In fond memory of Mitra Kumar Pradhan
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
By this time we could know each other in official capacity as well since I served a long tenure in the Finance Department in my capacity as the Under Secretary to the Joint Secretary and later as Special Secretary. He used to visit looking for some urgent file routed through to get Cabinet approval as I was entrusted with the proposals from the Sikkim Public Works Department – bifurcated into Roads and Bridges as well as Buildings departments after the departure of the then chief engineer K. K. Mohan Babu on repatriation to his parent Government in 1978(?). Mitra Daju had joined the Government service on 30 October 1963 and was executive engineer like another dashing personality Mr. L. B. Chettri. Mitra Daju was chief engineer in charge of the Buildings, while Roads and Bridges was entrusted to Mr. Chettri. Both rose to be the Principal Chief Engineer cum Secretary subsequently. One of his subordinates Pradhuman Shrestha recently recollects Mitra Daju to be the Tiger of a personality, who would use choicest words to an erring official in order to maintain work culture and raise the dignity and decorum of the service he himself also held it in high esteem.
He was a strict disciplinarian and his views shared on Facebook: “23 Aug 2015 An incident of my times in Govt School Kalimpong, in class 8, comes to my mind re discipline. In the daily morning meet, our Head Master, Late KB Gurung, carried some papers found in the school road and asked who threw the stuff. Immediately one senior teacher took the responsibility and expressed sorrow. This subject was not discussed thereafter but this left impression in our mind what is Discipline n Cleanliness.Mr KB Gurung a gold medalist in Mathematics n strict disciplinarian and has left deep impression on me. This aspect is vanishing from present day life. This is not OK and there is a need to propagate this.”
He was a thorough knowledged technocrat who knew his subject thoroughly keeping well abreast with fast technological developments taking place all over the world practically in all the disciplines, as found in the keynote address (a copy sent to this author then the secretary Science and Technology) he delivered as the secretary Irrigation in the workshop held on 22-24 February 1996 at Gangtok on “Role of Geosynthetics in Hill Area Development” also published as Proceedings of the workshop by the Committee of International Geosynthetics Society (India) and Central Board of Irrigation and Power, New Delhi.
His worry about Climate Change as he posted on Facebook: “4 Jan 2016 Why the cold seems to be subdued these few days after a bitter bout a fortnight ago. Why? Again the Climate change effect? my God. I have not yet faced the bitter cold say after a short shower, you know your hand freezes and do not like to go out, look for sunshine, seen nowhere.
“They say there was some heavy snowing at Tikjek, Gyalshing, around 5000 ft. I have never seen or heard of this there, well I was there in Rabdentse for about 5 years and have no memory of snows there too about 6000ft. What is going on? Is 2016 waiting for some high ups & down in all sort of things? I prey there should be no Earthquake, no heavy rains like in 1968, no drought like some years back. I remember of a acute drought conditions in 75 or 76s when people in Hathidhunga, near Rinchenpong, West Sikkim resorted to some wild roots for food. I thought of "Food of Work" program-me and this worked wonderfully bringing great relief to the people affected. I still feel full satisfaction for initiating this programme. It may be the first one in India too, I actually do not know. Whatever, poor people got the benefit during bad times. I prey for good times in 2016.”
As a scion of a leading nursery L. B. Pradhan and Sons, established and named after his grand father as early as 1923, he had a green thumb. He often used to share on his Facebook wall pictures of beautiful and rare flowers from his collection and wrote, “14 Sep Cymbidium Hybrid Golden VanGuard. One of the early flowering cymbidium, now in full bloom at. Gangtok, Sikkim. Mr Keshab C. Pradhan, my uncle has gifted me this precious plant. Mr K. C. Pradhan is an international expert in orchids besides being in civil services n Chief Secretary to Sikkim Govt. An environmentalist, in our Kasaju Newar family of Sikkim Flowers is the common factor. What a great passion. Let us keep it up.”
It was his grand father Lall Bahadur Pradhan who established the Sikkim Police Department in 1911 with a skeleton force at Aritar Rhenock. Lall Bahadur was born in 1888 as the second son of Taksari Chandrabir. After completing his schooling at Gangtok he studied up to class IX in the Scottish Universities Missionaries Institute at Kalimpong. He entered the government service at a young age of 14. He was selected by John Claude White to serve in the Political Office at Gangtok and was there for seven years. He breathed his last at the early age of 46 years in 1934.
Socially connected he was as found from some of his views on Facebook : “7 September 2016 I met Mr L. Lepcha Retd Secy and my colleague in the Govt n Engineering Services, recently , more specifically on 22.6.2016 at his home at Gangtok almost after about ten years. He had some difficulties to recognizing me but immediately he came back to old times. He is like he always used to be. We talked a lot about our old times together in Sikkim PWD. He has some eye problem like mine. At 83 years or so he is in very good health m always talks on subject he enjoys most - political scenario. We spent some good two hours. Recently he lost his son Deepak. Very sad. One thing good about his family is that all live in the same building n are together always in needs.”
