It is with a great deal of pleasure that I put pen to paper, or rather hammer away at the computer keyboard this week. I bring you the story of a fellow Stephanian who has hit the big time. My joy at bringing you this news is not only because is he a fellow Stephanian, but also a very dear friend.
Rathikant Basu was in his second year of his BA (Economics) when I joined college in 1960. As another Bombay Cathedralite to join Stephens along with me was Sujit Bhattacharaya (son of the then Governor of the Reserve Bank P. C. Bhattacharaya), a Bengali, Sujit's circle of friends in college became my friends as did mine become his.
One of those who joined our flock was Rathikant, already a member of Mukarji Court and resident in one of the upper storey rooms of T-Block.
Rathikant was a widely travelled individual and added a great deal of spice to our lives. If I remember correctly, he had been living in Sudan for several years prior to joining college. Rathikant had a great sense of humour and his sharp wit used to have us rolling with laughter. Yet he had a very unsupposing attitude and a completely simplistic approach to all around him.
When I finished college in 1963, Rathikant was going on to his final year of his MA and studying hard for his IAS entrance exam. He got into the IAS in 1964 and was part of the Gujarat Cadre of 1964.
In the mid-seventies when I was on a trip to Ahmedabad I accidently bumped into Rathikant. He was then the Muncipal Commissioner of the City. He had not lost his humouristic streak. He was a bundle of efficiency. I watched him go through a day's work with a keeness hardly seen in bureaucratic circles.
Rathikant's success at the helm of Doordarshan is well known. His last IAS stint has been as the Secretary of the Departement of Electronics where he has been busy ushering in the rapid change in the electronics sector in India. I am reasonably sure that the lowering of import duty on software was one of his moves as he has always been progressive in his approach to a problem. India's export boom of software has been only because of this opening of the inward flow of technology.
At the age of 54, Rathikant has now been hand-picked by world media moghul Rupert Murdoch to head the Hong Kong based Indian arm of Star TV, News Television India. Reports say that he has been offered an annual salary of $500000 plus a chauffer-driven Mercedes. Rathikant takes over from Gene Swinstead in October.
Rathikant has been given directives to Indianise the network's programming which presently is highly westernised. There could be no one better equipped for this job, as is well known from his activity under the former Information and Broadcasting Minister, K. P. Singh Deo. Rathikant is a highly focused individual as well as results oriented, so will undoubtedly deliver the goods.
As was succinctly put by THE WEEK in its September 15th issue, "Doordarshan reached its azimuth during Basu's term as Director-General."
Rathikant will liase with the Hong Kong based Director, Gene Davis, but network programming and commercial decisions will now be made in India.
I am sure all you Stephanians out there will join me in wishing Rathikant the very best in his new job. I hope that he will drive his arch competitor, his former paymaster, Doordarshan, to higher standards by bringing in top-notch competition in the Indian TV news spectrum.
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More next week,
Your Editor Jacob Matthan
Or as Rathikant would say "Arre Jacob"..