M. M Khajooria
5th of January happens to be the Death Anniversary of the Iron Man of Jammu-
Pt. Trilochan Dutt. He was the only political leader who enjoyed undiluted popularity across the length and breadth of Jammu region -from Pir Panchal to Suchetgarh and Loran to Lakhanpur- Cutting across the religious and caste barriers. Honest to the point of fault, completely committed to the service of the people he worked 12-14 hours 24x7and demanded the same ,perhaps longer schedule from bureaucrats when he was in the government. I should know because I happened to work with him as State Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner after the Indo-Pak war of 1971. And my elder brother late Shri Om Prakash, an IAS officer was the Director of Agriculture under him. He was, perhaps the only politician who deposited an undated Letter of Resignation in his pocket after taking the oath of office.
He strictly adhered to the Principal of Joint-Responsibility in the functioning of the cabinet and in its solidarity. The Chief Minister was the first amongst the equals. In fact, he resigned after some orders within the jurisdiction of the cabinet were issued by the Chief Minister on the advise of the Chief Secretary and would not withdraw even after PM Indra Gandhi spoke to him. Finally the issue was resolved by revising the Rules of Business of the Cabinet. Two items are worth mentioning. One.If the Chief Minister has to pass an order otherwise in the jurisdiction of the cabinet, he should mention this to his accessible cabinet colleague. Otherwise an explanatory note listing reasons for deviation be appended with the circulated for approval of the members of the cabinet “by circulation”. Two. Every cabinet minister has the right to summon any file from any department, record his observations, comments/ recommendation and send the file to the cabinet minister concerned. In case of disagreement the concerned cabinet minister will submit the file to the cabinet for final orders. Given the manner in which the cabinets have been functioning for quite some time, there may be a lesson for cabinet minister of today in this narration. Incidentally, I am talking about single party governments whose members were close personal friends and long time comrades in struggle, not coalitions like the one we have in place at the present. The Jammu ministers in fact have greater responsibility.
Pandit ji, as his admirers addressed him, respected public servants, stood by them in times of undeserved stress and their right to dignity and independence. But he was unsparing when someone crossed the red-line. As an illustration, I may recall an incident in a cabinet meeting when the Chief Secretary intervened in a somewhat heated discussion between ministers. Turning towards the Chief Secretary Panditji said “Mr — you are secretary to the cabinet, not a cabinet minister. You may kindly speak only when you are spoken to”.
He worked 10-12 hors 24X7. His officers had to work longer hours because early morning he would call up for update and action according to schedules prescribed by him. I should know. I functioned as Relief and Rehabilitations Commissioner after 1971-Indo-Pak war and my elder brother Shri Om Prakash Khajooria IAS was his Director Agriculture.
People with problems and complaints thronged his residence. He listened to each one of them but suffered no lengthy and irrelevant preambles. One had to come to the point straight away and will get equally straight and unimabigious response. Any complaint, he found to be motivated or frivolous would attract instant reprimand. A chain smoker, he always carried a pack of 555, his pet brand. If he made a note on the reverse of the pack, the concerned job was as good as done. Incidentally, the other Jammu Stalwart Pt. Girdahri Lal Dogra would not only listen to every body but sometimes accompany them to even the lowest functionry to get the matter expedited. One wonders why cannot our present breed of ministers, most of them first time, shed their arrogance and follow in the foot steps of their blusterous predecessors?
He was very keen on officers/ officials from Jammu region getting their share of responsible positions in the administration and stoutly resisted premature transfers. Those days no one talked of ‘Transfer industry’. He knew that the devil is in detail and ensured that Jammu officers/officials get their due share in training courses outside the State and were deputed in time.
Pandit Trilochan Dutt is no more but his foot prints on the sands of history will beckon all those genuinely committed to public service to the destination that is genuine, sincere and dedicated public service. Who said there are no honest politicians?
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