Autobiography - Sukumar Mukhopadhyay
My Autobiography has come out,
My friends, Facebook friends and WhatsApp friends,
My Autobiography has come out now. I am the publisher myself. The reason is that when I gave my book to a publisher, he appointed an editor who cut out so many things fearing court case against me and the publisher. If I had accepted the mutilations suggested by the editor, the book would have lost its zing. So, I had to be the publisher myself. If I face any cases even now, my two student-lawyers in Delhi and Calcutta will look after that. I have faced so many cases against me in my official life that I am still good for that in the sunset years of my life.
A significant part of my official life was about facing contempt cases that were brought against me by unscrupulous importers. When I fought hard against torrents of such contempt cases single handed, I was described as the ‘Lone Crusader’ by India Today in its issue of 28th February, 1985. I was punished in a contempt case by detention in the court up to 4.00 pm. When I came home, I recited this poem of Rabindranath Tagore,
“ শাস্তি তা’রি তরে যে পারেনা শাস্তি ভয়ে হইতে বাহির,
লঙ্ঘিয়া নিজের গড়া মিথ্যার প্রাচীর, কপটবেষ্টন; "
Translation is this: Punishment is only for that person who cannot come out of the wall of falsehood and deceits, created by himself for the fear of punishment. …. I won this case in appeal convincingly. I won all contempt cases against me and I never had to apologise.
In this book readers will get the stories of how I disobeyed illegal, immoral and motivated orders. I have taken action against all those who thought of getting protection from political masters or bureaucratic bosses.
As Director General of National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics, I have given training to 1989, 1990 & 1991 batches of probationers of our Service, i.e., Indian Customs and Central Excise Service (Indian Revenue Service). I had emphasised to my probationers, by giving examples from my own official life, never to obey wrong orders. I held the posts of Collector of Customs, Calcutta, Collector of Customs Bombay, Principal Collector of Customs & Excise, Delhi, Allahabad and Calcutta and Member (Customs and Budget). So, I had immense pressure on me from some senior- most officers of the Ministry of Finance to prosecute one famous businessman and one famous newspaper magnet. (Readers will find the names in the book). That was the most illegal and unjust verbal direction. I simply disobeyed the order. The British had made the Sea Customs Act (now Customs Act), which people may call colonial legislation. But it is the most brilliant Act which gives the power to the Collector of Customs to take the decision about prosecution. If the Collector has got the strength, no injustice can be done by the political bosses. Once the senior most bureaucrat in our department wanted me to release banned goods on taking bonds (which in effect is nothing but a piece of paper because it expires soon enough before the court cases are decided). I could say “no” on his face, because the Customs Act empowered me to take the decision about confiscation or release of the goods.
I have been subjected to mid-night transfer from post of Collector of Customs Bombay and made to handover next day morning while a very important adjudication case was on the day after the next day.
I have challenged in this book the usually accepted ideas of discipline, respectability and humility. Some senior officers branded me as arrogant which I was. Actually, I was arrogant only to those who gave me illegal and unethical directions verbally which I flouted straightaway. I have also given instances of how I solved departmental problems which had become impasse, by applying lateral thinking.
To remove misunderstanding, I want to record that I have not at all found fault with our Department as such. The Department is as good or as bad, just like the society outside. As there were many corrupt officials, there were many extremely honest and brilliant people who helped me enormously. Even some clerks helped me out when I got extremely bad confidential report. I had the unique distinction, (which nobody has ever got), of getting an extremely damaging confidential report as a special case given by the Full Board (Central Board of Excise and Customs) which was placed in my CCR file just before I was going to be Member. This report was set aside by the Government within a few days. So, the daggers drawn by the Full Board could not draw even a drop of blood from me. All these stories and many more you will find in my book.
Apart from official life, my book also contains stories of human aspects of my life in a small town, my participation in Quit India movement as a student, impression about the Bengal famine, pre-Independence days, my days at Presidency College at Calcutta, of abiding relation with friends and their wives, who stood by me when I was under attack, physically and psychologically.
For buying this book, please send me Rs.600/- (Rs. Six hundred only) to:
State Bank of India, Mayur Vihar 1, Delhi
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