Between you & me

I HAVE to begin with a longish statement from which I do not emerge very well. Some readers may remember an item in this column last week in which I mentioned the travail a Catholic priest had at a police station on Avinashi Road on his way to Chennai from Kerala. I published most of his letters in good faith - he accused the sub-inspector in-charge of the station as being very rude and unhelpful to him, practically threw him out when all he wanted was to be directed to the nearest hospital as he was a heart patient. He claimed that the constable would not even let him lie on the bench outside the station. Finally, thanks to the help of ``some good Samaritans'' he got admitted into the Kovai Medical Centre. In publishing this account, I had expressed the hope that the Director General of Police would arrange to inquire into the incident.

The police response was very prompt. I quote as much of it as I have space for. ``... on 11-4-2000 night at around 11-30 p.m. when the Head constable was present on Reception duty at Avinashi police station, a man clad in dhoti and banian rushed into the Police station, and complained that he was being abducted and being taken to Chennai against his wish. The Head Constable offered him a seat and tried to calm him down. Immediately after that two persons who claimed to be the relatives of the stranger (later identified as Rev. Fr. John Joseph) came into the police station and explained to the Head Constable that they were his relatives, and that they were taking him from Moolamattam in Kerala to Chennai for medical treatment. They also showed the medical prescription of Moolamattam hospital to the Head Constable. As the Head Constable was not convinced, one of the relatives went out to an STD booth and spoke to the doctor at Moolamattam hospital, who in turn contacted the Head Constable in Avinashi over the phone. At the request of the Rev. Fr. Joseph the Head Constable allowed him to speak to the doctor (at whom Rev. Fr. Joseph shouted for having discharged him without his consent). After confirming that no case of abduction was made out, the Head Constable allowed all three to proceed... suggested the hospital in Kovai when the Father wanted better facilities, soothed him with a cup of coffee and sent them on their way.''

On the directions of the Director General of Police, the Deputy Inspector General of Police made the necessary inquiries and provided the above information. To both of them my sincere thanks and appreciation. The AIGL's letter points out several discrepancies in Fr. Joseph's letter which I am not going into here. The letter also points out several of the people- helpful related activities the Police has undertaken in recent months. The letter from the AIGL was quite properly addressed to the Editor of TheHindu on whose behalf I thank the high police officials for their interest in the complaints of the public, and in taking prompt action. One of the persons I should specially mention is the Head Constable of the police station. Not only did he perform his duty well, but he also displayed special humanity. To him our very special appreciation and thanks.

One of the questions the Police ask is if the Rev. Fr. had a complaint to make, why did he not make it to the higher police officials. I ask the same question, and recommend the Rev. Fr. to write to the police in the future and not write to the press. As Americans say, I certainly do not want to be caught between a rock and a hard place.

Having said all that, the more I think about it, the more I feel myself to blame as I really should have checked with the police on the incident. I should have realised that the Rev. Fr. was in a state of agitation. Ah well, it is wise to be after the event.

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ON to other subjects. A seasoned observer of the public and political life of our country suggests that the Central Vigilance Commissioner should put on his web the names of honest officers also. He also says that the names of all MPs, MLAs, Governors and judges who are corrupt should also be featured in his web.

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THIS column always seeks for instances of helpfulness on the part of government departments. Here is a sterling example, and I quote it in full: ``My father aged 82 years is a state government pensioner and is residing in a village. Due to his deteriorating eyesight he could not go to the bank every month to receive his monthly pension. When the bank came forward to remit the pension through money order, the postmaster refused to hand over the money order at my father's residence as a rural postman cannot handle more than Rs. 1,000. My father was asked to come to the post office to collect his pension... I made a plea to the authorities concerned to effect disbursement of the pension at my father's residence as a special case. To my great surprise I received a reply from the Superintendent of Post Offices, expressing their decision to accede to my request. I received another letter from the Post Master General's office to the same effect, and expressing regret for the inconvenience caused.''

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I HAVE an unhappy feeling that we have had this story before, Parthasarathy, but I read it in a magazine the other day, and it struck me as pretty funny all over again.

Hitler, it turns out, was a great believer in astrology. When he found out that the greatest astrologer in his plundered kingdom was a Jew, he sent for him. When the astrologer showed up, he said to him: ``Jew, I am told you are the greatest astrologer in our kingdom.'' The astrologer nodded his head courteously, and admitted to the fact. Hitler then said: ``Jew, tell me on which day I will die.'' The Jewish astrologer made as if he was doing some calculations, and finally said: ``Herr Chancellor, it will be on Jewish holiday.'' Hitler roared. ``Well, Jew, which holiday will it be?'' The astrologer bowed politely and said: ``Herr Chancellor, any day you die will be a Jewish holiday.''