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Best Government Servant

 

Best Government Servant

 

The happiest day of his life! Dr. Krishnan Namboodiri, aged 38 is going to join as Lower Division Clerk in the Taluk Office at a small town in the State of Kerala. Though the minimum educational qualification prescribed for a clerk is SSLC (10th Class) pass, Krishnan is M.A., MPhil, PhD in Gandhian Studies. He belongs to a Brahmin family which had a wealthy family lineage in the past. His parents who are still alive and living with him were bequeathed just one acre of land. Krishnan’s father is a retired school teacher and he had to spend all his hard earned savings to marry off his two daughters.

On the way to the Taluk Office to join service Krishnan seated comfortably on a seat in a bus and started to ruminate on his life journey so far. The bus will take one hour to reach the destination and there was sufficient time for him to recollect. Krishnan had a pleasant trip in life till his age of 25 when he completed his education. From there started his bitter wounding tread over brambly path. Characteristic of the ideal Brahmins, his father was an honest man, sincere, committed and affable to the pupils, colleagues as well as neighbours. He never lied in his life. Krishnan’s mother, a housewife, was equally noble, affable and serviceable to the neighbourhood. Krishnan had first class for his SSLC and then joined Pre Degree Course in Newman College, Thodupuzha. His father, a Gandhian was his role model and Krishnan was attracted to the Gandhian thoughts and way of life even from his childhood. The great values of Ahimsa, Non-violence, truth, patriotism etc. moulded and guided his life. Krishnan’s ambition was to take PhD in Gandhian philosophy. After his Pre Degree course, which again he passed with a first class, he joined there in Newman College for B.A. History. He was attracted to the students union SFI (Students Federation of India) which fought for the rights of the students. He was a good orator and his basic good qualities and values enabled him to become the chairman of the college union. Though SFI was a left oriented union Krishnan was all against violence and unnecessary strikes in the college. He graduated with a high first class and he got admission for MA Gandhian Studies in the school of Gandhian Thought and Development Studies in Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. The scholarship he got there was sufficient for his stay there and a financial relief to his father. Krishnan was very brilliant in his studies and the most favourite of his teachers. After his MA he joined for MPhil there and after that PhD. His academic life of six years in the university campus remains the most memorable period of his life.

After his heavenly campus life the real challenges of future stared at him. For a pauper youth like him education is primarily a means to earn livelihood. But in his State, Kerala where literacy rate is 95% and unemployment rate 15%, there was nothing bright for him to dream of. One gets placement not just because of his academic merit and skill but based on political, financial influence one can exert. Unfortunately Krishnan had neither money nor political connection to bargain for him. His father had already retired and his meagre pension of Rs. Rs. 15000 was the sole income of the family for their sustenance. Krishnan was compelled to seek some job and help his father in maintaining the family. He applied for whatever job opportunities he was eligible for—from last grade post to officer level. The government tests, interviews and appointment take much time, even years. He decided to take tuition classes for pupils and students. He had some command in English language and that helped him to take tuition classes for both school pupils and college students. He could also take classes on Social Studies but no pupil needed it. English always is nightmare for ordinary Indian students and hence there was much opportunity for him to teach them in the morning and evening before and after the school hours. From early morning till 9 am and from 4.30 pm to 8 pm Krishnan took classes in the students’ houses. He taught in a parallel college History and Economics from 10 am to 4 pm. He could earn Rs. 15,000 monthly through these classes.

Years passed one after another and Krishnan’s longing and prayer for a government job also passed unheeded by the Creator. Krishnan was now 30 and his mother became almost bed ridden due to arthritis. Fortunately father was healthy enough to manage the domestic duties of cooking, cleaning etc. The family was not in a position to keep a maid servant as it needed minimum Rs. 10000 as her monthly salary. Krishnan’s father and mother compelled him to marry but Krishnan replied:

“Dear dad, how can I afford to have another member in this family when my earning is so less? Being a self employed man I can’t expect a partner who is government employed. For ma’s treatment we need to spare some amount.”

