The Older They Get, the Bolder They Get: 2

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‘Life is not a bed of roses, roses also have thorns’


TWO months ago, when I set out to write about unusual retired civil servants, I hunted for suggestions. An IAS officer, generally known for his acerbic tongue and derisive comments, told me to write on SS Jog, a former Director-General of Police in Maharashtra. The suggestion itself was atypical; when I discovered that Jog had settled down in Amravati, I sensed an unusual story.

But, getting hold of Suryakant Jog was not easy. At 87, he does not use email and his hearing is also now impaired. So, I had to find some other way of getting an authentic story. Decorated with an array of medals, including three President’s police medals — for distinguished service, for gallantry and for meritorious service — and the Asiad Vashishta Sewa medal, Jog is off the radar of Google and Wikipedia. Anyone who has remained so modest must have some stuff, I thought.

Jog did his schooling in the local municipal school followed by college in Amravati. He only moved to Nagpur for post-graduation in chemistry and stood first in the university. But, his accomplishments as a sportsman sound even more impressive. To have represented Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy and the Governor’s XI is no mean feat. When the Commonwealth XI cricket team toured India and Pakistan in 1949-50, the team played 17 first-class matches. SS Jog was on the first and second Commonwealth XI teams as well as the India XI team. Simultaneously, he represented the state of MP in football too.

After he joined the IPS in 1953, securing the third rank, his early years were spent in Madhya Pradesh at a time when Maharashtra state was yet to be formed. After an initial posting as SP, Buldhana, he moved to Sambre, then in Karnataka, where he was drawn into the Goa liberation movement. He proudly recalls: “For services rendered before, during and after Operation Vijay, I was given the police medal in the 9th year of service — an exception.” Soon after, he was appointed Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Goa, where he had to also function as the Exposition commissioner for the relics of Saint Francis Xavier. The mortal remains of the saint, who died in 1552, are kept in a casket in the Basilica of the Bom Jesus church in Old Goa. Every ten years, they are brought out for closer public viewing. At that time, thousands of devotees from all over the world congregate to pay homage, a huge challenge for the little township of Panaji.

Jog’s first posting in Maharashtra was as the Superintendent of Police in Aurangabad, which was, in his view, an eye-opener. A district, which was recognised for communal harmony, saw an unexpected flare-up. Local politicians got him bundled out. Having attended his farewell party, he was half-way to Akola district to join his next posting even as his successor was about to reach Aurangabad. When he was midway, orders came, directing him to go back to Aurangabad. The Chief Minister had given in to a counter public demand not to transfer the SP.

Jog’s postings in the city of Bombay (then) were for him the best years of his career in many ways. He handled all key assignments any policeman looks forward to: as in-charge of pecial Branch, Crime and Traffic. The Bombay Police was kno n the world over for its efficiency and discipline. He attributes his own success to two factors: a great Chief Minister, Vasant Rao Naik, and loyal subordinates.

With a change of Chief Minister — after Yashwant Rao Chavan became the CM — Jog found himself moved from one unimportant assignment to another. A posting on central deputation brought nothing better until he was appointed Joint Secretary in charge of Police, in the Ministry of Home Affairs. He makes an interesting observation: “In the police, seniority and hierarchy overtake everything, whereas the Cabinet Secretary (an ICS officer) would ask my opinion directly when I was a mere Joint Secretary.”

After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Jog was appointed the Police Commissioner of Delhi. He was the first to argue that the job should go to a cadre officer, but was overruled. Unfortunately, the high-profile posting was not propitious for him as the ensuing years brought him neverending grief. Soon after taking over as Police Commissioner, his wife began to be treated for an illness that seemed to have no diagnosis. After six months he was posted back to Maharashtra as the State DGP. The first shock came a few months later when his 23-year old son, his youngest child, crashed while flying a MiG-21 at Tezpur. That was 1985. A year later, some say to that very day which was October 3, his wife succumbed to cancer.

The residential school started by SS Jog in Chikaldara sub-division
The residential school started by SS Jog in Chikaldara sub-division

ANAMI Roy was DGP in Maharashtra some 20 years later. He had this to say: “I worked as the AIG directly attached to Jog sahib. I was his staff officer. I was present when his wife died on exactly the date of his son’s first death anniversary. For some time the DG stayed at home, but returned on one condition which he put to me as his staff officer. If he passed any order which was harsh or uncharacteristic, I was to withhold the file and resubmit it as he did not want his decision-making to be clouded by his own mental agony.”

