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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences
Former Director General, National Human Rights Commission
Former Director, National Police Academy

The news of the demise of versatile grand old man Russi Mody brings back to mind many old memories. I first met Russi Mody in his plush office at the Tata Iron & Steel Company (TISCO) at Jamshedpur. I was at that time posted at Jamshedpur as the Asst. Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Short, fair-complexioned with a cherubic face and flashy eyes, he was bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. He had just joined as the Managing Director of Tata Iron and Steel Company replacing R.S. Pandey, an IAS officer of Bihar cadre. Even in our first meeting, he spoke stridently and at length of corruption and mal-administration in the steel plant under his predecessor and made clear his plan to set things right by launching a cleansing campaign. He further said that corruption in any country or organization starts upstream and hence he will first target some of the big fish. True to his word, he did this with a vengeance. Some of the senior officers of the steel plant were unceremoniously booted out and the clear message was sent that the new boss would not suffer people with questionable integrity. There were dark whispers that the cleansing drive was selective and people reportedly close to Pandey were shown the door. But I could learn from friends and other reliable sources that officers given marching orders and were really persons of dubious integrity, who got their just deserts.

During my tenure in Jamshedpur, I used to meet him off and on and discussed many issues and events. He was always gracious, but invariably frank and forthright in his opinion about important men and events in Bihar as well as in Delhi. He had a group of Young Turks loyal and close to him. These young acolytes were viewed as carpet baggers by other TISCO officers and were subjects of vituperative, and, at times, malicious comments. I had occasion to interact with some of them and was impressed by their intelligence, gift of the gab and loyalty to Mody.

Mody however, was very popular with the workers of Tata Steel Plant. They lionized him and looked up to him as their benevolent protector. Indeed, some of them were fanatically loyal to him. Though, at times, erratic and mercurial, he was always broad-minded and regal so far the TISCO workers and their family members were concerned. But because of his explosive temper and off the cuff abrupt remarks, he made quite a few enemies, who were spoiling to settle scores with him. He was not very popular with the district administration, though TISCO was bending backwards to cater to the various and, at times, unreasonable demands of the district administration. The then District Magistrate, perhaps, with the covert encouragement of the Chief Minister, wanted to twist his tail and harass him by framing some odd cases. There was no substance in them. Different wings of the district administration and State Intelligence Agencies collected report about various omissions and commissions of Mody and the plan was to slap some criminal cases against him. I had to intervene and make clear to the district authorities, if this overtly malicious course of action is pursued, I shall have no other option but to report the whole matter to the Intelligence Bureau and the Ministry of Home Affairs, exposing the shenanigans of the district administration. This perhaps was the clincher. Good sense prevailed on the district authorities and they desisted from this clumsy and vindictive exercise.

From Jamshedpur, I went on transfer to Delhi as the Deputy Inspector General of Police in the Shah Commission of Enquiry that was set up to probe into the excesses of the emergency, imposed by Indira Gandhi. Mody used to tell me of some of the gross excesses perpetrated by district administration during the emergency when citizens could not exercise their fundamental rights and the lamp of democracy had been snuffed out. As an industrialist, he was happy at the peace and order prevailing in the country but overwhelming concentration of power in one centre and consequent misuse of authority deeply distressed him. I heard from him how JRD Tata was forced to drop Nani Palkhiwala from some of the boards of Tata Companies because of extraneous pressures on him. Palkhiwala had become persona non grata because of his principled, courageous stand against the emergency.

After my innings in the Shah Commission, I went back to my parent Cadre in Orissa and was posted in Rourkela as the Western Range DIG. Keonjhar, a mining district, inhabited mainly by the tribal population, was in the Western range. During one of my visits to Keonjhar, I had gone to inspect the Police High School there. The school building was creaking and crumbling and there was no hostel for the wards of the police personnel so continue their studies uninterruptedly when they move out on transfer. The limited sum available with the District Welfare Fund was inadequate for the construction of a new hostel building.

TISCO had a number of iron mines in Keonjhar district and had maintained good relations with the district police. Drawing on my old friendship, I wrote a letter to Russi Mody seeking help from TISCO for construction of a hostel building. In my letter, I mentioned that the resources of the district police were limited and we would very much appreciate a generous gesture from TISCO. Response of Mody was prompt and gracious. He sent a cheque of rupees one lakh on behalf of TISCO. Never before TISCO had helped any institution of Orissa Police in this manner. In a Thank-You letter to Mody, I wrote that this gesture in keeping with the philanthropic traditions of TISCO has been deeply appreciated by the district police personnel. This was my last official contact with him.

Subsequently, I briefly met him on a few occasions either at airports or in some social functions. He had by that time fallen out of favour with Tata management and its helmsman Ratan Tata and was ploughing a lonely furrow. The old fire had gone but he remained alert and articulate as before and the light in his eyes flashed occasionally.

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