“Incomplete work is no work!” It is one of the guiding principles Cuttack collector Bhabani Shankar Chaini swears by. He received it as a child from his father Damodar Chaini, himself an administrative officer like his son. Bhabani lived up to the ideal on the day his father died.

Early on April 7, Bhabani received the news of his father’s demise. Most people in his place would have taken leave for the day to perform the last rites of his father. Not Chaini junior. As administrative head in an important district like Cuttack, he realised he could ill afford to be on leave even for a day, when he was leading the war on coronavirus in his area. In taking this difficult, selfless call, Bhabani was obviously going by what his father himself would have done or advised him to do in a similar situation. CM Naveen Patnaik doffed his hat to his work ethic, describing his decision as ‘an act of exemplary public service’ in a tweet. Chief state spokesperson on the COVID-19 situation Subroto Bagchi made special mention of this rare act of sacrifice in the larger public interest in his daily 4.30 PM briefing. “The Collector has set a high benchmark of public service at a time of grave crisis,” he said.

Bhabani did fulfil his duties as a son–he paid his last respects to his dear father and lit the funeral pyre, but only after completing the day’s important business, including a meeting with other officials. After the funeral rites, he promptly returned to work. In a country–and a state–where bureaucrats are known for their apathy, sloth and worse, Bhabani’s devotion to service stands out as an example of exceptional commitment to duty at a time of a irreparable personal loss.

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