Two wonderful stories, both on page one stuff, came my way without a sweat. The first one in the mid-70s and the second in the mid-80s…. Read on…
In the evening I was joined in the Secretariat by T. Sirish Kumar, my colleague and circulation executive in The Indian Express. As we passed the chambers of the Revenue Minister, my friend said ‘Come. Let us say hello to my friend Narsa Reddy and have tea.’ That the Minister was his friend was news to me. ‘Sir is very busy. He can’t be disturbed, the Minister’s PA explained. Is it very important, my friend enquired. ‘Yes sir. They are discussing the ordinance about the supersession of panchayat bodies’, he confided, blissfully unaware of the presence of a journalist.
I lost no time. I tricked three or four ministers into confirming the news. It was, needless to say, page one top spread in Andhra Prabha and also in The Indian Express. Later at the Secretariat, T. Nagaraju, deputy secretary, Panchayati Raj got very angry saying he had a tough time handling dozens and dozens of calls and assuring them the news was misleading. If it were not factual, he could issue a rejoinder, I said, but he would not. The ordinance did come a few days later.
A fair-minded man, Nagaraju became a good friend. I miss him.
This is about the diamond larger than the famed Kohinoor!
‘We issued a cheque for Rs three lakh to a farmer’, said my wife, then an officer in Finance department. So what? She explained that the amount was a reward for finding a diamond larger than the famed Kohinoor in his field! Wow, that was something.
The cheque was routed through the Collector, Anantapur. Nothing more was known, the name of the farmer or the village. How to chase the story without a clue? Suddenly there was a brainwave. I recalled my trip to Anantapur to cover N. Sanjiva Reddy’s visit to his native village Illur in Oct. 1978 soon after becoming the President. Among the many petitions to him was one by a farmer requesting his intervention for payment of much-delayed money. Leafing through our archives, I succeeded in tracing the issue which contained details of the petition. Now the story was in my hands.
I did not exactly scream ‘Eureka.’
Kese Naik, a lambada farmer, stumbled upon the precious stone while working his field in Bommaganipalle in Kalyandurg taluk on July 13, 1972. Naik dutifully turned over the uncut diamond to the tahsildar who assured him that the Government would reward him handsomely. The diamond – 85 carats and 17 gm, went out of his hands, but the reward was nowhere in sight even as the years rolled by.
At last Kese Naik succeeded in his relentless pursuit in August 1980. The diamond, the size of an onion, now lies in the State Archaeological Museum.