A long journey from Dhani to Department

Author: 
Shrawan Kumar Bhaskar

Shrawan Kumar Bhaskar was born in 1959. He did his schooling from various schools in and around Sikar, Rajasthan. He graduated from Government SK College, after which he pursued a Masters degree in English Literature and then M. Phil. in English from University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

Bhaskar started work as a temporary college teacher in 1981. He joined the Customs and Central Excise Department in 1983 as Inspector.

During his 36 plus years’ of service, Bhaskar picked up extensive expertise in the field of intelligence and investigation work. He also became the ‘go-to person’ in matters relating to fiscal and criminal laws. He surprised many on the sports field with his ability to win race after race, particularly the mid-distance races, with 5000 meters being his favorite.

Bhaskar retired from government service as Assistant Commissioner, IRS in 2019. At present, he is living a contented life at Jaipur.

Life definitely leaves sweet and bitter experiences with each one of us.

I hail from a very backward desert area of Rajasthan where during our growing-up years it was a dream to see a jeep, car or train.

Our small village consisted of about 25 or so houses with a population of less than 100, a cluster known as dhani. Each person, young or old, was intimately known to each other.

 
A dhani in Rajasthan, the smallest village unit.

A dhani in Rajasthan, the smallest village unit.

The village had no hospital or dispensary, the nearest one being 50 kms away at district headquarters, Sikar. The only bus stop about 9 kms away, to be reached only on foot or, in exceptional cases, by camel ride.

Life was so simple and fearless, unimaginable these days. No one cared for the hot temperatures of 40-44 degree Celsius while running here and there.

Our most common games were gilli danda, ghora kabbadi, luk minchani (luka chuppi), later kancha (marbles), kho kho and kite flying in its season. However, kancha and kite flying were considered urban pastimes. I knew no ABCD of cricket at all till my adolescence, i.e. roughly up to 1973.

Eating fresh ber from thorny bushes was a regular feature in winter. Khokha (ripe and dried sangari) of the khejari tree was enjoyable every year. Fresh khejari gum in the winter was an energy booster and tasty too.

In those days there were no roads or electricity in our area, just sand dunes and kachha dusty paths for camel carts or bullock carts which were also the means used in marriage processions to travel from one village to another. 

Everyone trusted each other in the villages. People were always prepared to help each other in the times of need. Marriages, only two-three in a year, were enjoyed like anything and the whole marriage ceremony used to be finished in less than Rs. 100 or less as there were no charge for any service, and all free to each other! Free milk supply by each house as per availability was voluntary with total willingness. Such was the age of nineteen sixties! No adulteration of any kind, not even in thoughts!

School going was always a tough struggle as we were forced to engage ourselves in agricultural activity and remain busy with cattle care only. I did my schooling from various schools in and around Sikar.

There was not a single girl child in the primary school. No school uniform till class 5 - only one shirt, summer or winter. From class 6 till class 11 the uniform was a white shirt and khaki shorts. There were a few girls in these classes and they were seated with strict physical separation.

Full pants / trousers were allowed from the college year in class 12. Pens and ball pens were most uncommon and not allowed to the students till class 5. 

Somehow the village teacher motivated us to study for the primary classes school and then for middle and ultimately for the secondary education.

Yearly Scholarship was the only motivation for further studies as education in those days was very cheap. Till primary school, the expenditure was perhaps not more than Rs. 5-10 for all five years combined. This was also the case with middle school with a slight rise to Rs 50-60 a year.

Secondary education and higher secondary education was taken with the aim to just to become a clerk or a primary teacher if one was a little bit so-called intelligent student as always ranking amongst the top three.

Somehow, my date of birth (DOB) as entered in the school record was greater by two years. I did not realise then that by appearing in the Secondary school exams with the wrong year would have an adverse effect in the future.

After finishing my graduation from Govt SK College, I went on to do Masters in English Literature and then M. Phil. in English from University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

I started my professional career as a temporary college teacher for two years.

An old friend of mine from class 6 in primary school forced me to apply for the position of Inspector. In those days, the name "Customs" was equated with posting at an airport in a white uniform where at least one could see an aeroplane quite closely, as seen in some movies.

I joined the Customs and Central Excise Department leaving my earlier temporary job in 1983 willy nilly. My first posting with the department was at Udaipur in Preventive with a stalwart like Shri Maindola ji for the next three years.

I was in charge of the legal cell throughout the duration of my posting which brought me in touch with the famous standing counsels in the High Court (HC) at Jodhpur.

When I was posted at Jodhpur, I was again with the legal cell though I had no background in law.