“Ok, son, as you decide,” father said.

“But how long will you stay single, son? You are already 30 now,” mother replied.

“Let’s wait ma. Maybe within a year I may get a government job. I have appeared for so many PSC tests,” Krishnan continued.

The reply from his mother was only a deep sigh and whisper: “Lord Krishna save us!”

Time can’t stand still till Krishnan got a government job. Krishnan entered into his 33rd year. Mother’s condition was worsening and father also showed the symptoms of old age.  Finally Krishnan consented for his marriage. He being an ideal youth was against dowry system and wanted to marry a poor girl having post graduation. He hated caste system and wanted his bride to be belonging to a backward community. Fortunately his parents were never against his wishes and views. Thus he registered his name in keralamatrimonial.com showing his familial, professional, financial details and his expectancies of the bride’s qualities and educational qualifications. Being a self employed youth he had less market in the matrimonial world but since his expectancies were affordable for poor girls he got some proposals. He selected a girl named Seetha who was fair enough and a post graduate in English literature. No doubt she too was unemployed and taught in some tuition centre. Krishnan’s and Seetha’s wedding took place in a very simple manner in the Registrar Office near to his house and the guests and friends, very few in number, were given a simple dinner in a hotel.

Krishnan continued his teaching as a home tuition master as well as in the parallel college and Seetha remained in the house as a housewife doing all domestic duties and serving as a nurse to her mother-in-law. Krishnan’s hope of getting a government job was waning but still he continued to apply for Kerala Public Service Commission’s tests. The tests were becoming tougher and tougher as to eliminate as many candidates as possible from the lakhs who appeared. A daughter was born to Krishnan and Seetha two years after their marriage. And a son also was born after another three years. Destiny continued to wound Krishnan, and Seetha showed symptoms of liver cirrhosis. The treatment was very costly and Krishnan took a loan from a bank pledging their ancestral property.

At last God heeded to Krishnan’s and his family’s prayer. He got appointment as a lower division clerk in the revenue department at the age of 38. Maybe he was considered taking into consideration his upper age limit. After 36 one can’t apply for PSC tests. The postman brought the appointment letter on a Saturday when Krishnan was there in his house. Saturdays are holidays for the college where he taught. He was exhilarated when he opened the envelope. He shared the happy news with his parents and wife. They were all jubilant.

Krishnan got down at the town at 9.30 am and took an auto rickshaw to the Taluk Office. The office was open but none was found there. He waited there on the verandah. By 10 am the staff strolled into the office one after another. When they were settled on their seats Krishnan approached the person seated near to the entrance door. There were heaps of files on the table before him.

“Sir, I have come to join as LDC in this office,” showing the appointment order Krishnan told.

“Go and meet the Tahsildar in that cabin.”

Krishnan went to the cabin and greeted the Tahsildar, a gray haired man:

“Good morning Sir! My name is Krishnan Namboodiri and I have come to join in this office,” he handed the appointment order to him.

Looking into the appointment order the Tahsildar asked him to sit. He asked Krishnan’s whereabouts. Then he took the attendance register and entered Krishnan’s name and asked him to put his signature.

“Krishnan, this office is going very smoothly with little complaints from the public. So you have to do your duties very promptly as others are. There is harmony in our work and therein lies our success. Whatever doubts you have regarding the file works you can ask me as well as to the section clerk near to your table,” the Tahsildar told him.

“Surely Sir, I will be very dutiful in my work,” Krishnan replied.

The Tahsildar then called the peon and asked him to show Krishnan’s seat. Krishnan was led to a chair and a table heaped with dusty files. Thus started Krishnan’s office life. The section clerks seated near to his table introduced themselves to him and extended all help.

Krishnan could learn his section work very easily. The junior superintendent who was his section head was a man of few words and rather a nagging character. Loving words never came from his mouth.

After a month in the office Krishnan became friendly with other clerks and could learn each one’s character. He was the only one in the office with post graduation. He found that the entire staffs were lazy in their work but greedy for bribe. He could find on some days the peon serving small envelops to the section clerks and others. He guessed that the envelops contained currency since he heard the section clerk nearby to him asking the peon how much was there in it.

