Lalit Kumar Joshi (73) was one IAS officer, borne on the Madhya Pradesh cadre (1970), whom I will love to call the “Last of the Mohicans” as he was a true braveheart. Such officers, who are most professional and totally dedicated to the national cause and common good, are rare to find these days. He could be counted on finger tips as one of the very few who did their best during their tenure to save the edifice – the steel frame of Indian bureaucracy – from crumbling and turning into a mangled heap through the machinations of the self-serving bureaucrats who come off as most arrogant when dealing with the common public but are always too ready to bend in every direction to serve their political masters and for whom the only priority is sinecures of office and the perks and benefits tagged with them.
The news of the passing away of LK Joshi on Saturday 2 May came as a shock to his friends and well wishers and he had a large circle of friends and admirers both within the IAS fraternity and the big wide world outside.
LK Joshi had touched the pinnacle of glory as an IAS officer and had held the important posts of Secretary in the Ministry of Personnel, Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways and was also Member Admin (Secretary equivalent) National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).
Serving his parent Madhya Pradesh cadre, Joshi played a long innings as Commissioner Public Relations. I had the opportunity of seeing him perform from close range, first when I was associated as in-charge Public Relations for the Medical Relief Gas Victims’ Project of the Indian Red Cross in 1987-88 when the then President R Venkataraman had come to Bhopal to inaugurate a hospital set up by the Indian Red Cross exclusively for gas victims and then while heading The Hindu Bureau in Madhya Pradesh.
At the drop of the hat, Joshi was ready to travel with me to different parts of the State for news coverage. Each time, he was the facilitator and I as a journalist was the chief investigator. That used to be our equation when we were on job. I remember travelling with him to the tribal district of Jhabua, the western-most point of Madhya Pradesh, to study the progress of Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Mission and then our journey together to Sagar district headquarters for a news Coverage on the dredging of the Sagar Lake to increase its water storage capacity, a job accomplished with huge public participation at a time when the State was facing unprecedented water crisis.
I recall, once when Joshi was in his chamber at Mantralaya (Vallabh Bhawan), I had sent in my visiting card to meet him. He immediately called me and asked why this formality of presenting the card…I told him because I respected his privacy. I was clean bowled by his brilliant and quick wit when he responded with a smile and said: “I would welcome your piracy.”
After Joshi left Bhopal and went to the Centre, the “early morning meetings over a cup of tea” at the State Public Relations headquarters – a daily routine with a close group of mainstream journalists, became a thing of the past.