In the early years of my service, I was posted for a few months as Deputy Secretary in the Industries Department of the U.P. Govt. In that capacity, I was also a Director on the Board of a company. The financial condition of the company was bad and no production was going on due to labour unrest. The main reason of unrest was non-payment of wages for a long time. Soon after my joining I was required to attend a meeting of its Board in New Delhi.
I was a new officer at that time and hardly knew the intricacies of industrial management. All that I noticed in the Board meeting was discussion on justifying the non-payment of wages. All senior Board members seemed to agree with the arguments placed by the Managing Director who appeared to be a very clever person. Whether on account of lack of knowledge or courage or both, I could not raise my objections forcefully and my feeble efforts to do so bore no results. I, therefore, had to sign on the dotted lines. The meeting for which thousands of rupees were paid as TA and DA, thus ended in almost half an hour.
This left us with ample time to enjoy the drinks and snacks. I being a teetotaler could only watch senior friends of the Board competing with each other in choosing the best brands of whisky or wine or both, even the names of which I was not aware of. Somehow I passed my hours over a glass of juice and some snacks. The moment I thought that my agony was over, I found that we were on our way to the Taj Hotel for lunch.
At the Taj Hotel also, the same indulgence was repeated but this was less torturous to me, as I was hungry and could enjoy the food, its price notwithstanding. When the bill came it was quite enormous even at that point of time but everyone sighed with relief calling it ‘Very Reasonable’. It was a time when the starting salary of an IAS officer used to be in 3 digits and I had just crossed that.
There was one gentleman in this gathering who seemed to be disagreeing with this show through his silence and occasional gesture. He was the Company Secretary and by chance I travelled with him after lunch in the same car. Gathering hint from his gestures, I shared my views with him about the company. I said that, had we shared the amount spent on the Board Meeting with the workers of the company, preferably, over a frugal lunch, the labour unrest would have been over. In that case the company would have been in production and the workers would have waited for wages till the company was in a position to pay. The Company Secretary, who was seemingly a gentleman and had been in the company for years, was in complete agreement with me.