Random Thoughts : One Day in Office as Commissioner

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.

One day in the life a Commissioner

I was a IRS indirect taxes service officer from November  71  till retirement in 2007.

Let me recount the  one day routine of my days as Commissioner of Customs. Ahmedabad.

Custom House Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad Custom House 

As is well known Commissioner is the last word in his Commisionerate which is his jurisdiction.

The tablet on the table says

‘The Buck Stops Here ‘

That means everyday Commissioner has to make several decisions. In various areas of work .

The Commissioner can consult and seek guidance etc but eventually the decision is of the Commissioner.

Once having taken the decision there's no going back. The decision will be conveyed to those who are awaiting the decision swiftly.

No scope for a rethink.

The decision can go right or wrong or end up not satisfying anyone.

If it goes wrong the blame is on you. If it's the right decision then everyone shares the joy. But if does not satisfy the stakeholders Commissioner will still get the blame. .

But decision makers can't please everyone. It’s not their job to keep everyone happy. 

Commissioner has to do the right thing. And run the administration smoothly.

Commissioner can't afford to not to take a decision. delaying decision making is itself taking a decision

Recall what PM Rao exclaimed even as Babri Masjid was being demolished.

 Some decisions are far reaching. Others are just routine. Like sanctioning leave to the staff.

But the typical day for a Commissioner begins pretty routinely. But the first half is crucial. The first half sets the pace.

As soon as the Commissioner reaches office the fun and games begin.

Deal with urgent pending matters on priority.  Meet junior officials for updates and developments. Read the important mail. Make a few calls. Attend a meeting meetings  . Meet the visitors  waiting in the ante room.

Appointment or no appointment.

Take a ten minute break for tea with biscuits. Many a times the ten can stretch a lot more if a colleague drops in.  

 Anti - smuggling operations are a different kettle of fish. If an operation is going on the Commissioner is available round the clock.

Gold Seizure by Ahmedabad Customs
Gold Seizures by Ahmedabad Customs 

Even the car used to be equipped with wireless and connected to base at the office.

Directions have  to be given on the feedback. Smugglers don't wait for Commissioner to reach office.

They go by their own schedule.

Now days of course the cell phones keep one connected 24× 7.

Lunch time. Lunch in the room. With a colleague if possible.  It’s lonely at the top.  Bit of a snooze and then one is ready for the second half of the day.

But as evening approaches some  important issue or the other is more than likely to drop in your lap.

Has to be dealt with even if it means delay in leaving office and reaching home.

And the days on which Parliament is in session  Parliament questions consume all your time.

The urgency is replying is paramount. Particularly Starred Questions. They eat up your head. The MPs sure know how to ‘word’ the question teasingly. Probably written by an ex Babu.

Someday your boss might to drop in to inspect your office. Day gone without routine.

Same for visit of Parliamentary committee or some other committee. Or sports days during Zonal sports meet.

Overall the day starts innocuously and routinely but it can implode in your face quite quickly.

But in between there are routine days when the going is all normal and smooth. Those days look very dull.

After all officers too want some excitement.

But let me say this loudly and clearly: office day for Group A officers is rarely a bed of roses.

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