All’s Well that Ends Well

S P Rao

Shriprakash Rao attended St. Xavier's School, Jaipur where he was a sports enthusiast, with particular emphasis on cricket and basket ball. He was also a good short-distance swimmer.

Rao joined the Department of Customs and Central Excise as Inspector, and retired as Additional Commissioner in 2015. He traveled to many nations as a trade negotiator for the Central Government on several occasions for various trade agreements.

Rao is an avid adventurer who has under taken trekking expeditions across Himalayas in India and Nepal. He fancies his visit to Iceland to see the Northern Lights to be the crown jewel of his travels. He is a keen photographer while traveling.

Rao loves driving and has under taken many long drives across India, initially on his motor cycle and later on by car. He is an avid reader and a movie buff, especially of classic westerns.

Rao presently lives in Jaipur with his wife.


The new millennium had just dawned and here I was about to embark on a new posting at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi.

Just to go back to last days of the old millennium, I was leading calm but a boring life in the Directorate of Vigilance (DoV).

One fine day,  I was finishing my lunch and getting ready for my afternoon siesta, the phone rang shrilly.

Our COIN officer, Dubai was at the other end of the line.  After normal small talk, he told me that he was joining Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and would like to see me soon. Though it was a request, I really did not have much choice.

So after some days, I found myself going up the lift of the much talked about 7th  floor of the Drum Shape building which housed the Headquarters of the much admired and also dreaded DRI.

After the customary inquisition getting out of the lift, I found myself in the office of Joint Director (Hqrs.), DRI (let’s call him AK). After the customary chit chat over tea, AK told me that Chairman, CBEC (now known as CBIC) was posting him especially as Additional Commissioner, Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi which was then reeling under the aftermath of the infamous Olga scandal.

 As such, on orders of Chairman he was selecting officers to assist him at the Airport . He asked me if I would be willing to be posted at the Airport.

I was speechless.

It used to be everyone’s dream to work in such a post. In spite of the onerous duties that I would be subjected to, I immediately said yes (more so as it would be an unexpected departure from dark corridors (literally only) of DGoV).

However, to be on the safe side, I requested that it would be proper if DGoV was appraised (who was about to move to CBEC as Member) of this change.  Fortunately, the DGoV was pleased that someone was from DoV was being picked for an Airport posting

So on the morning of 2nd day of the new millennium, I saw myself standing before the office of Indian Customs at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. I was feeling excited and apprehensive as well of the daunting task ahead as shift officers would be under a microscope after the infamous Olga scandal.

IGI Airport New Delhi
IGI Airport, New Delhi


On joining I was posted as in charge of one of the batches that man the airport 24x7 in rotation. I remained posted at IGI Airport for over two years, where I had many ticklish, funny and heart wrenching moments. There were daily interactions with politicians, senior bureaucrats, diplomats, film stars, senior officials of the armed forces, sportspersons etc.

 It was one such interaction which not only resulted in my untimely departure but also set course of my future career.

I had completed over continuous year in shift duties while others had seen a change in six to eight months’ time and had become accustomed to the vagaries of airport life.

 It was on that one ordinary night duty where I had more than usual number of senior officials to attend to , both on arrival and departure. Somewhere in the middle night I had JS (Revenue) and one Asst. Additional Director of CEIB arriving from their tours abroad almost simultaneously.

As it was busy night, I got busy with my work. Somewhere around midnight, when I was busy overseeing some issue in the departure lounge, when  my sepoy came rushing to me and informed that some senior officer  in a very upset and  in an agitated state mind he was demanding that I report to him immediately.

This made me wonder what could have been the issue. Such displeasure was very rare as we adequately took care of the protocol of all senior officers.

When I came down to my office  I saw a smartly dressed, very officer like man, pacing up and down in my cabin in a very agitated state. I did not know who the gentleman was.

As soon as I entered my cabin, the officer immediately let out a barrage of complaints, against my protocol officer on the manner he had attended to him. I could not understand him properly, such was his agitated state.

After sometime and few glasses of water, I learnt that my protocol officer on receiving both the officers, had attended to Asst. Additional Director, CEIB only and had given this officer just  cursory attention  who in fact turned out to be Joint Secretary  (Revenue), a senior IAS officer and a person to be reckoned with.

It appeared that a major faux pas had indeed been committed by my protocol officer (a well-meaning soul from Haryana). After sometime it was quite clear that JS (Revenue) really had reason to be upset.

At that stage, there was not much I could do except to offer my apologies and reprimand the officer for his mistake. I immediately apologized humbly but the anger of JS (Revenue) knew no bounds.

JS (Revenue) finally left after giving a long sermon on how senior officers are to be attended too He also announced that the Chairman, CBEC would be apprised of the mistake. As he was getting into his car, I again muttered an apology and said I would attend office and would give a detailed explanation of this faux pass.

 I returned to my room with a forlorn look and completely shaken up by events which were not of my making. After sometime my protocol officer came and apologized for  the ruckus unknowingly created by him.

There was not much I could do except telling that both of us should be ready for some sort of reprisal, which could even be our shifting from the airport. Transfers are  a part of the  job but shifting in ignominy that  one is afraid off.

