When CAG cut a saree figure | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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When CAG cut a saree figure

These are times of CAG audit objections, nay detections. They are being discussed in social gatherings. That reminds me of the CAG audit objections in 1978. Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister, was to visit Jalandhar for the Border Security Force (BSF) Raising Day parade on December 1, 1978.RK Kaushik writes

chandigarh Updated: Sep 01, 2012 00:14 IST
RK Kaushik

These are times of CAG audit objections, nay detections. They are being discussed in social gatherings. That reminds me of the CAG audit objections in 1978. Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister, was to visit Jalandhar for the Border Security Force (BSF) Raising Day parade on December 1, 1978.

Interestingly, the then director general of BSF, Ashwani Kumar, was to retire on December 31, 1978. V Shankar, an ICS Officer, was the Prime Minister's principal secretary. He had the honour of serving as private secretary with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. His daughter was married to Desai's grandson.

Shankar sent a confidential note to the BSF director general, saying Desai would be particular about his diet and dishes being served. He especially dilated about the breakfast saying Desai would like to have cashew nuts of Peshawar, almonds and walnuts of Manshera, pistachio of Loralai, apples of Sargodha and the grapes of Chaman, all places in Pakistan.

Senior BSF officers pointed out to Kumar that none of these things would be available in Jalandhar. Days passed off. Anxiety started pervading and officers started getting panicky as they were aware of the meticulously strict protocol and food habits of Desai. The flurry of activity and desperate search ended in a damp squib. Finally, it was decided to have a flag meeting with the director general, Pakistan Rangers, to sort out the vexatious issue.

The flag meeting was amiable. The general was extremely courteous and enlightened the BSF officers that his family belonged to Ambala and he did his matriculation from there before Partition. He said he would be honoured if Desai relished eatables brought by him. But he insisted on not charging any money for this. The eatables were brought and handed over in time. The visit passed off nicely. All were happy.

The BSF officers later held another meeting to decide on the return compliment to the Pakistani general. Many gifts were considered and were not found pertinent. Ultimately, it was decided to enquire about the place from where his wife came and when told that she came from Benaras, it was decided that 11 Benarasi sarees be sent as return gift. Costly sarees were bought and sent as gifts for the lady and the bill was placed in the expenditure on the PM's visit.

After a few weeks, the CAG audit started. The smart audit officer raised an objection that how come Desai, a widower, was presented with 11 sarees when there was no woman member in his delegation. He thought the bill to be fake. When the reply to the audit objections was prepared and the true story unfolded, the audit staff had a good laugh and dropped the objections.