In pre-Independence India, there were 11 British provinces and 559 princely states. There were many brilliant civil servants, who proved a vaulting asset not only to the Raj but also to the departments where they served. One such officer was Anthony Leocadia Fletcher, popularly called Tony Fletcher of the ICS (Indian Civil Services).
Born to a Christian family of Trivandrum (Kerala) in 1909, he joined the ICS in 1933 and was allotted the Punjab commission. Fletcher served on various administrative and judicial positions in undivided Punjab. Post-Partition, he was financial commissioner for five tenures. Many instances in Fletcher's life as an ICS officer show how brilliant an officer he was and how he tackled vexatious situations and exigencies.
On December 15, 1942, Sir Khizer Hayat Khan Tiwana took over as premier (as the chief minister was then called) of Punjab. He owned more than 1 lakh acres and had sent 1,000-strong cavalry named Tiwana Lancers to World War 2. He was very close to the British.
Tiwana, 41, visited Gujranwala when Fletcher was district and sessions judge there; and requested him for a favour in a judicial case. On an official visit the next day, Punjab governor Sir Glancy also requested Fletcher to be benign. However, to their utter amazement, they found the case decided against Tiwana, who never forgot the insult or interacted with Fletcher thereafter.
Khan Bahadur Karamat Ali, a member of the legislative assembly from Sheikhupura, had kidnapped two girls from Gujranwala and held them captive at his farmhouse. The victims' poor father, an office peon, met Fletcher with a complaint. Acting with alacrity, Fletcher gave directions to superintendent of police Masood Aziz to recover the girls quickly and arrest Khan Bahadur.
Fletcher Sahib's orders were complied with obsequiously and both girls recovered. Later, one of them became a famous film star of Pakistan and always remembered Fletcher Sahib for his magnanimity.
Fletcher introduced Sunday sightseeing trips once in two or three months for members of the staff and their families. On one of these visits, when the employees of the district judge's office were at emperor Jahangir's tomb near Lahore, a youngster attacked a mango orchard and took away the fruit. The poor gardener informed Fletcher that his workers had destroyed the orchard on their trip. Fletcher said nothing to the staff but gave the gardener Rs 400 (a liberal amount at that time) as compensation.
After Partition, he served as commissioner (rehabilitation); commissioner (Jalandhar division); and financial commissioner (revenue). Once, the chief minister found that he came to office at 10am, and advised him to report at 9am from then on. Fletcher replied promptly: "Sir, I am a British ICS officer and the British timings were 10am to 4pm. I am habitual of that and old habits die hard." The chief minister smiled and did not respond.
During his term as financial commissioner (taxation), a contractor approached him regarding his payment of Rs 5 lakh for a government work. Fletcher Sahib tore a piece off a newspaper and wrote on it that the payment be released in 60 minutes. The subordinate officials placed that newspaper in the file and complied with the orders.
He always appreciated and encouraged honest officers. On the retirement day of a hardworking tehsildar, he visited his house in his village and informed him that the reward for his honest work was direct recruitment of his son as naib tehsildar-a British practice of encouraging brilliant and honest officers.
In 1970, Fletcher founded Haryana Agricultural University and was its first vice-chancellor. He passed away on December 14, 1974, leaving a legacy worth cherishing for generations of bureaucrats.