Roy adds, “Jog sahib was a methodical person. A bit scary, because he had a photographic memory and could recall facts, figures, faces and even numbers from 20 years before when he too worked as staff officer to the then DG. I have seen so many magnetic personalities in the police service. Some were born leaders, usually larger than life — they seemed to command things to happen without doing much personally. Jog sahib was different. Meetings lasted just a few minutes when his memory would swivel back to exactly the file, the precise noting, the exact year, when something relevant took place — whether it was a law and order matter or a police investigation. You had to be perfect with facts when you faced him. But every time I came out of his room, I came out wiser. Every minute with him was a learning experience.”

When Jog retired, he sought nothing from the government; nor did he look for benefactors in the private sector. Instead, after 38 years he returned to Amravati. “What is so great about going back to your hometown where you already own a house?” a Maharashtra colleague, with whom I discussed Jog’s story, asked me.

But a glance at Amravati (map on next page) shows just how far this district is from Mumbai. That it is among the 12 backward districts of Maharashtra and has been receiving funds from the central Backward Regions programme, is an indication that Amravati is no land of bounty. How many of us have retired to anywhere excepting the state capitals, I thought.

Jog too had initial doubts about Amravati; only circumstances willed otherwise. As he puts it: “I expected to find many friends but discovered they had all moved away. I wondered whether I had made the right decision in coming here. I spent my nights scribbling what I could do to make a difference, only to score it out the next morning. One day I decided to find a way to engage youngsters. I started organising youth camps in Semadoh village, which is located in the dense Melghat forest, by taking advantage of my police connections. My aims were three: Push them to become adventurous; implant a sense of discipline and instruct them about forests and wildlife. My greatest achievement was that I spurred them to do it. If they scaled 10 feet in a day, they yearned to reach 20. A 10-kilometre trek was never enough for them, they had to double the record that very day. The camps were a great success, but critics doubted what could be achieved in 15 days, the duration of each camp. I told them that every young man was selected after an interview and, at the end of the camp, each one got a sense of pride and discovered his potential. My financial burden was greatly reduced when the Central scheme for youth affairs began to extend support.”

“Around that time,” continued Jog, “the Chief Minister announced that Sainik schools would be set up in every district. I jumped at the opportunity, but all I could muster was Rs 11,000. I went about collecting every tiny contribution — nothing was too small for this cause. At last, I was able to get a residential school to start in the Chikaldara sub-division, some 100 km from Amravati. Thereafter, I persuaded every Chief Minister to make a donation and the school could expand and finally move up to the Class 12 stage. It has now completed 22 years, has nearly 300 boarders and has a 100 per cent success rate.”

This story becomes heartrending when one realises that Chikaldara falls in Melghat subdivision, which records one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the country. As recently as August 2013, the Times of India headlined more than 400 deaths in Melghat from malnutrition (confirmed by government statistics). string2
Jog had another passion, rainwater collection. A small investment on the hostel roof had performed miracles. He pursued the idea with the dream of resurrecting the orange orchards of Amravati that once stood second only to the famed oranges of Nagpur. He tells of how he looked for support from Oxfam, NABARD and the Aga Khan Foundation, but all his letters of entreaty met with failure. But when his mission seemed doomed to collapse, it was the Council for the Promotion ofApplied Rural Technology (CAPART) which proffered support. Soon the village wells and tanks began brimming with water. But his dream of reviving the orange country was not to be: the villagers decided to grow vegetables instead to rake in Rs 50,000 a year in preference to a five-year wait for the orange trees to fruit.

This policeman-turned-farmer friend was also a great advocate of the check-dam strategy. But not everything he touched became a success. Jog pursued the local MP and MLAs to contribute, but not a single legislator parted with even one rupee for a scheme which could have provided a perennial source of water to the villages. Although a government resolution was passed making it a model scheme, disappointingly, when the officers changed the scheme went into disuse. The story only reinforces what we see happening time and again.

FOR some more years Jog continued to find ways of fulfilling his passion for giving back something to his beloved Amravati. In the meantime, his second son had joined the Indian Police Service and was posted as the DCP (Crime) — one of the key assignments in the police setup in Mumbai. But, with not even a hint of what was to come, he suffered a severe cardiac arrest and died instantly. Living as he was in Amravati, Jog could only reach Mumbai in time for his son’s funeral. This was the third calamity that Jog had to contend with in less than 10 years.

