How I became a Training Commissar

Subhash Mathur

Subhash Mathur was born and brought up in small towns in Rajasthan. During his school and college education at Jaipur, he was keenly involved in sports, journalism and public speaking. His civil services career has given him a platform for spreading his ideas about modernising tax administration to benefit the common man. Post retirement he is devoting his energies, along with his wife Tilak, to public and humane causes.

                           How I became a Training Commissar

                                                     I join at NACEN

I opted for a posting as Director National Academy Of Customs Excise and Narcotics [NACEN has since changed to NACIN after GST] at Sector 22 , Faridabad.

  I joined in mid July 1997 from Gwalior.

National Academy of Customs and Indirect Taxes Faridabad 

The Academy is spread over 22 hectares campus with teaching and administrative blocks, games and sports block and residence for Probationers and the faculty.

I lived in one of the Bungalows facing my office. My office was just 500 mts away.

I received my first shock upon joining the Academy.  I was very disappointed to find that the milieu at the Academy was practically anti – training.

Faculty members came from Delhi and invariably reached late and were keen to return home early ,  particularly to avoid peak hour traffic.

Practically the academy functioned from 11, am to 3.30 pm with one hour break for lunch.

It was an appalling situation. It needed some serious engineering.

 A big change was urgently needed as I was mandated by the Central Board of Excise and Customs to get the Academy working at full throttle.

I then simply approached the Board Member in charge of training and with his approval was able to get a few sincere and willing faculty members to come and live on the campus to work with me .

But just as I was about  to put  my plans into operation I was nominated for  Training of  Trainers 15 days program at NADT [National Academy of Direct Taxes] at Nagpur in the first half of November 97. The course was being conducted by Canadian faculty under the CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) India –Canada agreement.

I wasn’t keen to attend the course as I was still settling down at NACEN but I had to attend nilly willy.

Thus I went to Nagpur in a sullen mood.

National Academy of Direct Taxes Nagour 

But everything changed once I joined the program. Faculty consisted of two highly affable and lovable Canadian specialists in Training of Trainers..

 Attending the course proved to be a Game Changer for me.

In just one fortnight I was pitch forked from a new comer to Training of   Trainer Specialist.

My life underwent a morphosis way beyond my wildest imagination.

And How?

                                             My Academy Years: ToT  to Ottawa To Laptops

On 8th July  Pradeep Goel the Excise expert  and Subramaniam the CA  and I   the training expert  along  with DG Audit  R K Chakraborty boarded the Air Canada flight to  Toronto  with a three hour break at Heathrow  for a three week ‘Training cum Writing workshop’  with Canadian trainers and auditors.  Our final destination was Ottawa , the capital of Canada.

We were travelling to Ottawa to write the Training manual for the new Audit manual under the aegis of Canadian International Development Authority popularly known as CIDA. 

Those  days FIFA World Cup 1998 was reaching its climax.  DG Chakraborty, a hardcore football enthusiast was keenly following the tournament, expecting Brazil to win.

At Heathrow, he was so keen to check out the outcome of Brazil vs Netherlands game. As he was reluctant to approach strangers,   I volunteered to speak to a few who were in the Airport Cafe. But most shrugged their shoulders.

 Finally one old British lady told me that Brazil was ahead by two goals at half time.

  DG did a small zig right at his breakfast table.

We reached Ottawa on Saturday night and quickly settled in our Hotel rooms.

Our workplace was just across the street.

The World Cup  Final was on Sunday in the afternoon Canada time. I invited DG to my room to watch the Brazil vs France  game  with chilled  beer and self made chicken curry.  He was confident that Brazil will knock France out comfortably.

But his faith in Brazil and their  invincibility took a nose dive as Zidane and France simply handed Brazil a pounding of their lifetime.

In fact Zidane’s head butt of Materazzi went on to become more famous than the Win itself.

Zidane Headbutt - courtesy SPORTable 

The game was all but over at half time, bar the shouting.

But the next three weeks proved to be hectic and a game changer for the three of us.

 The first week was devoted to learning the finer tricks of Training of Trainers.

But on Friday afternoon the trainers, Girish and Amir, handed  a lap top to each one of us. . We were to get familiar with the machines over  the weekend.

This sent shockwaves amongst us. All three were regressively tech savvy.

But come Monday morning and our life changed.

All work on Laptops only.

It was excruciatingly difficult but we huffed and puffed through the ‘learning’ process.

 We started off by making too many mistakes.  Not saving consistently.  And typing slowly.

But our trainers were not bothered.

They just pressed on.

We groaned and cursed but we learnt to use a computer within three days.

 We had no choice either.

But by the end of the three weeks we had become tech savvy. In two weeks we had completed three of the five chapters of two  manuals.

One for Trainers and the other for Trainees.

 I was very proud of my new learning.

And at the end of three weeks I was transformed into a ‘Leader’ for change!

Very soon I became the ‘Face of Training’ in my Department. 

The ToT Nagpur course turned out to be a Game Changer. Suddenly I began to love those much hated  15 day stint at  Nagpur. 

                                     I became the ‘COMMISSAR’

Upon return from Canada  the trio of Pradeep Goel , Ram  Subramaniam and Subhash had finished the manual in two parts by November 98.  

All electronically and on CDs. 

I submitted my report along with CDs to the Chairman and went back to routine work.

Little did I realise that ‘All hell’ was about to ‘Break Loose’. And break it did in next to no time.

Chief Commissioners were up in protest. They wanted ’many’ more courses to  train a large pool as Trainers. 

It was like a ‘war cry’.

In unison.

Naturally an angry Chairman summoned me ‘post haste’ into his chambers, possibly for a dressing down.

 But I went prepared. I carried the letter which he had signed spelling out our mandate in no uncertain terms.

We had fulfilled our mandate. 

Chairman swallowed his anger and changed track. He quickly assembled the Board members to decide on a new plan of ‘quick ‘action.

 I became the Nodal Officer for conducting more training courses in consultation with the Chief Commissioners across the nation.

As simple as that.

And thus began my ‘All India Fame’.

Organizing Training courses across the country was an ambitious program but   Pradeep Goel,  Ram Subramaniam and myself quickly settled upon a ‘Multi pronged’ strategy.

We decided first to enlarge the ‘Trainers Pool’ at the level of Addl Commissioners and Commissioners to 75 or so.

These 75 trained officers would in turn train the Superintendents and Inspectors at their doorstep.

And I   supervised this gigantic all India execercise. That virtually meant that I would be travelling around the country at a frenetic pace. And that’s exactly what happened.

On certain days I was not sure as to which city I had woken up in.

My phone never stopped ringing.

Day and night!

I became the roving Commissioner.

In all we trained over a thousand officers within a span of 6 months. Many of them became ‘trainers’.

I soon realised that November 97 training course at NADT Nagpur which I had resented so much had transformed me into a ‘Star’.

 Even after 14 years’ of my retirement many officers and staff remember me as:

 The ‘Training Commissar’!


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