Contacts play the most important role when you are doing a story. And it takes a while to build a rapport with these contacts. Once you establish this rapport, it’s all for the best. This works all the more well with government officials.
But what happens when these officials get transferred? Especially when you are the middle of a story? Let me tell you, it is disappointing. Very disappointing.
And what if you feel you have something to do with these transfers? Not directly, but probably…hmmm…in a karmic way shall I say?
Well, it all started off with the much-approachable Gaurav Gupta, Commissioner of the Bangalore Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA). I met him in January this year. Very nice person, one of the nicest government officials I have met. There are quite many, let me tell you. I did one story regarding the BMLTA during his tenure. But it was when I was doing my third story, right in the middle of it, that I one day found out that he was no longer with the BMLTA. A few days earlier I had attended a meeting/discussion chaired by him. A source later tells me he has been transferred. I was shocked. I immediately called him up and he confirmed this for me.
So many plans were being discussed in the BMLTA during Gupta’s tenure. Now I wondered what was going to happen to all of them. It would take a while for the successor to figure things out and that’s what the new BMLTA Commissioner said when he replied to my e-mail after much pursuing. This is nothing new anyways.
The new Commissioner was reportedly Arvind Shrivastava, also the Director of the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (KUIDFC). It was really tough to get an appointment with him as his Personal Secretary repeatedly told me he was busy. The e-mail worked, like I stated above. He did manage to give me some information (not to the point though) even as my story was "hanging fire". A week after Shrivastava’s appointment, I learnt from a source that he has been replaced as well. Remember, there were no formal announcements made in the changing of these Chiefs. I received this information through a ‘reliable source’. I was told Mohammad Mohsin was the new BMLTA Chief. By now, I was beginning to feel flustered but my story went out, explaining the transfers. But a little later, may be a week or two later, my source again told me that Shrivastava is back. I remained unmoved. I was fed up of hearing about these transfers. But it was only until recently that I got to know that Mohsin is the BMLTA Chief. Phew!
Well, the transfers did not end with the BMLTA.
Next was the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO).
Editor M and I had scheduled an interview with M N Vidyashankar after the Lok Sabha polls. Again, an approachable government official. I had managed to get this appointment after many phone calls and e-mails over a few weeks. The interview itself went off really well. And he was quite forthcoming in his answers. I even asked him towards the end of our interview about his plans for retirement. He evaded the question saying he would make an announcement when the time was right. The very next day I received information that he has been transferred and is now with the e-governance department of the State.
I clenched my fist, staring at the 30-odd minutes of his interview that I had sat transcribing, all morning.
Was some unknown force taking out all this on me, in the form of transferring government officials, who I happened to know well?
I was labeled ‘the jinxed one’ at work (not aloud and not those exact words, of course). Initially, I laughed at it. But when I thought about it, it was a little scary.
I started keeping my eyes open for any kind of suspicious signs that screamed "I am going to be transferred tomorrow". When BBMP Commissioner S Subramanya was transferred, Editor S asked me (all in good humour, he later added) if I had anything to do with it. I heaved a sigh of relief, glad that I had nothing to do with this.
I was at a workshop, sometime in August, which was being moderated by N Sivasailam, Managing Director of the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL). The Metro Chief seemed a little out of place to me at this workshop since it was a parking and pedestrian policy-related workshop. I wondered why he was taking centre stage here.
Since BMRCL was recently in the news for mishaps at Metro sites, I feared the worst. Another government official is going to face the axe? I scanned the newspapers next day; sure that Sivasailam’s transfer would be there some where. Just as I was cursing my wretched stars, I found nothing. I told Editors S and M, prepare for his removal. I sense even they kind of expected it, at least deep down maybe. But later I figured Sivasailam was there because he was part of the Committee that organized the workshop. Again, relieved.
My fears resurfaced last week. No, not Sivasailam. I made a phone call to an Engineer of the BDA for a story I was working on, but an unfamiliar voice answered the call. And delivered the bad news. "He has been transferred, madam", he said. It was a stab in my gut. I knew this Engineer really well and now he was gone.
I delivered the news to Editor S, who was suppressing a bout of laughter when he heard it. Editor M, on the other hand, said, you should probably have a board that says ‘If you want a transfer, call me’.
What was I to do?
Just say, One more down, how many more to go?
Or sulk in the glory of having some unforeseen part to play in the transfer of these unsuspecting officials?
Well, I’m still counting, nevertheless.