A week after by 4 pm the peon was serving the envelops and he offered one to Krishnan. “What’s it Raju?” Krishnan asked the peon.

“It’s a tip from some generous customer, Sir.”

“Sorry, I can’t take it. I don’t want any present for my duty.”

“Sir, this is the practice in our office. Everyone is getting the share.”

“I call it bribe and I am against such practice.”

“In that case I will have to report to the Tahsildar. Sir, unless you accept it you may be transferred. It happened to some lady clerk a few years back.”

“Sorry, I can’t do anything against my conscience.”

The peon reported the matter to the Tahsildar and immediately Krishnan was called to him.

“Krishnan, don’t be like Lord Krishna. I told you on the very first day that you will have to cooperate with us and go in harmony. These petty amounts are presents given to us very happily by the customers for the service we render to them. We haven’t asked them any fee or reward,” the Tahsildar said.

“Sorry Sir, I call it bribe. Even if they give unasked we are not bound to accept it. We are paid by the government for the work we are doing. I believe it is the people’s money through taxes which we are getting as salary and we are bound to serve them free in return.”

“I don’t want to argue with you. There are twenty two staffs in this office and none finds any wrong in accepting these compliments. You will have to bear the consequences if you swim against the flow of this office.”

“Sorry Sir, I can’t tolerate it. My conscience doesn’t allow me.”

“Ok, you may go to your seat.”

Krishnan went to his seat quite upset. Then other section clerks one by one came to him and asked to change his decision. The superintendents called him to their seats and advised him. But Krishnan couldn’t change his decision and accept the envelope.

Reaching home Krishnan told his parents and wife what had happened in the office.

Seetha said, “If they transfer you to some distant place what will we do? Ma and I are sick. Father can’t alone manage the household activities.”

Then father said, “Seetha, do you want him to be corrupt? Whatever be the consequences, dear son, don’t accept such money.” Mother also supported father’s words.

“Dad, I never want my husband to be corrupt. I just reminded the possible consequences,” Seetha replied.

“Daughter, we will manage somehow. God is with us,” father said.

As expected and feared, Krishnan got the transfer order after a week. He was transferred to a village office at a remote place in the high ranges. Krishnan was unmoved. He decided to file a complaint in the high court after joining in the village office. He was given full support from his parents and wife. He had to stay in a house near the village office as a paying guest. Fighting against the chilly weather Krishnan continued his work in the office serving poor people of the locality. They were given the certificates and other needed documents at the earliest. He could work in the office in the late evenings and expedite the service. Fortunately the village officer was also an honest, service minded man.

Krishnan filed a bribery case in the high court against the Tahsildar and the entire staffs of the Taluk Office. As a student he had pledged that he would fight against bribery when a chance came. He pawned Seetha’s gold to meet the advocate’s fees. He had already recorded in his cell phone the talks between him and the peon, the Tahsilar, the superintendents and other clerks and other staffs in the Taluk Office regarding the cash envelope which he rejected. He produced the voice recordings as evidence to the advocate.

The trial date came after a month and he was interrogated by his own advocate and the respondents’ advocate and finally the judge himself. So also the entire staffs of the Taluk Office and even a few customers who gave them bribes were interrogated by Krishnan’s advocate. There was clear evidence of the bribery which the entire staffs had been accepting from the customers. The judge pronounced the verdict. He in the order requested the government to transfer the entire staff of the Taulk Office to remote areas and cut their future increments for two years. In addition each one of them should pay a fine ranging from Rs. 50000 to 10000, based on their designation, from which Krishnan would be given Rs. 2 lakhs as reward for his fearless fight against corruption. Moreover, Krishnan should be transferred to his home town with an additional increment to his salary.

The news of the verdict covered the front page of all newspapers and flashed as hot news of all TV channels. Thus Krishnan became a hero. He was given a warm reception by the Governor of Kerala where he was awarded the BEST GOVERNMENT SERVANT.