AT ITI BANGALORE
It was 1978 when my first daughter got less than the minimum marks in her Mathematics paper in the higher secondary examination. She had to take the supplementary examination in October of the same year. When her hall ticket came the centre was mentioned as Kankarbagh in Patna. There was another girl whose centre was also Kankarbag. That girl, her father and my daughter reached Patna the previous day of the examination and enquired at the examination centre. Their names were not there in the list of students appearing for the Mathematics examination next day. The person in charge said he would not be able to admit the girls for the examination. The same night they returned by the Patna-Ranchi train and reached Ranchi early next morning. They were allowed to write the examination at Ranchi. The goof up by the Higher Secondary Board resulted in unnecessary tension for the two girls.
In May 1979 we visited our home village availing leave travel concession from the Company. We also visited Palni a place of pilgrimage for the devotees of Skanda (Kumara, Karthikeya) in Tamilnadu. My cousins had established a thriving hotel business offering both board and lodging at Palni. They were sons of my mother’s elder sister who had been widowed early in life. She lived a Spartan life without luxuries though her sons were very well off. She was disciplined in all her daily activities and kept herself meticulously clean. She used to climb up the palni hills daily to have darshan of her favourite deity. She was a very affectionate woman and used to entertain us and care for us whenever we visited her. Anyone coming to Palni from her village was welcomed and affectionately cared for. Just before our visit, when she was past 95, she had undergone surgery for a fracture of the hip bones. Doctors were surprised that she had withstood the surgery at that age. When we met her she could not recognise us immediately. Some one had to tell her that her sister’s son and his wife and children had come. Her memory had started playing hide and seek. It was the last time that we would ever see her for, after a couple of months, we received the news of her peaceful demise.
In August 1979 I submitted my resignation to the EDP Manager at HEC and was relieved, after a notice period of one month, in September 1979. By this time my eldest son had been selected in campus interview by Indian Tube Company Limited, Jamshedpur. He passed BSc(Engineering) from BITS, Mesra with distinction and straightaway joined Indian Tube Company Limited as Maintenance Engineer in the Seamless Tubes Division. My second son, after passing B.Com, enrolled himself for articleship with a firm of chartered accountants at Ranchi.
My second daughter had been sent to Bangalore one month in advance to stay with my wife’s sister’s family. She had to be put in Class VII. My wife, the first daughter and I joined her in September 1979. My brother-in-law (my wife’s sister’s husband) had arranged a house for us on a monthly rent of Rs. 180. It had rooms lined up in a straight line like the coaches in a train. The room at the front was a bed room. Behind that was a narrow strip of a room which was used as a Puja room. Behind that was another room followed by the kitchen. There were verandas on three sides. There was a lake nearby on the banks of which benches had been laid for people to sit.
This brother-in-law of mine was working for HAL as an electrical engineer maintaining high tension lines. Those days public sector salaries were much below those offered by private companies of repute. About 1981 he landed a job in Bahrain as an electrician. The decision to leave a permanent job in a Public Sector company was not easy to take as the risks involved could not be foreseen. He had to pass through many ups and downs but finally, after a few years of toil, he was able to establish a stable electrical business in Dubai with a reliable partner and a local sponsor.
My first daughter was admitted to first year BA in Hasanath College for girls. The college was just ten minutes from our house. She didn’t have to travel by bus. Those days bus services were very poor in Bangalore. My second daughter was also admitted in a nearby English medium school. I used to go to office by the Company bus.
In 1981 August I bought a piece of land measuring 1200 Square feet at Dyavasandra Village in Krishnarajapuram of Bangalore South Taluq. The cost including registration was Rs.3000.00. I had to raise that money by pledging the jewellery of my wife with a nationalised bank. To acquire this piece of land I had to get the permission from the General Manager(Administration) of ITI which was one of the oldest Central Government Public Sector Enterprises. Such were the rules in the Government departments. Later, about the year 1992, I sold the land for Rs. 32000 to the son of the person from whom I had bought the land. He had been pestering me for sometime saying that his father had sold it under straitened circumstances. My wife had been visiting my second daughter at Trichur. She was not happy about this deal and expressed her displeasure at my having taken this decision without keeping her informed.
ITI had a main frame computer, DEC10 of the Digital Equipment Corporation of USA. COBOL was used to program the computer. It had its own proprietary operating system. The database management system which was also proprietary was called DBMS10. Computing power-wise it could not compete with even the present day desktop computers (2010). It had an interactive query language called IQL. The first application I developed was relating to Human Resources. I designed a form in which department, educational qualifications, age, skills and other details were collected and input into the system. From this database I could generate reports on the skill profile, age profile and educational profile of the human resources in the company. I also created specifications for development of computer applications in production, maintenance, finance, costing, materials, HR, sales and marketing and other areas. I was asked to give lectures to the staff on computer applications and allied subjects.
Our AGM in the Management Services Division was interested in computerising operations in the Head office. Those were days when personal computers had appeared on the computing scene. Word processing and spread sheet software were available for the PCs. Though they were called personal computers they could be used in the offices also. Only BASIC was available as a programming language for the PCs. I wrote programs in BASIC for evaluation of Investment proposals, Consolidation of unit accounts of ITI and Accounting of loans granted by the Government of India. This last application considerably reduced manual labour in keeping track of each and every loan, computing interest and penal interest, where applicable, on each loan separately and remitting the amount to Government account. The supervisor doing this work was relieved of the tedium involved. She was profuse in expressing her thanks though what I had done was part of my job.
