|Saturday, June 8, 2002||
I have closely interacted with at least a dozen Generals of national repute during my career but Lt. Gen. J F R Jacob (Retd) clearly stands apart. He may seem like a typical no-nonsense General who enjoys calling the shots, but there resides in him a man who has successfully overcome all human desires. There is no greed for material wealth, no attachments that would cause pain. Instead, he is compassionate towards the poor and downtrodden and takes a dispassionate and objective view of the happenings in the world.
His journey from the
Army to the posts that he has taken up in the civil also speaks volumes
for his extraordinary personality. His career in the Army sparkles with
the achievement of having negotiated the surrender of General Niazi
during the Bangladesh War. He was then Chief of Staff, Eastern Command.
As an administrator too he can easily be rated as ‘rarest of the rare’
governors, for performing his work with remarkable conviction and
Goa was in a state of bankruptcy when General Jacob took over its governance. The previous governments had borrowed large sums of money from the Economic Development Corporation and the Co-operative Bank at extremely high rates of interest. The General not only brought about drastic cuts and austerity measures but also secured a grant of Rs 50 crore and thus within a year, Goa was back on the rails. Along side, he improved the infrastructure facilities like power and water supply, transport, etc.
The expertise he used for administering Goa is very much evident in his role as Administrator of City Beautiful. By introducing amendments in building bylaws, General Jacob has set free Chandigarh, which was shackled by the master plan of Le Corbusier. He frequently goes around the city keeping an ear to the ground and always responds to people’s wishes. He has succeeded in bringing viable changes in the building bylaws, in tune with the changing demographic profile, commercial trends, security and safety aspects of dwelling units and need-based requirements of residents. Showing farsightedness, he has even permitted changes in institutional sites on Dakshin Marg and Vikas Marg, where architectural controls have been removed, thereby, giving freedom of design. This , of course, is subject to certain "volumetric controls" like adhering to a zoning plan and having the minimum parking and circulation space. Residential buildings can also opt for a number of changes like fixing grills on boundary walls, higher gates, etc. For commercial premises, the internal architectural controls have been done away with.
Besides bringing these amendments in building bylaws, the General has taken a number of other historical decisions, which will be remembered for all times to come. In fact, I feel that after M S Randhawa, he is the only Administrator, who has taken active interest in the city and its people.
General Jacob, though 82 years old, is extremely agile and sharp. He has shown a lot of enthusiasm for setting up an IT Park, spread over 100 acres!
A multi-faceted personality, General Jacob has a number of talents which many are not aware of. His love for football, which he played as a student in Kolkata, saw the coming up of a Football Academy in Chandigarh, where professional training is imparted to players.
His love for nature can be witnessed in the opening of the Botanical Garden and Nature Park, spread over 180 acres. This paradise of flora will have medicinal plants in 50 acres. The other sections will have a wide collection pines, palms, rare and endangered species, and ornamental, aromatic and arboretum plants. There will be a corner for ‘sacred’ trees. This garden will be linked with the existing natural forest covering 280 acres and spread across Patiala-ki-Rao. In modern times when we are being encircled by concrete jungles, this botanical groove shall be welcomed by one and all.
A connoisseur of art, General Jacob
changed the look of Museum of Art in Chandigarh, which was lying
neglected and was being run in typical sarkari style. He went
to the museum for four to five hours every Sunday for months, digging
out artefacts dumped in the stores. He has not only reorganised the
display but also overhauled the lighting system. It is due to his
efforts that Punjab agreed to give at least 15 finds of Sanghol for
display in the museum, which also exhibits artefacts belonging to the
Harappa and Kushan period. The 16th, 17th and 19th century bronze
items now on display would have continued to rot in the stores had it
not been for him. Pahari paintings are another attraction at the
museum. Recently, the Governor opened yet one more section that
contained manuscripts. Chandigarhians will soon have Museum of Natural
History and Art too, thanks to the General. Besides being such an able
administrator, I am amazed at the way General Jacob earned the respect
of all political groups in Goa as well as in Punjab and Chandigarh.
During his tenure in Goa, there were a number of political upheavals
with defections and counter-defections. Even though he was a nominee
of the BJP, he remained totally non-partisan and acted strictly
according to the Constitution. Both Punjab and Chandigarh too made him
face endless political challenges, yet not even once has he erred. I
have no doubt that only a person with a clear conscience can adopt
such a posture.