Scam: Strategy to Kill Over Time-racy action On a Friday, While camping in balmy weather in erstwhile Bombay now Mumbai, I completed certain specific sensitive data collection in few defence production units in far off suburbs. I converted it into a lucid report and carried it in a folder to the local office in the city. I was waiting in the lounge whence the wall-clock chimed four times; was reading a column about previous day’s triumph of Indian Army that forced Pakistan Major General AK Niazi to surrender with his huge army Division at 4.15 P.M. that liberated Bangla Desh. As I heard approaching echoing footsteps, lifted my head from the columns of the city edition of The Times of India - Thursday, December, 17, 1971; a lanky handsome fair complexioned Colonel with bluish beret on hand - assumed charges only forenoon from his less rigid predecessor - was walking majestically into his spacious red carpeted chamber. Upon seeing him, I stood erect from the couch and he acknowledged my presence. He disappeared behind the green khadi curtain. Few minutes went by. An orderly in OG uniform came out of OIC‘s chamber ushering me in. As I entered chamber, a glowing tiny lamp just above the shining brass name plate switched from green to red. The “orderly” re-entered from an antechamber - with a metal tray containing gold rimmed bone-China-tea-set and softly placed it on the glass topped elliptical table. Colonel in OG uniform displaying over his chest pocket, ribbons earned and medallions won that proclaimed his valour and feats in war and peace time. With his right hand, he transferred the beverage from the white flowery jug to a tall mug, rim painted in golden hue whence hot-line on his table left was buzzing. The green-tea redolence that permeated chamber hit my nostrils. He picked up the glossy red receiver from its cradle and answered in Punjabi accented Hindi. He was informing caller at New Delhi Army HQrs. of my presence and simultaneously gestured me to handover the folder. I handed over folder to his proffered hand. He flipped open the folder and started reading bit slowly - “Alpha alphabet stop Beta Gita stop Charlie independence stop Delta Rama banished over”. Every second word by association indicates 26-18-15-14 the status and quantum of certain equipment readiness for open wagon dispatch to sensitive areas. The line went dead on the other side. He poured from pot into another empty mug on tray, steaming green tea in thin stream and pushed it gently toward me whence Superintendent of admin - Mr Menon - had come in with set of Bills for Colonel’s approval. He stated that they were claims for overtime-work executed by admin civilian. The very mention of the word “overtime” seemed to have offended Colonel. He uttered the word twice with little parenthesis and enquired whether staff would be engaged that day too to which Mr Menon quickly responded in affirmative. He told him to leave the bills and would examine it at his leisure! He lighted a cigar, and inhaled deeply and gazing into the roof, expelled smoke in successive twirling rings. As I excused, he said that I should accompany him at 1630 hrs. At 1600 hrs it was closing time for the Office. All civilian staff had left around 1630 hrs. . An officer to perform closing and sealing duties was at ear-short waiting for us to leave. Colonel & I, in Office staff car, left the barrack. After fifteen minutes drive, the driver was instructed to take u - turn back to colonel’s Office. Upon seeing our car approaching, security man lifted the motorised barrier-gate that moved vertically up in a quadrant. The car halted near Time Office; we alighted. Colonel checked the dog-eared IN-OUT register quickly & found an orderly officer had already signed indicating time of depositing Office keys for both barracks as at 1810 hrs whereas the Time Office wall-clock was showing 5.10. He jotted his remarks in red ink and encircled it. We got back into the car and reached Office admin barrack where staff supposed to work on casual over time from 1600 to 1800hrs! Colonel went close to the barrack and inspected the ochre arrack seal over locks. At a distance in East, on a cylindrical platform around a giant banyan tree, Colonel & I saw admin staff - six of them - were exposed to mild sun shine merrily playing card game. One of them, seen us approaching, alerted fellow players and in a moment, they were all seen running helter-skelter throwing cards into trajectories, tipping their empty lunch boxes and water bottles! Colonel seemed satisfied with his immediate mission and we both left the scene. I was dropped as per my request near Reay Road - a local railway station. Colonel desired that I must present next day in his chamber at 0800 hrs. It was 0815 hrs next day. Colonel called over inter-com Mr Menon to come along with overtime staff along with case files that they had dealt with during normal working hours of the previous day. Few minutes went by. Mr Menon and staff six in numbers trooped in, carrying some bulky case files. They were told to leave those files on side rack. They all must have felt on tenterhooks & trembling in their trousers. Colonel now told them to fetch immediately all those case files they had dealt previous evening during over time. Nonchalantly they all trooped out. Colonel lighted a cigar and puffed out greyish smoke in thick twirling rings. It looked as if he had triumphed over evil. He stood up and proceeded on trot gesturing me to follow. We reached admin barrack. Upon entry, we both saw a section of staff in a huddle around Mr Menon. They were all taken aback, seeing Colonel at close proximity. Colonel addressing peremptorily to them: “Clearly you have all no case files to submit as dealt during overtime. Either withdraw overtime claims or face en-masse disciplinary action for having been cheating all these days.” The staff and I remain astounded with his averment.