At about seven in the morning, I hesitantly called my boss AK and informed him of the events. He heard me calmly and asked me to go home after finishing my duties. He further said there was need to go and meet JS as he would take care of that.

For the first time in the night I felt reassured.

I came back home and narrated   the incident to my wife. I told her we must be ready to move out of  Delhi at short notice.

 However, she assured me all would be well and my boss AK will see to it that justice is done ,

When I returned to my morning duty after two days, I learnt that my protocol officer had been sent back to Custom House. I was now mentally prepared to be shifted .  As soon as AK came to office, I was summoned.

 He told me that though he had tried his best to assuage the feelings of JS, he had no choice but to shift me   from shift duties soon.

I was a bit relieved as the shift would not only bea welcome relief from rigours  of over twelve months of night duties, but also much less than I had bargained for.

As days passed by my shifting from batch did not happen as discussed and I continued in my regular duties.

I thought that the crisis had blown over. And all had become normal. But a few days later after my night duty, I took an early morning escort flight to Jaipur (my home town) with the intention of spending my two off days with family.

 On my second off, I received a call from Additional Commissioner, Chief Commissioner’s [CCO] unit wanting to know my whereabouts. When he learnt that I was in Jaipur, he directed me to meet the  Chief Commissioner, immediately on return.

CC on hearing my version of the events just asked me keep doing my work diligently. After some days, I learnt that JS (Revenue) had let the Board know of the events of the night and the same was being pursued by Member (Personnel), who was harbouring dreams of becoming the Chairman.

 Chief Commissioner (who was his batch mate) stoutly resisted any efforts for my ouster. My daily life became like walking on egg shells. My daily work was always under the microscope of seniors.

To cut it short, I dreaded to go office every day. It was made sure that I would not be on duty when senior officers our Ministry was travelling. Thankfully, after sometime my boss AK transferred me to administrative duties.

The ‘powers to be’ were finally were finally pleased that I had been shown my place, not knowing that  my family and I were finally relieved that after eighteen months of shift duties, at night, admin duties were like the manna from heavens.

Days went by but I was under watchful scrutiny. The daily walk on egg shells was becoming too much for me. So I decided to seek a premature transfer from airport and head back to my home town, Jaipur.

I consulted Ravi (name changed), a fellow officer who had become a good friend (still is). Though, he agreed with my intention, he completely shot down the idea of moving back to Jaipur.

 Ravi suggested that I should make a move to the Board, as it would not only give a complete new perspective of the Department but would also give enough time for my son to finish his board exams in Delhi.

I was skeptical of the idea of again working in close environment with senior officers.   I discussed with AK and my new Commissioner (he went on to become Chairman, CBEC).

After sometime Ravi was transferred and I became in charge of Air Intelligence Unit, IGI Airport.

So after a few months of lull, here I was again in thick of things  at the airport. My few months as Dy. Commissioner, AIU was very eventful, with many seizures, including a seizure of one and half kilo of cocaine (a first for the airport & another story in itself).

 In the meantime, I had shown my willingness to be considered for becoming an Under Secretary in the Board’s office.

Fortunately, the then JS (Customs) and Member (Customs)- who was luckily my former DGoV) were willing to have me. As the posting of Under Secretary requires approval of Finance Minister, and I was in a hurry to move out of Airport orders posting me as OSD in Board was issued.

I immediately joined. Much to my relief my bête noire JS (Revenue) had moved back to his parent state.

North Block, New Delhi
North Block, New Delhi

The change in the job, as predicted by Ravi brought about a complete change in my job profile. I was placed in the International Customs Division of the Board. This gave me tremendous exposure to negotiations under process for finalizing various free trade agreements with other countries, besides dealing with the World Customs Organization, Brussels, Belgium. My director, Dr.Anoop Swaroop, a very bubbly, enthusiastic person with a very balanced approach, gave me chance to participate in many trade negotiations with many countries. Thanks to his gesture and  help, I could travel to over twenty countries in different parts of the world as a representative of Department of Revenue.

Dr. Swaroop soon resigned from service and went on to become the Vice Chancellor, Lake Jagran University, Bhopal. During my stay at the Board I also learned that JS (Revenue) after his complaint to the Board had moved on and it was only minions at the Board who kept the matter alive.

Such are the vagaries in life. If that one incident on the dreaded night at airport had not happened, I would not have seen the world. A small shift in Board job profile saw me seeing new lands (still so), make new friends.

All the persons mentioned above were good to me and are still great friends. I am really indebted to them. Their support paved the way in the following years in the department but also so after my retirement more than five years ago.

As my dear friend Yogi has said many a times ‘a kick in the back of a hunchback cures him of his haunch’ and paves way for a better life.



AK went on become Director General, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.

Ravi is a senior sleuth (Commissioner) in the GST Intelligence Directorate.

The senior officer after an illustrious career in civil services,retired as Chief Secretary. 


It's a disheartening story. Shows that some senior bureaucrats worry too much about their personal convenience. Shameful, in this modern times when the feudal era is long gone.

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