It took me a long time to realise the importance of the wrongly entered DOB. I discussed with the Standing Counsel who advised me to file a representation to the department first and then to prefer a writ petition in the HC.

Armed with a duly amended / fortified representation by Shri A. K. Derashree sahib, the then AC, I submitted my representation to the department which, as per my apprehensions, was rejected. The department suggested I get the date changed from the Board of Secondary Education, Ajmer, Rajasthan.

When I approached the Board of Secondary Education, it also turned down my request, saying they never interfere with the DOB recorded in the 10th standard certificate.

I then preferred a Civil Writ Petition (CWP) in the HC through a very junior advocate. He had just one and a half years experience in the practice of law but had a family connection to Mr. Singhvi who was close to the Central Government Standing Counsel (CGSC), having practiced under him.

Meanwhile, a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT was established at Jodhpur and the CWP was transferred to the CAT as an Original Application (O.A.) and that too, within 3-4 months. To my utter surprise, and to the shock of all in the department, my request was allowed by a 7-page judgment with directions to change the DOB.

Department referred the matter to the Board with recommendations to file an appeal in the HC. Instead, the Board referred it to the Law Ministry for its opinion. The Law Ministry opined that no appeal need be filed and the DOB should be changed in the service record, resulting in extra service by 2 years 4 months.

Immediately after this case of change of DOB, some three four dhakar officers also tried for DOB change but all in vain!

Whatever I decide to do anything I always pursue with total dedication and commitment to get the result in my favour - every time and wherever I found a wrong had been done to me or even to the department throughout my service career.

Today, in Rajasthan my colleagues are retiring in the Grade Pay (GP) of Rs. 6600/- only because of my initiatives with first representation to the Chief Commissioner (CC) not to withdraw the GP of Rs. 6600/-, though backed by others simultaneously. The Case is still pending in CAT Jaipur with unconditional stay in our favour and I am sure we will win the case as per my commitment in 2016.

Other similarly situated colleagues in the department have retired in the GP of Rs. 5400/- which is legally wrong in view of the principles of the law estoppels!

❉✼❉

In 2004, I experienced a most shocking, deadly setback. During the process of recovery, I was on a 2-year border posting. On completion of the tenure in 2007, I opted for a posting in Appeals section at Jaipur. To my utter surprise, in spite of my request in writing, I was thrown to Headquarters Anti Evasion (AE) section.

The ADC, AE was not happy with my posting as I had made a request for Appeals section. But the Commissioner did not change my posting .

When the choice of Appeals was again brought to the notice of the Commissioner, he silently whispered, 'Have we given the choice postings to all the officers as per their written requests?'

Obviously, the reply was 'It's not possible to consider the choice of each and every one in AGT. Then why choice posting to him?'

Some ongoing problems referred by the ADC also could not change the Commissioner's mind as he had worked with him in the late nineties.

Being part of AE, I was ordered to be part of the organizing committee for the Central Revenue Sports and Cultural Board (CRSCB) sub-zone meet. I had to remain at the stadium ground for the first time. Till then I was under the impression that only sports persons could participate in the races.

I enquired, "Can I also be permitted to participate in the activities?"

I was informed, "Yes, you can, but it's very difficult for you to compete with the professional sports persons and athletes who have been regularly winning in the sporting activities."

Warrior or not, once I decide to do something, I always try my level best to achieve it. I have been never a sports person in school or department but provoked and instigated to jump, I jumped into the athletic activities by colleagues recruited in the sports quota.

I then decided to join 5000 meters walk which looked easy to me, but I was told to be careful as it was a long and tedious walk.

I knew nothing about the professional athletic walk style but I had courage enough, as I had walked and run in the desert sand dunes with a heavy load on the head every week to visit the nearby town to get things of necessity, such as glass for lantern or chimney etc.

The only bus stop for Sikar town was almost 8-9 kms away and I had to rush through the lonely fields alone, as the stories of ghosts and snakes, etc. in the area always haunted me.

The fear of darkness setting also forced me to walk quickly while returning to the village from Sikar every Saturday evening, just to return on Monday. It was only that time forced practice which made me to feel that I can win.

Next day morning, with all hesitations and apprehensions pushed aside, I started the 5 km walk with the professional athletes in the 40+ category and qualified for the North Zone Meet at Jalandhar. This was heavily appreciated by the convener and the referees.

At Jalandhar, the local professional was Mr. Khan from the Income Tax department. He was much cheered by the crowd while I was discouraged by the local hooters. I could not make it to the national meet but I accepted the challenge for the next time.

