Chit Dukhira MSK
It goes without saying that Chit Geerjanand Dukhira has a really profound knowledge about local government and its management in Mauritius.
No doubt, he has become an authority in this field and it is in recognition of his major and useful contributions over the years, and also to history, that the present government has recently though belatedly conferred on him the award of ‘Member of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean’ (MSK) on 12 March 2014.
When I met him on a courteous visit at his residence in Quatre Bornes to congratulate him upon this long overdue official recognition, Chit went emotional and nostalgic. Down memory lanes he evoked the days of his sincere association with Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. The latter has left indelible imprints on youthful Chit with his civilised charm and very down to earth approach. This Long Mountain-born and bred villager, when in public life, fought courageously with his pen writing in the Mauritius Times and other dailies under various pseudonyms and devoted his time and energy organising socio-cultural activities in the north of the island.
As an activist championing the cause of the Mauritius Labour Party which had been trying hard to enlarge the country’s grassroots democracy, Chit founded the erstwhile MLP’s Constituency Committee for Long Mountain-Port Louis North. It helped to coordinate the organisation of public meetings and rallies in the North during the tumultuous periods culminating in the achievement of Independence in 1968. SSR had recruited his voluntary service on the MLP’s national executive committee and entrusted him with the task of PRO for the North. Steadfastly supported by his co-villagers, Chit organized with panache a very huge rally at Long Mountain to honour SSR in 1961 when the latter returned from London as Chief Minister, and in 1965 when he was promoted Premier. For the 1967 epoch-making general elections, Chit contributed to a certain measure to the victory of SSR’s Independence Party in the Long Mountain-Port Louis North Constituency, which was a marginal one, as Raouf Bundhun himself admitted in a conversation with us.
After a meteoric incursion in the civil service and secondary school teaching, he joined the administration of the District Council of Pamplemousses-Riviere du Rempart (North), starting as Secretary-Treasurer, Village Councils, and then became Treasurer before acting as its Secretary for six months, serving it for a total of ten years. But this tenure also helped him to acquire a sound grounding in trade union activities. He initiated the District Council Employees’ Union, the first in Mauritius, which successfully pressed for rural local government posts to be pensionable and for the setting up of the Local Government Service Commission.
With the wide experience acquired, Chit was able to climb slowly but surely the ladder further when he was appointed, out of 85 candidates, Deputy Town Clerk of the urban administration of Beau Bassin-Rose Hill (BB-RH) where he served for 26 years. This was a remarkable feat in the mid-sixties for a Hindu especially a village boy to penetrate into the region of Beau Bassin/Rose Hill, a stronghold of the anti-independence movement. He served loyally the administration whatever the regime. He retired after reaching the helm of the administration as Municipal Chief Executive Officer, then styled Town Clerk, in 1999.
As CEO, and even as deputy, in BB-RH, Chit discharged his duties with a high sense of professionalism, zeal and loyalty, whether its council was under PMSD or MMM control. His administrative contribution and expertise in, and passion for, local government, a vast and complex field, to make of the BB-RH Municipal Council a model public body is acknowledged by mayors, councillors and others.
Besides writing in the local press and international magazines on current issues, public policy and central administration, Chit Dukhira has to his credit a number of research papers, books and manuals relating to local government administration which are used as guidance and reference materials in Mauritius and abroad, the most sought after being his ‘Mauritius and Local Government Management’ (1992), ‘Local Governance in the Global Village: A Comparative Study’ (1998) and ‘History of Mauritius: Experiments in Democracy’ (2003).
Now in retirement, Chit Dukhira devotes much of his time to voluntary social work. The senior citizen organisation, SELEX, that he had set up in 1999, with the motto Unity and Development, was dubbed by Week-End in 2004 “une association volontaire exemplaire.” The other voluntary body, Organisation for Diaspora Initiatives, affiliated to ODI (International) whose headquarters are based in Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, which he founded in 2007, with both young and elderly members, aims at inter-religious and inter-cultural good understanding within our special, plural Mauritian society.
The two forthcoming books of Chit Dukhira are: ‘Indians – In India, Mauritius and South Africa’, large formatted and of 600 pages, and ‘La Nation Mauricienne Souveraine: Survol Historique’ (500 pages) that will be dedicated to the late Edwin de Robillard, SELEX’s honorary chairman (2000-2005).
Philip Li Ching Hum
Executive Member of ODI and Selex
* Published in print edition on 11 April 2014