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History does repeat itself
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  • This is the best body of work in infra-red photography that I have seen in India.
      Shri S. Paul
    Photographer, on the infra red exhibition Ladakh Huess
  • I am proud to know this couple- Shamim and Sasmita. This book reflects the labour of their love. We could reach the place because of the power of his lens.
      Janab Arif Mohammed Khan
    Former state minister, at the inauguration of the book
  • Words fail me; outstanding!
      Mr. Rajiv Lochan
    Director NAGMA, on "One Fine Tuesday"
  • At times Delhi looks beautiful but the kind of flavour Shamim has brought about in black and white is not only very beautiful but after this book we all will see these monuments from a fresh perspective.

    ( while unveiling of the book 'Forgotten Dilli - Portrait of an immortal city')

    Extraordinarily taken pictures. Akhtar is someone we are proud of.

    ( on 'Ladakh Hues " )
      Mrs. Sheila Dixit
    Ex-CM Delhi
  • When stones burst into songs

    Qutub Minar must count among the most sketched, painted and photographed monuments of the world. What the Eiffel Tower is to Parisians, the Big Ben to Londoners, the Brandenburg Gate to Berliners and the Statue of Liberty to New Yorkers, the Qutub Minar is to Dilliwallahs. It is older and more spectacular than all the other monuments.

    I have seen hundreds of photographs of Qutub Minar but none to match the cover of Forgotten Dilli, Portrait of an Immortal City by Sasmita S. Akhtar and Shamim Akhtar. Shamim is a Bihari Muslim, now in the IAS, posted in Delhi. Sasmita is an Oriya Brahmin, a sociologist, who is a product of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Between them, they produced a pictorial album on Lakshadweep and now one on the old monuments of Delhi.

    Sasmita has written the text; Shamim has taken the photographs. They have limited their work to the end of the Mughal dynasty in 1857. They have pictures of baolis (step wells), dargahs (Sufi shrines), forts, mosques, and mausoleums. What arrests the readers attention is the interplay of light and shade on trees and clouds to highlight every monument.

    It is a sheer joy to turn over the pages of the book again and again. It reminded me of an old film song, 'Geet gaaya paththaron ne ' 'The stones burst with songs'.
      Mr. Khuswant Singh
    The Telegraph, 6th March 2010
  • 'A stunning exhibition, highlighting the unique beauty of Ladakh...extremely impressed by the quality of his images.'

    (on the exhibition, Rode to Heaven in 2008)

    'I have great pleasure in commending this book to all those who love mountains. Packed with photographs, there are short descriptive notes which are useful.'

    (In the foreword of the book, Rode to heaven: Ladakh in 2009)

    ...I myself have not been able to go to Kailasa nor will I be able to go to in this life; but after reading this book I feel I have also done half parikarma.'

    (At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within' , at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011)
      Dr. Karan Singh
    At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within', at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011
April 3, 2017
History does repeat itself

Face the wrath of the Supreme Court in ICDS, or implement 16 new projects along with conducting MCD election without any support staff.


The new office of mine was in the newly created Department of Women and Child. The office was located in a shed at Canning Lane on Kasturba Gandhi Marg. The office was as bad as one could possibly imagine. If one, who did not suffer from asthma, had to spend a fortnight in that set up, then the inhaler would become a life partner. It was a small 8 x 8 porta cabin, with three broken chairs and a table which had cracks all over. A computer whose key board was missing and the only staff was a peon, Sanjay. He suffered from heart ailment, was also a graduate and an orphan. That made two of us. There were four lady Aanganwari Supervisrs and a middle-aged lady who was the CDPO. The cherry on the cake was the Senior Accounts Officer, Mr. Bhatia, who was adamant to start the recovery that Mr. DIG from Tihar had given me as a departing gift. The true reason for my new posting was revealed to me soon. Honorable Supreme Court of India was monitoring the implementation of Integrated Child Development Schemes (ICDS) and was very unhappy. More so, 16 new projects had to be commissioned in a time bound manner. The situation was similar to the shifting of the Meena Bazaar, where someone like me was “needed”! Since the project was close to my heart, and I could relate to the beneficiaries I started understanding the project. The team was small but very cordial. I knew that, this would be a satisfying experience. So forgetting about the office and the paraphernalia, I became a sort of social worker myself.


