Co-Written by Anirban Goswami & Anupam Bannerjee

The first IIM Ahmedabad Alumnus, the first IIT, Professor, the first Corporate CEO to be arrested for Political Crime

Professor Anand Teltumbde, when he surrenders on 6 April 2020 as per the Supreme Court directions, will be the first alumnus of the hallowed IIM, Ahmedabad, the first IIT, Professor; and the first CEO of a company to be charged under the dreaded UAPA, which renders a person suspected by the police utterly defenceless. He will also be the first member of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s family to be so incarcerated.

Prof Teltumbde is one of the best educated persons in the country, having had a brilliant academic career and passing out from the elite institutions of the country although he came from the poorest of the poor family of landless labourers from Vidarbha. He also held leadership position in campus and was decorated with many recognitions and awards. His college mates in VNIT told us that he had an unbreakable record in college elections whenever he contested them. They said, if he had chosen the path of electoral politics, as many expected him to, he could have been a front ranking leader of this country. But early on in his life, he realised the filth of the mainstream politics and discarded that option. However, he never gave up his passion for helping weaker sections anywhere while pursuing career of a professional that he became for living. He kept working silently all through his life.

His colleagues in companies said that he was extremely popular among employees, particularly the working class. Even if the decision is against them, they respected his fairness and swallowed it. Whenever in mood, he used to narrate incidents to support his point in the discussion. One of such incidents that he told us about was when he was just a trainee in Indian Oil Corporation in 1970s. It reflected not only his management philosophy but also a very humane side of his personality. Because of his non-conformist behaviour, he was given a project by the management at Bardhman (West Bengal). Those were the days of extreme industrial unrest. Beating of officers by workers was so common that in Barauni Refinery, where he was posted, the managerial staff lived in scare of workers. In such times, when he was asked about manpower he wanted for the project by his chief manager, he had made an unusual request that he should give him such workers who had a record of beating at least one manager and was a problem for the management. The chief was stunned by such a request by a fresher in the company, but obliged by sending 14 such problem, drawn from various units, with a history misconduct. Most of them were union functionaries and never did any work. Such was his behaviour with them that these people became a team and worked so hard that they helped him finish the project much before the scheduled deadline and within a fraction of cost. When the time of return came, these elderly people were literally in tears, acknowledging that it was the best period of their life and wondered that a ‘kid’ like him made them work like bulls. It was no less an experiment than a V Shantaram’s classic, “Do Aankhe Baara Haath”. Such episodes would multiply over his long professional career that every person who worked with him tenderly reminisced that it was the best period of his/her life.

He always said that he was yet to meet a bad person; every person has something in him/her and it is left to managers to extract best out of her/him. In each of the numerous assignments he handled over four decades of his corporate life, he created something new, something out-of-box. When he became head of the Information Systems in Bharat Petroleum in 1995, he transformed the moribund EDP department of a giant corporation into a front ranking Information Systems within just six months that even the IT companies of those days envied. Everything new in the country in Information Technology—the enterprise wide office automation, networking, e-mail mail and workflow systems, Intranet, document management system, data warehousing and business intelligence systems, Knowledge Management System and implementation of SAP–had happened those days in Bharat Petroleum. While his juniors adored and almost worshipped him, his seniors lived in discomfort, as he could not be taken for granted. Therefore, he did not get timely rewarded by progressions. But still they could not stop him reaching the top. He became Executive Director in BPCL and retired as Managing Director and CEO of Petronet India Limited.

After retirement, he was invited by IIT, Kharagpur to join its faculty of Business Management, where he taught until July 1916, before shifting to Goa Institute of Management that asked him to start a new programme in Big Data Analytics. He designed a novel programme and successfully implemented it as the first programme in India for which AICTE had to create a new nomenclature. The programme was ranked among the top ten analytics programmes in the county when it was not even past its first term and its strength was doubled without even a single batch passing out.

Prof Teltumbde had an unusual parallel career as the writer, commentator, analyst, public intellectual and a civil rights activist standing steadfastly on the side of oppressed humanity. While discharging his professional responsibilities to the fullest, he always found time to devote his energies to help people in whatever manner he could. He consistently wrote on the contemporary issues and established himself as a public intellectual. He was selected to preside over the last Vicharvedh Sammelan, the prestigious forum of the intellectuals in Maharashtra, which existed in 1990s to early 2000. While manning the high positions in corporate world, he would participate in various fact findings as a member of the Maharashtra based Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR). He would participate in every possible protest against injustice across the country. As a professor in IIT Kharagpur, he would travel to lead the protest against the killing of Dalits in Paramkudi in Tamil Nadu and lead or spearhead the movement of Dalits in Pathpalli in Mahbubnagar district of Telangana. He would theorise his experiences in the form of articles, and books. His writings thus acquired unique flavour, which do not easily fall in any familiar genre. They reflect his character, both academic and a practitioner and fiercely independent in both. He wrote 28 books, number of book chapters, numerous articles, delivered scores of lectures, which do not belong to his formal discipline. Most of them are translated by activist circles across the country in local languages. Even for a professor of such disciplines as sociology, political science, economics or anthropology, that his writings interface with, this volume of output would be enviable.

As the present government implicated him in the Elgar Parishad case under the dreaded Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the public and institutions continued to hold him in high respect, as though to express their disagreement with the government. For instance, his institute, Goa Institute of Management took him on its Board of Governors and public institutions kept honouring him with their prestigious awards. Just last year, he was awarded by a Bangalore-based Ambedkarite organization with their highest recognition “Bodhisatva Award” and a Kerala-based Prof Aravindakshan Memorial Trust with its prestigious annual award. He may be the lone person who enjoys intellectual respectability across all sections of the society.

One pities the system that such an illustrious person is getting locked behind bars in India. His incarceration shall remain an indelible black mark on the history of governance of this country.

Anirban Goswami & Anupam Bannerjee are alumnus of IIT, Kharagpur, writing based on personal interactions with Prof Teltumbde while he was at IIT and with other people who knew him.

E-mail: Anupam Banerjee <mr.anupambanerjee@gmail.com>



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One Comment

  1. “Hallowed IIM” – really – we had to bring in “merit” and “institutes of excellence, ‘elite institutions of the country'” etc to prop up the worth and case of Anand Teltumbde, who does not need those credentials…what irony! I say this as his admirer…