Farewell to Lebanon and goodbye to EEPC

The strife between Palestinians and Lebanese resulted in the closure of the EEPC office in Beirut. The 58th and concluding part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business

The New Year’s Eve in Beirut has always been a great occasion for joyful celebrations to ring in the New Year. As we gathered to chat over the plans in the beginning of December 1974, the atmosphere was tense due to the political conditions in and around the country!


Due to the periodic attacks by the Palestinian fighters, the Israeli Air Force would bombard refugee camps at will. If not for anything else, just to create a fear complex, their planes would rule the sky and raids would be carried, with impunity, on the Lebanese soil.


As a small and peace loving country, Lebanon was helplessly placed. Yes, they had given succour to the Palestinian refugees who had come in thousands; they had permitted them freedom to live, work and remain peaceful. Yet the warring factions among them would wage running battles with a much superior well-equipped army resulting in loss of life and property among civilians, both Palestinians and Lebanese.


The Lebanese government had time and again warned the Palestinians that they were not permitted to roam about fully armed or take law into their own hands while dealing with the Lebanese people. Yet, clashes continued to occur with great loss of life.


I do not know how it happened; but all that we came to know was a bus-load of Lebanese civilians were gunned down in the outskirts of the city. This was the last straw and the fight had spread among the people in the city in various areas. In the next few days, it had deteriorated so much that many parts of the city were under military control. Violence begets violence and the worst clashes began to occur almost daily.


Offices and shops would shutter down at each such outbreaks of violence; schools would close and all that we would hear was the hail of gun-fire, rocket attacks and shrill sirens of ambulances and fire engines.


Meantime, our plans on a vacation had been postponed couple of times and with the uncertain conditions prevailing in the country, I decided to send my family away, promising to join them, at least for a fortnight.


Our office, which we had shifted from Wardieh Square to the Piccadeli Building on Hamra Street, was very much in East Beirut, in the Muslim-controlled area. We must remember that Beirut was always a great cosmopolitan city; yet, when I say Muslim-controlled area, it actually means that the majority of the population was Muslims; properties were owned by them, and many of the residents were Christians and others. They have lived for decades in the area without any enmity and were always hospitable. But when this incident happened, all hell broke loose, and before very long, even the Army had tanks on the road corners in troubled areas.


Appeal for peace came from all the political leaders. Kamal Joumblat, the leader of the Druze community, a Gandhian by choice, also made calls for dropping of arms and for stopping violence. Most foreigners, initially the Westerners, began to leave and embassies began to advice non-essential people to return home. My family also followed suit with some other Indian families. On certain days, Randa was able to come; and on many days Rozine could not because she had to cross from one sector to another before coming to the area! Visitors also stopped and our line of communication was the teleprinter; our HindustanTeleprinter machine was a great workhorse and messages were regularly received and sent.


Nandini Dasgupta had married Charles in a typical Bengali wedding in Calcutta before they had moved to Beirut hardly a year earlier; and now, I was able to accommodate them in my apartment. On the advice of the Ambassador, I left for a brief holiday to be with my family and after two weeks we returned back, only to find that the situation had actually gone much worse than before, something that was not fully reported in the press.   


Hardly three weeks after our return from holidays, we received official intimation from the foreign office through the embassy that women and children should be sent back immediately.


After my family left, I found that hardly ten Indian families i.e. men only holding fort; in fact, they were all preparing to leave permanently. In the next two months, as the fighting spread, I began the official packing of all our office files and records, and ultimately, on the advice of the Council I handed over the office to Ansari, nominated by the Embassy, and returned to Calcutta on 16 December 1975 morning.


I reported to the office on 17th morning and met Kumar, secretary of the Council; Dr Singh, our executive director was in Delhi at that time and I was told that he was operating from there.


As a regular practice, Jagdish (OSD) and Dilip Mohanty (Accounts) and I used to have a Chinese lunch whenever we met, and that day was no exception.  After a wonderful lunch, we returned back to office only to find that there was an ‘official’ letter waiting for me that I had to take by signing the mail register! It contained a directive for Jagdish who was in charge of the Calcutta regional office, to hand over his charge to me, and revert back to his posting as OSD!  Unfortunately, this move by the Council’s management was unknown to me; nor was Jadish aware of such a move. Yet, I could imagine what must have gone through his mind, when he must have opened his letter copy of this directive.