Just when I was gaining command over the project, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) election was announced. I was made the Electoral Registration Officer ( ERO) and the Returning Officer (RO) of four wards in West Delhi. That was surely very disheartening; neither had I the staff nor the luxury of neglecting the ICDS project. I went to the Election Office and the glitter in the eyes of the authority there told me that I was again “hand picked”. Instead of requesting them to relieve me, I decided to give one month of my time to the election while planning the commissioning of 16 new projects simultaneously. There was an apparent shortage of staff in the department, and expecting any help from Ms. Raghuraman was out of question.

She mockingly told me that the RO has all the powers and the department would not be of any help in the election process.

The wards that were allotted to me were one of the most sensitive ones in Delhi. All four wards of Shalimar Bagh and Pitampura were the stronghold of BJP and a name like Shamim Akhtar did raise eyebrows. I was totally confident, thanks to my Lakshadweep experience. I was given four AROs and even if they were not the most competent people, we were one team. I assured them that they don’t have to bother much, I understand the entire procedure myself and they are only supposed to help me in the process.

The first phase of reconciling the electoral roll was published as per rule and after the specified time, it was finalized as per the established procedure of law. A leader of opposition approached me, and “asked” me to change that by incorporating his objections. I told him that after publication of the final roll, it was not in my jurisdiction, but only the Chief Election Commissioner could amend that. Initially, we had heated arguments, and in the evening I got a letter from the Chief Election Commissioner saying that if any court case arose due to my decision, I would personally be held responsible. Wow! Till now, the “system” gave me the impression that I don’t deserve any hearing, now the authorities were declaring me a convict even without a case being filed! Ignoring the “warning” of the Chief Election Commissioner, I continued.  The area MLA along with all the councilors and two very senior advocates came to my wretched office and, I gave them all the papers to be examined. After two hours of critical examination, they all agreed that my position was correct.

Now they were more than happy with my transparent method of working. They assured me all the co-operation and extended their trust in my ability and integrity. The Observer came, and was shocked to see that I did not have any staff. He wrote letters to the Election Commission saying that it would not be possible for me to the conduct election. I still got no staff. I passed an order under the statute for five staff to be posted for election work from my department and Ms. Raghuraman turned that down. My entire team, Mr. Observer, all the candidates know very well, what I had to go through to conduct the election. For printing the electoral roll in the press, I was the last in the queue; there were always shortage of vehicles when my team needed it; the space earmarked for training my staff, was taken over by another “Dabang” RO at the designated time; in the name of counting hall, I was given an open veranda, which was left out by others.

For lifting the impressed money also, my ARO had to spend the whole day in the Election Commission. But yes! Everything was in order and on the day of poll, my driver did not turn up. From my residence in Rajpura Road, I drove myself in my own car and when I reached my control room, it took half an hour to convince the police personnel that I was the RO and needed to go inside. Conducting the election in any hostile nation would have been much easier. When I reached my control room, the engineers for the maintenance of EVM, did not know any human language, forget about their ability to fix the machine. The poll finally started, and by 10.30 am the control room was flooded  with the news that in 18 of my polling stations, the poll had not even started. The reason was non-functioning of the Electronic Vending Machines (EVM). I looked at both the engineers and could assess the situation in no time. I decided to go to the polling station myself to fix the EVM. I took Sanjay and handed over the control room to one of my AROs. I went to each poll station myself, and fixed the EVM. When I was at the last polling station, one of the candidates demanded to defer the poll at that polling station saying it was post mid-day. I first changed the ballot unit and on seeing that I was fixing it myself, she was impressed. I passed an order there itself, saying that every man standing for voting, would be allowed to vote at the time of closure. I returned to my control room, sweating like a pig. Now the poll was going on smooth and about 4.00 pm a message comes that at one poll booth, the EVM was not working. I rushed to the polling station and was shocked to see the smart Junior Engineer from MCD who was the presiding officer had already conducted 180 polls despite the ballot unit not responding to the control unit. How he managed to pull those 180 votes (duly entered in the register and the diary) could be worth doing a PhD! I changed him on the spot with a new presiding officer and provided a new EVM. I returned with a heavy heart to the control room.