One of those days our AGM had left his car at a garage for some repairs. He had to attend a 13th day ceremony of a relative who had died. He was reminded by his wife that he should attend the function. A friend who had come to meet him offered to drop him at the place where he had to go. Our AGM who was six feet tall rode pillion on his friend’s motor bike with both his legs on one side. At one point his friend suddenly applied the breaks to avoid a pedestrian who suddenly crossed his path. Our AGM was thrown off the bike by the sudden breaking and his head struck forcefully against the kerb. His friend took him to the Bowring Hospital from where the friend telephoned us in the office. When we reached the hospital our AGM was in a daze. He was disoriented because of the impact. Still he could recognise us. There was no injury except a lump like a swelling on the forehead. Because of the head injury he was taken to Nimhans for medical care and his family was informed. He died the second day at Nimhans. It was a great shock to all of us. Had our AGM sat astride the pillion instead of keeping both his legs on one side he would not have been thrown off the bike like that. Fate had played a cruel role in his death.
In 1982 I availed of leave travel concession from the Company. My second son and two daughters accompanied me on the journey. We travelled to Tiruchirappalli in Tamilnadu by train. From there we travelled to Karaikudi, the seat of Electro Chemical Research Institute of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of India. My wife’s cousin’s husband was a Senior Scientist at the Institute and his daughter was getting married. We attended the marriage and reached Tiruchendur by bus around 9 PM. We were given a cottage on the sea shore for the night. No sooner had we settled down in the cottage the lights went off because of power failure. The pitch darkness, the sound of sea waves breaking on the shore, whistling of the air rushing through the branches of trees and the rattling of the windows created a scary atmosphere. I asked the children to stay there until I got candles and a match box from the shops which were some distance away from the cottage. But they were too scared to stay in the cottage and all of them came out with me to the shop. We returned to the cottage as soon as power was restored. We prayed at the temple at Tiruchendur, considered as one of the six main holy places at which Skanda (karthikeya) presides. From there we went to Mandapam on the way to Rameswaram. We stayed there for the night and crossed over to Rameswaram by train (This was before the land bridge was constructed from Mandapam to Rameswaram) We bathed in the sea and had darshan of Ramanatha swamy, an aspect of Siva worshipped by Lord Rama. We returned to Bangalore by the same route by which we had arrived at Rameswaram.
During the year 1983 a Senior Accounts Officer and I were asked to prepare a uniform Accounts Manual for ITI incorporating, Accounting, Costing, Budgeting, Computerised Accounts and other related areas. There were branches of ITI at Palghat in Kerala, Naini, Rai Bareli and Mankapur in UP and Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir. Each unit was following its own procedures; there was no standardisation or uniformity. Hence the need for a Manual laying down uniform procedures. We visited the different branches and studied and documented the procedures. This took us more than 6 months. We then wrote the Manual incorporating the best procedures to be followed uniformly by all the branches. It was a voluminous work running into more than 700 pages.
The Director Finance wrote a preface to the book and copies were sent to all the units and departments for implementing the procedures.
While I was working with ITI Bangalore it struck me one day that I should do something to get my terminal benefits from the P & T Department. I had served the department faithfully for fifteen years from 1951 to 1966. It was from the 1st of October 1966 that I was absorbed in the service of Heavy Engineering Corporation, Ranchi in public interest. According to the rules then in force, an amount equal to the contribution of Government to my Provident Fund Account, had I been subject to the Provident fund Rules, with simple interest at 2% per annum, was to be transferred to my PF Account at Heavy Engineering corporation Limited. This amount was to be transferred after five years of completion of service in the Public Sector Undertaking. In my case it was to be transferred by 1969 but until 1979 when I joined ITI the amount had not been transferred to my PF Account with HEC. The Director General, P&T, New Delhi had endorsed a copy of the letter permitting my absorption in HEC to the Director of Audit and Accounts, P&T, Madras asking the latter to arrange the above payment. From 1969 to 1979 it was already 10 years and there was no word about it from the the Director of Audit and Accounts, P &T, Madras. When I wrote to the office of the DAA, P & T Madras, I was told that my service book was not traceable. After protracted correspondence and after my providing copies of the documents available with me a sum of Rs. 3050 was paid to me in 1990 from Bangalore GPO after a lapse of 20 years. Had this amount been transferred to my PF Account by 1969 it would have earned interest at 10% per annum compounded annually for 20 years. I kept up the correspondence for interest with all the offices concerned for another 10 years. I wrote to the Postmaster General, D G P&T, Department of Personnel, Ministry of Finance but every one passed the buck to some other department. I even wrote to the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister knowing fully well that it would be disposed of at the level of some under secretary at the most. I then realised that for the bureaucracy each case is only a statistic figuring in reports of cases received, cases disposed of and cases pending. It does not see the human face behind all these cases. It can push the case to some other department or return it with some silly objection and show it as disposed of in the report submitted to those up in the hierarchy. Finally, frustrated, I dumped the file of 30 years and mentally offered whatever I had done on this case to the Lord of Guruvayur, my favourite deity and never again thought of chasing the mirage.