While I love this organization, I could not digest this sudden move. I firmly believe I had done a good job in the Middle East, but I did not expect this reversal of tables with a colleague whom I always liked and respected, and has been guided well. I submitted my resignation a little later, took a carbon copy, walked down to the second floor of the building, where Jagdish was in his regional office, and handed over to him his copy.  He was still holding a copy of the original letter of his transfer, when I handed my resignation copy to him.


Then, I turned around, and asked for a cup of tea. No word was spoken for a couple of minutes. In the end, as I finished the tea, I told him:  “Jagdish, I had no idea about this change. And it is the truth.”


I shook his hands and walked out.


Monsoon covers entire country but still 23% deficient

With improvement in monsoon rains planting of paddy, soyabean and groundnut would pick up, however, scanty rains in Karnataka and Maharashtra might affect coarse cereals

New Delhi: Monsoon, the life-line of Indian agriculture, on Wednesday covered the entire country but the rains are still deficient by 23%, a top official of India Meteorological Department told PTI.


The south-west monsoon had hit Kerala on 5th June but made slow progress affecting sowing of major Kharif crops such as paddy, pulses and coarse cereals.


"Rainfall situation has improved but it is still minus 23%. Monsoon is covering entire country today with parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan receiving heavy rains," IMD Director General LS Rathore told reporters in the capital.


With improvement in monsoon rains, Rathore noted that the planting of paddy, soyabean and groundnut would pick up. He, however, pointed out that scanty rains in Karnataka and Maharashtra might affect coarse cereals.


Rathore was speaking to media after attending a meeting with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Food Minister KV Thomas to discuss the progress of monsoon.


"Rains will now shift to Himalayas, Terai and north east region. The 23% deficit in rains is likely to continue until next week," Rathore said.


So far, he said that some parts of Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and central Madhya Pradesh have received scanty rains.


India had produced a record 252.56 million tonnes of foodgrains in 2011-12 crop year (July-June) on good moonsoon last year.


Monsoon rains are crucial for agriculture sector, which contributes about 15% to the country's GDP, as only 40% of the total cultivable area is under irrigation



Rajan Alexander

5 years ago

Onset 4 days late; Entire country coverage, 4 days early. By July 3rd week, deficit should be in single digit or near about

Lawyers in Maharashtra boycott courts over HER Bill

The lawyers are opposing the proposed Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011, as it aims to take away Bar Council's autonomy to regulate law courses and legal profession

Mumbai: Judicial work in several courts in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra is affected on Wednesday as lawyers abstained from work to join their counterparts from across the country in response to a boycott call given by Bar Council of India (BCI) to oppose a proposed bill which seeks to whittle down its powers, reports PTI.

The lawyers are opposing the proposed Higher Education and Research (HER) Bill, 2011, as it aims to take away BCI's autonomy to regulate law courses and legal profession.

Around 1.25 lakh lawyers, affiliated to Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, have announced their support to the all India agitation, said Anil Singh, BCI member and former Chairman of the State Bar Council.

About 1.7 million lawyers from all over the country are expected to abstain from work for two days, beginning today, he said.

In Mumbai alone, there are 22,000 lawyers who are members of the State Bar Council, Singh said adding that most of them are supporting the two-day protest called by BCI to lawyers all over the country.

BCI is a statutory body created by Parliament to regulate and represent the Indian bar.

The bar associations in various places in Maharashtra, including Ahmednagar, Beed, Bhandara, Gondia, Chandrapur, Dhule, Gadchiroli, Jalna, Kolhapur and Pune, have announced their support for the stir.

In Mumbai, lawyers from various Bar associations in metropolitan courts at Mazgaon, Dadar, Andheri, Bandra, Borivali, Mulund and Vikhroli, joined the protest.

The Bar associations at Sessions Court, Labour Court, Family Court, Accident Claims Tribunal, Central Administrative Tribunal and Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal in the city also lent their support to the agitation, Secretary of State Bar Council, Pravin Ranpise, said.


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