It was Sunday on June 3, 1984, when the Deputy Commissioner of a district in Punjab got a message from the SSP on the walkie-talkie about the statewide imposition of curfew. At that time, the DC was hunting in the Shivalik foothills.
He rushed back to the district headquarters and continued talking to the police officer on the way. He asked his gunman to tell the Police Control Room to inform the local ADC, SDM and other top officers to reach his residence in half an hour. Telecommunication in those days was extremely difficult. When he arrived at his place, he was astonished to see that not a single officer had turned up. He asked his residential telephone operator to contact the officers. Some calls went unanswered, while from others, information was received that the officers had gone out locally. Many orders were to be issued. Curfew passes were to be arranged and availability of essential commodities was to be checked.
Even after two hours, no officer was available. The DC lost his temper and thought of immediately suspending the absentees. The office superintendent and other officials were called to issue various orders, which had to be signed by the DC as the District Magistrate. The SSP was asking for the Duty Magistrate as a law and order problem had erupted. Out of the blue, the DC was informed by the peon that the Public Grievances Officer (PGO) had arrived.
The DC had a very poor impression of the PGO as he considered him an irresponsible officer and a drunkard. However, this time, the DC was pleasantly surprised to see him. Although the PGO seemed to have a hangover, he attentively listened to everything the DC told him and repeatedly assured him that he would do everything possible. The first thing he did was to reach the trouble spot and defuse the tension. He had also called up his staff. He worked round the clock till other officers started arriving on the scene and the situation was brought under control.
Later, the DC, in a lighter vein, asked the PGO how come he was available on Sunday when he would usually remain untraceable even on a working day. The fellow told him, ‘Sir, I could not get out of bed for two days because of heavy drinking. When I finally got up, I reached the bus stand, where I was informed that curfew had been imposed and no vehicle would ply. I thought I would request you to spare a Red Cross vehicle for taking me home. Ki pataa si aa ke phass jaana aa (I didn’t know that I would get trapped).’ He rose in the DC’s estimation as he made no excuse while performing his duty. The officers who were not available that day remained in trouble for quite a while.
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