Special Contribution By N.A.Mirza
Meritorious services of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai were acknowledged and recognized by the Indian Posts and Telegraphs .He was Transport and Communication minister in the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet in the 1950s.Kidwai’s three bold and everlasting innovations earned him popularity and respect from every corner.A 20 paise commemorative was issued on him on April 04, 1969, some 15 years after his death in 1954 (at last).
The first innovation was the introduction of night airmail scheme known then as “All Up Airmail Scheme”, linking major airport cities of Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkatta), Delhi and Madras with Nagpur. Night flights from these airports would carry the mail which helped the mail to reach their recepients within two or three days instead of seven/eight days Railway Mail Service would take. Later, small cities and districts close to the airport too were added to Air Mail Scheme.
Introduction of “Inland Letter” was a second meritorious service and remains to date Rafi Ahmad Kidwai’s legacy. A post card was not sufficient to detail much and the contents could be read by any one while a detailed letter mailed in an envelope was expensive for a common Indian. He thought of a middle way – the inland letter with “one and half-a-page space to write, fold, close and mail. And the contents to be read only by the recipient. Mr. Muhammad Tariq Ghazi, a Canadian intellectual, writer and journalist of Indian origin rightly described the said inland letter as “Kidwai Envelope.” Today a postcard costs 50 paise while an inland letter Rs.2/- (200 paise) and is still the cheapest and discreet means of communication.
Kidwai Saheb’s third master plan was improvement at the post offices. On receiving a complaint from a Freedom Fighter from Calcutta, he personally visited the Calcutta G.P.O. as a common man, stood in the queue for a long time to buy stamps, noticed the attitudes of the staff and on the spot fired and punished errant staff. Nothing could change his decision and that served as a warning to other GPOs in the country. Such a practice can help alleviate problems at India Post offices across the country. Kidwai Saheb also left his marks in the Ministry of Food & Agriculture he headed. In a drought like situation in the 1950s as minister in charge he lifted up the control on ration – a system that was introduced by his predecessor K.M. Munshi. As a result food grains were available in the open market at affordable prices. Unfortunately, the ration system was restored later under a different minister. Today an Indian has three categories of ration card system and he cannot get a passport without a ration card.
The former Food & Agriculture minister of India’s lunch and dinner consisted of just plain rice and cereals. And it is on record that Kidawi Saheb had such friends like industrialist Jamanlal Bajaj. A few people can truly change the course in our motherland. Lets look for them who feel the pains common men suffer from. Stamp on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai is an effort in that direction, and not just a tribute to him.Who is who on Stamps (second edition. 2004) describes Kidwai Saheb as “a man of indomitable convictions.
He was in many respects, an extraordinary personality with extraordinary ways, but with all that, he had a lovable sense of individuality, selflessness and a keen spirit of social consciousness. Above all, he had the divine gift of a feeling for others, particularly for the underprivileged.”The book concludes: “Today Rafi Ahmed Kidwai is no more but he will always be remembered for his fearlessness and patriotism and his benevolence and love towards the poor and the downtrodden. Former Prime Minister late Mrs. Indira Gandhi observed: He was a true servant of the people, dedicated and able.”Dr Abdidullah Ghazi, an American intellectual of Indian origin, who knew Kidwai Saheb says he was Pandit Nehru’s pick for Prime Minister’s seat.