In the next sub-zone meet, also while looking after the arrangements as allotted, I participated in 5 km walk as well as 1.5 km run. I qualified for the North Zone Meet followed by the All India National Meet in Pune.

Only the first two participants qualify in the sub-zone and north zone meets but three are given entry in the National meet. I stood third in the All India CRSCB Sports Meet.

I continued to be a participant in the All India CRSCB Sports Meet, 40+ or 50+ every year with one exception when I wrongly opted for 40+, in spite of being 59 and couldn't reach All India!

 
Bhaskar placed second at the CRSCB North Zone Sports Meet 2017-18 in the 5000 meters men's walk for age 40+

Bhaskar placed second at the CRSCB North Zone Sports Meet 2017-18 in the 5000 meters men's walk for age 40+

 
A bronze medal for Bhaskar at the CRSCB North Zone Sports Meet 2018-19.

A bronze medal for Bhaskar at the CRSCB North Zone Sports Meet 2018-19.

Such was the intoxication of the tiny success which was regularly supported by my respected senior professional sports persons that a few of them are now members in the group. It was all without practice! The forced practice in the young age helped me.

I had to abandon 1.5 km run in my mid-fifties as both the events used to be on the same day and sometimes, one followed by another!

Then I participated in swimming for two years along with 5 km walk which I continued till superannuation.

I became part of the All India Civil Service Sports Meets twice with the basketball team and visited Andaman and Nicobar a third time - twice earlier on Leave Travel Concession (LTC).

In my work, I was always rated outstandingly by my seniors in my annual appraisal reports, with a rare 10 out 10 grading for year 1990.

My achievements were duly recognized by the Department in a slew of awards, the special ones being the Presidential Award for Specially Distinguished Record of Service and Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports.

I participated in many competitions organised by the department. From 2007 I regularly participated in various competitions during the 'Hindi Pakhwada' celebrated every year in the month of September. Every year I participated and every year I won prizes. In September 2019, my retirement month, I participated in three competitions and I stood first in each competition, winning a cash bounty of Rs. 4500/-. Principal Commissioner Gupta lauded my efforts and also presented the certificates.

 
Bhaskar receiving Award on Hindi Diwas from Shri Upendra Gupta

Bhaskar receiving Award on Hindi Diwas from Shri Upendra Gupta.

Now lethargy prevails after the superannuation, especially during the lockdown.

I miss the charm of travel at government cost and to see new places every year and meet the new or the old friends there without caring for the postings.

Even after superannuation, I feel I'm still at a learning stage for many things to come.

My problem is that I believe in total faith in the colleagues, friends and seniors till I am deceived by a few of them, which is not uncommon in life. I have seen lot of ups and downs; I have been shown top recognition as well as been thrown into serious trouble by one or two of notorious colleagues in my 37-year long service.

Friends or foe are the normal features in the life and one cannot be free from them as we have to face some unseen situations which always teach us lessons to learn more and more and also how to tackle such problems in the future.

Whatever the situation, I am always prepared to help my friends, with priority given to the people of my small village, though I find myself a little bit uprooted!

Comments

Very well explained.Keep it up.

Rao Sahab, having worked with you too in Jodhpur Customs was also a great time when we took any risk to execute the directions and operations in the field under the guidance of Sh Balesh Kumar Sahab and Sh Kishan Singh Sahab. You too always encouraged us whenever in the field. On my transfer from Jodhpur in 1991, a condition of one seizure case was imposed by Sh Balesh Kumar Sahab which too was fulfilled with 78 kg silver seizure under your supervision! Sir thanks again!

Great innings in the Department Sir, congratulations. I too retd asAC from CCU Chandigarh and many departmental sportsmen ate my friend. You have many accolades. That is commendable. Stay happy n blessed.

I would like to get your story of your early years for indiaofthepast.org.

Very nice sir, well knitted.
You were the gem of department.
Seeks your blessings always..

Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words Hemant Ji. Thanks again!

Your sincerity n hard work paid dividends which laid to glorious n out standing Career.
Most of the boys coming from small villages have similar life they also have all the opportunities to grow if they get some encouragement from colleagues n don't get dis heartened by petty hic ups.They can also very well rise to their aspirations.
People will have lot of inspiration from your real life.
Great bahut badhai ho for all you achieved.

Sir, thanks a lot for your kind encouraging words and wishes!
My regards

Very well written
Experiences !!
The Deptt. was lucky to have such an all rounder like you and benefitted a lot from your resourcefuleness and hard work.
Your friendliness and helping nature towards colleagues will be greately remembered.
All of us, be it your officers, Colleagues or Subordinates have high esteem for you.
What an amazingly glorious journey. Waiting to hear many more stories from you!

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