Mitra Daju cherished his family life as he shared “Married 3rd Feb 1968 49 years ago Today is a special day in my life. I tied knot with Jaya in marriage on thus day 49 years back in 1968. It had been a very smooth time in our lives together n raised three lovely children , son Anand , daughter-in-law Deki (Babyla) daughters Rashmi n Shweta and grandsons Avanis n Revan. There has been many special moments n events during this long period of time we spent together.” Rashmi is a senior architect in the State Government. Sweta, now Cluster Manager of HDFC Bank.She is remarkable in the sense she established the Gangtok (rather Sikkim) Branch rather solo.
“10 Apr Thanks for your greetings n good wishes on the occasion of my getting older after crossing an important milestone of a number 77. Unique, no? have as many flash backs of this day. Great.”
Health conscious he was as seen from this posting: “1 May 2016 I find today is being observed as Tobacco Free Day. Great thing to do in the matter of health. I for myself left this habit wef 12th February,1973 after being a chain smoker(40+) for more than a decade.
“It all started with reading a Readers' Digest story in the dead of night when being all alone, family being gone to my fathers place, caused so much of fright in myself of the result of smoking. I decided the morning to leave the habit after completely exhausting the stock of about a month. This great day came on the 12th day of February 1973 at Rabdentse, West Sikkim where I was serving as the Divisional Engineer, PWD, in charge of all Engineering works in both South n West Sikkim.
I missed my smoke I usually enjoyed after the Breakfast, nothing throughout the day, no urge to reach the pocket for the pack, nothing. And till day I never had an urge for it.
I think it was my greatest achievement in my life as one of my Minister too used to say. I feel great. This also induced my colleagues to go for the strike n they did in numbers.
I urge all smokers to give a try, by making up the mind and just leave as I did.
Best wishes to all.”
Last year he wrote “26 July 2016 At Bali - for entry inside a temple here one has to cover the lower body with some lungi type clothing n I am in it. Looking quite great, no? Well quite enjoyable n Interesting. Best wishes from Bali.”
No wonder that just a few weeks before his sad demise, he had been elected to head the Institute of Engineers India (IEI) Sikkim Chapter, while Govind Sharma as its general secretary. He was the first person from Sikkim to be honoured so in the conference that was held in the Institute of Advance Studies in the erstwhile Vice Regal Lodge at Shimla. Before this he had been for a pilgrimage with his wife to Vaishno Devi. This he had recorded on his Facebook wall thus: “27 Sep The Institution of Engineers India Council Meeting held at Shimla Himachal Pradesh on 22-24 Sept 2017. Myself as Chairman IEI Sikkim and Council member attended. Illustrious engineers n scientists from all over India were there. We also elected a new President and will take charge from Dec 2017 at Chennai. Wide ranging topics was taken up.
“My wife Jaya was there with me. It was her first visit. Shimla has lot of history n it was a great opportunity to visit.
“Taking opportunity of this meet, we visited Ma Vaisnodevi, offered full two hour morning puja Hawan and seek blessings for World Peace especially for adjoining Darjeeling and for our own shelves. We had a Great Darshan of Devi Ma from close quarter. Feeling blessed.
"Returned to Gangtok last night. Hectic trip. Great.”
His last Facebook post on October 6 “In Chandigarh n Shimla Sept., 20 & 21st 2017, In Nek Chand rock garden, once u enter will have to complete the guided route to come out, very tiring. Shimla Ridge is like Darjeeling Chawrasta, enjoy views. Mall is quite subdued, The Gangtok MG Marg Mall is better but minus the views, but a good mall.”
He was a product of BIT Sindri of Ranchi University and a technocrat of high order. New Sikkim House in Delhi and old elegant Secretariat Gangtok were built during his tenure when he was the Chief of Building Department. But his greatest contribution is in the field of water supply and sanitation. He knew the water supply system at Gangtok like back of his palm. He was an awardee of the Sikkim Sewa Ratna. I wish some of his colleagues like K. B. Gurung, who worked with him could throw more light elaborating his works and achievement as well as the awards he brought home from New Delhi while he was the Secretary Sikkim Nationalized Transport. Dhan Subba, who worked with him in Irrigation and Water Supply department wrote, “... He was always immaculately dressed and fond of good things of great qualities. I remember him, he liked all things around him in order, and took great care of everything around him, even his personal items, like pens, watches, specs, etc. He loved flowers and possessed excellent knowledge of floriculture. There are many fond memories of him to cherish. Engineering fraternity have really lost a great friend and a close colleague. ...”
May this great soul rest in eternal peace wherever he is but will always remain in our heart deep cherished in memory since the void created by his sudden demise would not be filled up for a long time to come. We all bid adieu!
Disclaimer: On the sad demise of one of the prominent scions of the Taksari Chandrabir Newar of Rhenock, I have thrust upon myself the onus to write this tribute in fond memory of our beloved Mitra Daju. He himself knew me to be the one who would pen down to uphold and promote its rich tradition to dedicate and pay back to the society we belong. It is further believed that the sentiments nor the privacy of the family has not thus been encroached upon nor the purpose is to hurt in any manner either. Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org