Fate takes a hand

‘Fate Takes a Hand’ is a British anthology drama film of 1962. It is about recovery of a mail bag stolen in robbery 15 years ago being discovered and post office decides to deliver the mail. The film depicts how it affects the life of five persons with varying consequences.

‘Fate Takes a Hand’ is the memoir written by Lalat Indu Parija, an icon of Odisha administration in particular and Odisha polity in general. It is sheer fate that the memoir was published some months before his death. It was sheer fate that he sneaked into Indian Administration Service as the 40th candidate just because another candidate appearing higher in merit list got disqualified. Odisha reaped the dividend out of his 34 years of administrative service right from a Asst. Collector to Chief Secretary. The book has several pearls of wisdom. That should be a guiding spirit. A bureaucrat has to be among the politicians and media not to be insulated from them. He has to advise, coax, dissent and even warn but ultimately has to do a balancing act.

He was a student of M. Sc. from St. Stephens in Delhi, but his analysis of Article 142 speaks volumes about his interest. Article 142 is a neglected one as far a constitution discourse by the pundits is concerned. But it empowers Supreme Court to intervene in administrative matters. The Supreme Court had appointed Lokayukta of UP once by bypassing the Govt.

When the final curtain falls

He had told once, “an administrator should be like as and when the final curtain falls, applause should continue”. The touching remembrances as and when the final curtain fell, is an eloquent testimony of his multi-faceted personality with an humility that was second nature to him. There was a civil society outcry in Rourkela and senior officers were not willing to be posted in Steel Plant. Here was a pure Cuttacki who dared to venture. Odia officers were miniscule – 150 out of 1500 and then they had a division – Cuttackies which subsumes all coastal districts were resented by Western Odisha recruits. He handled the situation with equanimity, empathy. He came out successful with all the guns blazing with industrial unrest disappearing, Rourkela Steel plant stood tall for its work culture till the natural decay set in.

He was Ranji Captain of Odisha with a century to his credit and has also represented Eastern Zone. He had a hand in improvement of Barabati Stadium. He was also a first-rate bridge player. Team playing was his forte.

To-morrow, to-morrow and to-morrow

He loved to quote Macbeth “To-morrow, to-morrow and to-morrow…… to the last syllable of recorded time”. It was his trenchant views about the Commission of enquiry in chit fund scam. Ironically, he could not see the finale. The COI continues neither punishing the guilty nor giving relief to the victims. I am reminded of Liberhan Commission which took 17 years to enquire into the conspiracy angle of Babri Masjid demolition at a cost of Rs. 80 million and held 64 people responsible while admitting that evidences were thin. The report was dismissed as “factual hallucination”.

He was critical about media campaign presenting Sanjay Dutta as a victim of circumstances. He was a strict believer in uprightness. During Rath Yatra, an officer was transferred when Shankaracharya was not allowed to take his cohorts to the Rath. He had a lone voice of dissent when he said that the officer is right in going by covenant with Shankaracharya.

He has been described as Father Figure of Administration by Gagan Bihari Dhal, who is heading the IAS association. There has been a general decline in values with officers being branded as camp followers. It would be a glowing tribute if the values of father are imbibed rather than placing him in a ceremonial pedestal.

(JRK is a Kolkata based Economic & Political Analyst)


  1. Thank you JRK for remembering LI Parija, one of the finest and upright Odia IAS officers of yesterday. Hope, his story will inspire many, including the administrative services officers of our time.

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