An officer can also Dream

7th May
By - K.J. Alphons

New Delhi: I have been in the IAS for the past 16 years. I have been able to do almost whatever I wanted to during this time. I have almost been militantly independent. I have had no interference in my job at all. Surprisingly, this is only my fifth posting. Many people say that the system does not allow anyone to do what he wants to do. Therefore, nothing much happens in this country.

I have never blamed the system. I believe I am the system. I believe that every officer in the All-India Services should create systems under which he can function effectively. Instead of blaming the system, if people get down to applying themselves, they can achieve miracles.

One does have to be a revolutionary, or to have revolutionary ideas either. One merely has to play around and create the system wherever one is functioning. This is what I have tried to do.

I have never talked about revolutionary ideas. I have always talked about pedestrian ideas. There is nothing revolutionary in literacy, family planning, health care or even demolition of buildings. These are the most pedestrian ideas that anybody can think about.

I specialize in the art of getting to the roots of pedestrian ideas and getting them done effectively.

There are tons of literature written on literacy. There are tons of literature written on family planning. And, corruption and any other subject of importance you care to name. Nothing happens. But I find that some of these problems are the easiest to work upon.

We took up the most pedestrian idea first –literacy. We made Kottayam the first fully literate town in the country. We went on to become the district with the highest literacy in the world --- 99.6 per cent.

We mobilised the entire district and we had about 15.000 volunteers to take our message to every home. We had to work very hard. We put in a lot of time and effort. But it was not impossible. We did it.

We implemented family planning with the same zeal as literacy. Even though Kottayam district has a 40 per cent Christian population, mostly Catholic, whose church forbids any form of planning, the district became the most successful in family planning.

It became the first district in the country to go under 10 in birth rate, under 10 in infant mortality rate and under one in maternal mortality rate. Infant mortality in India is 77 per 1000 and maternal mortality is 4 per 1000. The district which should have been the biggest failure in family planning became the success story. How did we do it? We just did it.

After all, there is nothing original about family planning.

People told me that I had done a brilliant job, demolishing 14,000 unauthorised structures in Delhi. We have touched the Who’s Who of Delhi. I don’t understand what is so brilliant about demolishing structures. You do not need brilliance to demolish buildings. All you need is guts and common sense. The technology we use is very simple. I use bulldozers. They are very strong. I support them with my mental strength.

I have also developed the requisite mental strength in a lot of people around me. I don’t need to be everywhere lending my mental strength to the bulldozers anymore.

My men in the field have it too. The same men who would sit up all night before they touched a brick in the Capital, do not bat an eyelid now before demolishing a mansion of the most powerful politician in the Capital now.

I merely have to lead them by example. The example was not intellectual brilliance or extraordinary capabilities. It was one of merely exhibiting good intentions and a sense of purpose in one’s job. Once my subordinates saw it they picked up the drift.

The same men who would be making millions in the past through allowing illegal structures are the people doing an excellent job today. Most of them have lost their earnings. But they are happy that I have given them honour. Today the land department of the DDA is feared and respected. Everyone knows we mean business. (An extract form Making a Difference)