der got washed away in flood. This stopped ra­tion sup­ply to refugees. Sinha was told by an en­gi­neer that it would take at least 12 days to re­pair the bridge. When the former asked him to do it in one day, he asked for 3,000 labour­ers. Dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion put 3000 refugees into work and the bridge was made op­er­a­tional in one day. In 1973-74 when Sinha was Sec­re­tary (Agri­cul­ture) in the state, a ma­jor ini­ti­ate was taken by the state to sta­bilise pro­duc­tion of potato seed in Megha­laya. Megha­laya, then a dis­trict of As­sam, supplied seeds not only to parts of north­east but also Bangladesh. But the seed sup­ply was er­ratic. Agri­cul­ture depart­ment brought to­gether a co­op­er­a­tive

Dur­ing 1971 Indo-Pak war, Sinha was posted as Dis­trict Com­mis­sioner in Garo Hills, an In­dian dis­trict that shares bound­ary with Bangladesh

so­ci­ety of 3000 potato farm­ers. They were given loans. The seed pro­duc­tion sta­bilised but the loans were never re­paid. Sinha calls the mis­sion half suc­cess­ful – suc­cess­ful re­pro­duc­tion wise but fail­ure fi­nan­cially. Dur­ing the same ten­ure, Sinha also launched a scheme on dairy co­op­er­a­tives to pop­u­larise cow milk among Khasi tribes. Kha­sis in those days did not like cow milk and had no cowherds. In­stead of milk, they would feed ba­nana seed to their chil­dren. Agri­cul­ture min­istry in col­lab­o­ra­tion with an NGO, MYRADA (Mysore Re­set­tle­ment & De­vel­op­ment Agency), set up a dairy co­op­er­a­tive so­ci­ety and pro­vided loans to vil­lagers for buy­ing cows. At the end of the project, Sinha points out, 48 vil­lagers in Khasi hills took to dairy farm­ing and they paid off all their loans. From 1979 to 1981, Sinha was Sec­re­tary to LP Singh who was Gover­nor to five north­east states. He says he wrote so many re­search papers for the Gover­nor that had he been into aca­demics, he would have been awarded 4-5 PhDs. In Septem­ber 1988, Sinha was moved to cen­tre and be­came Joint Sec­re­tary (North­east) in the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs (MHA). As JS, one of his first steps was to op­pose ex­ten­sion of Dis­trict Coun­cil to Ma­nipur, a de­ci­sion ap­proved by the Union Cabi­net. His se­niors warned him against it. They thought op­po­si­tion to a cabi­net de­ci­sion could get him on the wrong side of the pow­ers-that-be. Sinha ar­gued that the ex­ten­sion of the coun­cil could in­crease in­sur­gency in the state. He took the is­sue to the then Prime Min­is­ter Ra­jiv Gandhi and was suc­cess­ful in get­ting it re­versed. Dur­ing his ten­ure as JS (North­east), Sinha along with his col­leagues from other min­istries was in­stru­men­tal in set­tling the is­sues of lan­guage, cit­i­zen- ship and reser­va­tion in Sikkim, a new state which merged into In­dia in 1974. There was a de­mand for in­clu­sion of Gorkhali lan­guage in 8thh sched­ule of the Con­sti­tu­tion. There was also a de­mand for reser­va­tion for cer­tain classes of peo­ple in­clud­ing heads of two Mathas (re­li­gious in­sti­tutes) in the state assem­bly. There were de­mands that the ter­ri­to­rial for­mula of Goa and Puducherry be ex­tended to Sikkim to de­cide cit­i­zen­ship. He ar­gued against it be­fore Com­mit­tee of Pe­ti­tions on the grounds that Sikkim al­ready had a cit­i­zen­ship regis­ter. They took about two years in set­tling the is­sue. In Jan­uary 1990, Sinha was ap­pointed JS (Kash­mir) in the home min­istry and told to cre­ate a di­vi­sion for the ter­ror­ism-af­flicted state. Sinha re­tired on Jan­uary 31, 1998 as Chair­man, Food Cor­po­ra­tion of In­dia (FCI). None of his chil­dren—two daugh­ters, Taru and Gopa, and a son, Manu—are into civil ser­vices. Taru and Gopa are US-based doc­tor and ar­chi­tect, re­spec­tively, while Manu is an En­gi­neer. In fact, he points out that from his batch of 89 IAS (1963 batch), only chil­dren of less than a half a dozen have got into civil ser­vices. The rest is set­tled in pri­vate jobs. Sinha, a re­cip­i­ent of Padma Shri award, has a tinge of re­gret that the gov­ern­ment never al­lowed him and his fa­ther to cor­rect his date of birth. It so hap­pened that his grand­fa­ther, who took him to school for ad­mis­sion, wrongly quoted Jan­uary 2, 1940 as his date of birth, two and a half years more than the ac­tual date of birth (Oc­to­ber 11, 1937). His fa­ther tried to set it right at the time of his col­lege ad­mis­sion but a med­i­cal board con­sti­tuted for the pur­pose of de­ter­min­ing his real age, over­ruled him and ap­proved the wrong age. As told to Naren­dra Kaushik

Dur­ing his ten­ure as JS (North­east), Sinha along with his col­leagues from other min­istries was in­stru­men­tal in set­tling the is­sues of lan­guage, cit­i­zen­ship and reser­va­tion in Sikkim, a new state which merged into In­dia in 1974

PHO­TOS: RAVI BATRA

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