I have been wondering if there are any honest and caring public servants left. And I have come to the conclusion that there are, though only a handful.
First of all there is Mr. Julio Ribeiro, the present inspector-general of police for Punjab, as simple a man as you may find, uncomplicated, direct, almost naÔve.
I have known him for several years, tall, erect, a whisky glass in his hands, a regular presence at social functions in Bombay. Hemay have quelled a riot earlier in the day, walked right into it in Bhivandi or Mazagaon, and yet, in the evening, he would be relaxed, his mind on other things. His face would crumple into a complaint as he would say: ďI read in your papers that they want to put me in charge of an anti-hijack squad. But that do I know about hijack, and how can I leave my wife and daughter here?Ē
But when it came to it, he did go, and the important part is that his wife went along with him, standing next to him, living in police lines, taking a bullet. Melba Ribeiro, always smiling, not grim-faced, like the wives of some other servants of the people.
And Mr. J. B. DíSouza, another upright public servant, no minister and no corporator could take liberties with him. From the day he was the BEST general manager, he was in the news, for doing the right thing, no matter how unpleasant it may have been. When members of a powerful political party burnt BEST buses, he carried paid advertisements in newspapers against them. When the government passed a rule against drinking by public servants, he went to court.
I remember his as a municipal commissioner, there was no nonsense about him. Later, CIDCO, I think, was specially created for him, it was a job that suited him, planning and designing a new city with Charles Correa. He has returned to Bombay now, after a stint with the World Bank in Washington. And it speaks for the integrity of the man that after all these years of plum assignments he does not even have a house of his own and resides with a brother or brother-in0law in Bandra.
Most of these people who started out as municipal commissioners have been good men. Many years ago, there was Mr. P.R.Nayak, then Mr.Sukthankar, who was a bomber pilot with the RAF during the war. Mr. B. G. Deshmukh was another distinguished municipal commissioner, before he went to Delhi, came back as a chief secretary, has gone back to Delhi. And Mr. Jamsheed Kanga, a decent official whom the politicians did not allow to survive.
There are also, of course other public servants. I can think of two foreign secretaries, who, on retirement, instead of engaging themselves in some professional or academic work, have joined the Congress-I. Shame!