In the initial years of my service, I was posted on a sensitive post at Meerut. The job involved the regularisation or demolition of unauthorised constructions within the defined limits of the city. Such constructions were in plenty and they were either being ignored or compromised by the department. There were many reasons for such a situation, including the collusion of the department at various levels. The department, known as the development authority, was newly formed and was not headed properly for quite sometime. It was another valid reason for the bad state of affairs. It was around this time that I was posted as secretary of the authority, who was the chief executive for all practical purposes.
As a young officer, I tried to streamline the working of the authority at the earliest. This included attending to the pending cases, which were in plenty and also to pay attention to the ongoing irregular constructions. Once, such a construction included the extension of a charitable hospital to the main road of the town. The hospital belonged to a trust owned by a known person of the town. I had come in contact with him during my previous assignment in the same district and had developed a good regard for him mainly due to his charitable activities.
Against this background, when the fact of the unauthorised construction in the hospital was attended by the authority, the owner contacted me for its disposal. I, myself, was sympathetic to the issue and wanted to settle it in the best possible manner. Since the matter was compoundable, it was decided that it should be dealt with a sympathetic attitude. But the rules of compounding were very clear and there was only limited discretion available to me, which I used in his favour mainly on account of the purpose for which the building was being used. The owner was perhaps expecting complete waiver of the penalty, which I neither understood at that point of time nor would have done so, even if, he would have expressed his desire. I felt happy that I had helped the trust in the best possible manner and the matter ended there.
Few months after the incident, I was transferred to Lucknow from Meerut. On my transfer, the head of the trust invited me over a cup of tea at his residence along with my wife. Though at a personal level we had never visited each other before, I accepted the invitation. While having tea at his residence, the Seth called me to a corner of his house and mentioned his hospital case. I thought he was doing so for expressing his gratitude but I was surprised when he complained of excessive penalty in the matter. I explained to him my limitations and also told him that whatever help was possible had already been provided by me. But instead of being satisfied, he told me that if I needed something from him, I should have conveyed it to him. He further advised me that, while one should appear to be honest in service, some hens that can give golden eggs should always be reared. These two sentences of the Seth amazed me and I had no words to say. The Seth whose name began with ‘Shikhar’ had fallen to the lowest level in my eyes. How could I explain him that honesty is a state of mind and not a show business, which I have realised all through my life.