| Today I, with two senior friends, met Rahul Gandhi at the 10, Janpath. This is an experience of the whole meeting and includes even the finer details such as the sitting arrangement, security, lawn, the place, the look and feel etc. It also has a brief detail on the AICC headquarters, Sonia Gandhi’s office in it and Rahul Gandhi’s residence at 12, Tughlaq lane – the other places we visited. Please note that I have no special liking for Rahul or the Congress Party and we met him regarding the urgent need for reforms in the way the Civil Services Examination is conducted by the UPSC. This is also a first-hand experience of meeting India’ s ‘crown prince’.
I along with Mr. Indravir, PhD student, CSRD, JNU and Dr. Naveen Kr. Naveen met Rahul today morning. Dr. Naveen had requested an appointment with him and it was confirmed just two days ago. The Civil Services Examination conducted by the UPSC has many loopholes. Most recently the Natchiappan Committee and the Administrative Reforms Commission –II have underlined the urgent need for reforms in the examination system but the UPSC does not budge and the government does not appear very inclined to reform it.
Waiting outside 10 Janpath
We reached 10 Janpath at about 9 am [Akbar road] only to find about 100 people already there with more trickling in every moment. We had hoped that Rahul would give us at least 15 minutes of hearing but it was clear that it was a kind of interaction with the public and he would hardly have anytime for us! There were people of all kinds there – young and old. There was only one woman in the whole crowd and one physically challenged person. Most people appeared to belong from the middle class and most of them were wearing Pyjamas Kurtas or white clothes. Nalinikant Mohanty, a Congress activist from Orissa who had come to get some post in the Orissa Congress was also there. He told us that he was interviewed for about 5 hours in more than one round by Rahul and others in Orissa for a party post! At about 9:30 am, two people came with registers and called names. You had to leave your bags and mobile outside (we were not carrying the mobile anyway) but files and folders are allowed.
SPG Guards, Sitting arrangement, Fans, the place, Notices
After the roll call you go inside the premise. Special Protection Group (SPG) Guards wearing grey safari suit, their usual dress, are manning the check points [most of them have a paunch, alas]. The metal detector doors [Fisher Labs brand, USA] looked very smart and even very different from the ones commonly found at the railway station or the Sarojini Nagar Market. SPG guards who have their Id cards attached to white chains address you politely [“Sir”] and make you feel special! You finally arrive at the place designated for the meeting. About 150 chairs, all in white covers arranged neatly in two columns, wait for you. The place has a nice look and feel about it with green asbestos roof above, a lawn beside it and concrete wall with latticework on the right.
The fans were really special and I had never seen this kind of fan! There were three kinds of fans in the premise – the regular ceiling fan (Cromptom Greaves brand) creamy white in colour, the wall fans attached to the iron rods (Khaitan brand and rather old), and a Crompton Greaves brand special big and long fans that emitted water because they had big cylindrical bottom holding water. They were like coolers in some ways and were very suitable for desert cooler type effect in open spaces. I could not find it even on the website of Crompton Greaves!
Members of All India Congress Sewa Dal [such as Mr. Mahendra Thakur, whose name I noted from his Id card] wearing white clothes and black shoes were ushering people in the premise. The front three rows were reserved for ‘elected representatives’ while the rest for others. A special feature of the premise was the notices in the premise. These were kind of instructions for the visitors and were both in English and Hindi:
|1. NO AUTOGRAPH
2. DO NOT TOUCH FEET
3. पैर छुना मना है [spelling mistake as in original]
I went to the water coolers near the place not for drinking water but for having a better view of the place. The water was not cold enough but the Aquaguad Hiflo water filter was attached to it. There was no knob on the door of one of the toilets near the premise though there were many holes where a knob should have been suggesting that many attempts were made to fix a knob in it! It was an eyesore for me in an otherwise well managed place. A Tata Safari [registration no. 2237] was also parked near the premise.
Rahul appeared at about 10 am. A Muslim delegation was the first to meet him; he greeted everyone with folded hands. Just about 2-3 minutes to every group/person for obvious reasons. He was with his PA Mr. Anish [Kanish?] who was also a young man and collecting the papers submitted to Rahul and giving further briefings. People were comfortable with him and no one went overboard. We were the third or fourth group to meet him [also because we were sitting almost in the front stall].
Rahul Gandhi’s Personality and our case
Rahul looked okay just as in the media. He is about 170 centimetres and is not a tall man. He was wearing his trademark clothing –Pyjama Kurta and the same specs as seen in his photos in the newspapers. He was calm and composed.
When we said a line on the need for the reforms in the UPSC, he asked us if we were from some student organisation! We went blank for a moment [CSE aspirants do not have time to mobilize to wage a struggle; groups have been formed in the past but they withered away] but then Mr. Naveen among us said that a group named ‘Youth For Justice’ had recently protested against the UPSC [it was also in the media]. Rahul asked us if we had met the “education minister” and we said ‘No’! We were a bit surprised because it had nothing to do with the MHRD but with the DoPT! Rahul asked us to meet MP Meenakshi Natarajan in the AICC headquarters because she was concerned with the education section! Rahul’s PA Mr. Anish gave us Meenakshi’s phone no. and said we should meet her about the case because this matter relates to education and “will have impact on all universities in India!”
Needless to say Rahul or his PA did not had much clue about the UPSC and its functioning. We left the place hoping that he will at least forward our petition to the relevant department! We then went to the AICC headquarters. Our meeting with Rahul and his PA lasted for about 3 minutes only.
AICC Headquarters 24, Akbar road
The HQ opened at about 11 am and people were allowed inside through a small door. A very poor, emaciated person was being denied entry by the guard but later allowed entry upon some persuasion by the former but not until the latter had mocked him saying “he will be medically examined!”
We went to the tiny office of Meenakshi and were told by his PA that she may come only in the afternoon. We also did not had much hope about it anyway and were there because it was stone’ s throw away from the 10 Janpath.
AICC Canteen and Sonia Gandhi’s Office
The AICC canteen was slightly expensive but okay. The taste of drinking water in the premise was not satisfactory. A lot of construction was on in the premise.
Indravir, who had visited the place earlier took us to show Sonia Gandhi’s office in the premise. The special thing about it is that it is sealed when she is not there! I actually read the note on the paper-seal on the lock (This room has been locked by ….. on. … time…)!
12, Tughlaq Lane
Thereafter we went to 12, Tughlaq Lane which is Rahul’s residence because one of us had to book a fresh appointment with him. NSG guards were manning the reception there and even operating the computer!
This was in a nutshell a report of the visit. 🙂
Last revised: 14 December 2009