Patna, Sept. 12: When they entered the civil services, they probably thought they were done with the mother of all exams, there’d be no more tests to pass. They merely kidded themselves. They hadn’t reckoned with coming across Afzal Amanullah some day.
During his first meeting as boss of the industries department last fortnight, Amanullah flung juniors a teaser — the classic nine-dots puzzle (see chart) — to assess their ability to think out of the box. All 29 flunked the test. As did 11 representatives of trade and industry. It isn’t known if the absence of innovative talent around the table left Amanullah merely disappointed or also a tad pleased he had succeeded in failing all of them.
One of the brightest officers in the state bureaucracy, Amanullah is known to possess a wacky, even explosive, sense of humour which often manifests in practical jokes. This latest one left few in the meeting amused. Officials who failed to crack the puzzle shrank from comment, probably too mortified. Industry representatives blamed the burdens of business — too much work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, remember? Amanullah himself was poker faced. When asked about his puzzle-play, he said: “I am not supposed to share details of internal meetings of my department.”
Soon after taking charge of the industry department on September 3, Amanullah had convened a meeting of department officials posted in Patna and also representatives of Bihar Industries Association (BIA), Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and Bihar council of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Perhaps bored by the tone of proceedings, he decided to liven things up by distributing the nine-dots puzzle.
Industry department officials who failed in the test refused to speak on the issue for obvious reasons, some of the other participants shared their views on the poor outcome of this test.
“The entrepreneurs in Bihar have been so much involved in day-to-day problems that they hardly get time for thinking new things. This might be the reason that none from our fraternity too could solve the puzzle,” CII Bihar council chairman S.P. Sinha, who too had failed to solve the puzzle, told The Telegraph.
Another representative of entrepreneurs and president of BCCI O.P. Sah, however, tried to make light of the issue by claiming instead of feeling bad for not being able to solve the puzzle, “we are happy that the principal secretary listened to the points raised by us very carefully and immediately came up with solutions.”
Echoing Sah, BIA president KPS Keshri said the move of the department to organise “Udyami Adalat” (Entrepreneurs meeting) every month for providing them a platform for grievance redressal was a very good beginning as it would allow the entrepreneurs to make the senior officials aware about the problems they face while working on the ground. “The principal secretary also took notice of the point raised by us that none from representative bodies of entrepreneurs in Bihar had been given a place in the Bihar State Industrial Investment and Advisory Council. Now it has been decided that entrepreneurs’ representative from Bihar too would be invited in its first meeting scheduled to be held on September 15,” he added.
Industry department sources said the message from the principal secretary to the officials was loud and clear — their performance would be assessed on a monthly basis and those found to be creating hurdles in the way of industrialisation or not cooperating with the existing entrepreneurs would be taken to task. The punishment for failing puzzles has still not been officially notified.