The Chief Election Commissioner had finally caught me. I answered that as per the rule of election through electronic machines, it would depend on the result. If the margin of the winning candidate would be more than 180, then the invalid 180 votes would become null and void, and if the margin would be below 180 then a re poll had to be conducted on that particular booth. My poll party started arriving with the polling material, and the strong room was planned and prepared by me in a very meticulous way. I started keeping all the EVMs and the relevant papers one by one, myself. Mr. Observer was shocked to see me marking and physically carrying them to the strong room. It was getting late and my team including the polling parties was really tired. So, I requested for dinner to be arranged for all. Mr. Observer and his PSO, the Police Inspector laughed saying that not even police could provide dinner at that hour, in the control room.

All other ROs had finished their work and had left to return the next day for counting. Hmmn! Not even police could arrange dinner at that hour! Who “knew” the power of the uniform more than me? I asked one of my committed staff to leave all the work. I gave him the number of a local search service in Delhi. I asked him to locate any caterer in the vicinity and let me know. After ten minutes, he told me that a caterer was on line, but he had already refused. I took the phone and had a word with the caterer. I had to talk for about fifteen minutes with the stranger on the other side, explaining the urgency and the work that we were doing and it would not be possible to continue for the next three hours without food. And in the next 45 minutes, all were served a hot meal.

Mr. Inspector did take three to four helpings.

There are more patriots outside the Government than there are inside.

Water indeed is thicker than blood.

After locking the strong room at about 3.30 am, I returned home. The next day was 7th of April, a date that I had been spending in silence since 37 years; had to go for the counting. The kind of strong room arrangement I had I could have announced the fastest result in Delhi. It was not to set any record, but that’s the way I work. But when I reached the counting hall, to my dismay, the Dy. Commissioner who was least bothered about my arrangements until then and was busy distributing cards for his son’s wedding, was very angry with my arrangement. Mr. Observer also instigated the candidates and their representatives about the improper sitting arrangement and they delayed my counting by at least two hours. They created a mess and even without my instruction, EVMs were brought from the strong room and on one of the tables, I saw a person opening the sealed area of the control unit, which could have erased the data. I lost it.

After removing that person from the counting team I literally wailed. Everyone was astounded and when they come to know that it was also my birthday, they all felt ashamed at the behavior of the Dy. Commissioner and the Observer. Seeing the reaction of the entire team the DC and Mr. Observer left. I wiped my tears and the counting started. In less than two hours, the result was announced and the candidates were smiling. When I was signing their certificates, Mr. Observer sent me a SMS requesting me not to retaliate by filing the negative facts in my RO report. Mr. Observer had “lend” me two of his staff, owing to that favor, I just kept silent.

The winning candidate in the constituency, where 180 invalid polls had been made, won by a margin of more than 2000, so the process was completed.

For the next six months, there was no court case relating to any of my wards and the poor Chief Election Commissioner could not convict me. The process got completed and filed. They can better explain someday how, without the final report of the RO the election process was considered complete! Who cares? Back at the Women and Child Department, it did not matter how I conducted the election but they were certainly concerned as to how to implement the 16 new projects.


... for more do Read my Book.


Now in the present ongoing Election Process( 2017) of MCD Delhi , I have beed put on Election Duty once again (presently posted in DUSIB, with no staff, not even a stno, now not even an official car)

State Election Coimmission of Delhi , irrespective of its Head ( read Chief) is a clasic example of Max Weber Beuracracy , whish does dot even know the word either "human; or " humane"




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