When one talks to the man, there is no sign of bitterness or remorse. No complaints about God’s ways. And unlike so many who take sympathy and support for granted, even afterso many years he is grateful that the then Chief Secretary of Maharashtra spontaneously asked him to continue to live in his son’s official house for as long as he needed to. In less than two years Jog left the house, carrying with him the responsibility for his son’s widow and two fatherless grandchildren.

Very recently Jog was hospitalised in Amravati due to an illness. At 87, he is a shadow of his former self. But even so he has this to say: “Your life is not a bed of roses. The roses also have thorns. One’s life will always have ups and downs. One has to face them with courage; suffer the unfortunate tragedies of life with fortitude and carry on to the best of one’s ability.”


11 thoughts on “The Older They Get, the Bolder They Get: 2

    Sadanand Date said:
    January 5, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    Thank you very much for this write up on Shri S S Jog. He deserves this and much more.
    I met him for the first time in 1992 as a IPS probationer in Amravati. I was fortunate to have a couple of interactions with him over the years. He has a rare capacity to inspire youth. His pursuits are noble and thoughtful. His commitment, even at his current age, amazing. He is one of those few officers who have left deep impression on me. Interactions with him have enriched me as a police officer and as a person.
    Sadanand Date

      Shailaja Chandra responded:
      January 5, 2014 at 11:10 PM

      I am glad you liked the article.Thanks for writing to let me know.

    Kaustubh Jog said:
    January 12, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    I want to thank you on behalf of his Family for penning such a warm portrait.
    Over the years, all his grandchildren including myself have grown up hearing many wonderfull stories about him but its probably the first time that we are getting a chance to read something that is so detailed, sensitive and well written.It shall stay with us for times to come.Am also going to take a print out of the piece and show it to him soon.
    In appreciation,
    Kaustubh Jog

      Shailaja Chandra responded:
      January 13, 2014 at 7:44 AM

      I was delighted to hear from you KaustubhI had personally requested 2 people to send the piece to Jog sahab and when I got no word in response I was wondering whether he was still unwell.I had a wonderful time writing the article because it required getting all the details absolutely correct.But then Jog sahab sent me a version hemayhave dictated which provided the authenticity.Pity people like him are not honoured publicly by the civil service.We badly need good role models as otherwise one only meets with cynicism.

    Bendre Suyog Yashwant said:
    January 13, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    It is my privilege that I met a member from Jog’s family ( Kaustubh) in June 2013 – the family suffered a lot but at the same time rendered impeccable service without any show off. Thanks to Madam for bringing out fundamental work of octogenarian mute social worker to the limelight.
    Suyog Bendre

      Shailaja Chandra responded:
      January 13, 2014 at 8:56 AM

      Thanks for reading my article and commenting.If only people realised that the services have had brilliant examples of selfless service! Unfortunately only window- dressing counts but sometimes as in the case of Jog sahab eople do remember selfless service and high standards of integrity minus all the hype. Shailaja

    Kaustubh Jog said:
    January 14, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    Yes Ma’am, he has again not been keeping too well and hence the delay.
    The Blog and your writtings have,and shall continue to bring such stories to the fore and im pretty certain that they’ll serve as a source of optimism.
    If I may add, I remember reading your piece on Mr.E.Sreedharan a few years ago for a newsmagazine.I was just finishing college then and I some how knew that I wanted to atleast try to imbibe some of his work ethics that you had brought out.I was also struck by the fact that you were so generous in your praise of his work and yet objective in analysing all the other aspects which had contributed to DMRC’s success.Very rarely does one find these traits in a civil servant-commentator’s writtings and much less when she has dealt with the subject in once capacity or another.So,Kudos to you too Ma’am for chronicling these aspects in your distinct style.

    colic said:
    January 16, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Thanks for the good writeup. It actually was once a leisure account it.
    Glance advanced to more introduced agreeable from you! By the way,
    how could we keep in touch?

    shibu said:
    April 9, 2015 at 7:55 AM

    Thanku mam for sharing such inspirational story

    Susanna Kurian said:
    June 18, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    Just googled S.S.Jog on hearing of his demise, and I was so happy to read this blog.
    I am so glad his incredible work and commitment has been documented. It has been an inspiring read . I have been fortunate to know him, his wife and children. A wonderful man and wonderful family.
    May his soul R.I.P and his legacy live on via his daughter and grand children.

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