By Manuwant Choudhary
Many people would drop in at the NDTV Patna office while I worked there…from chief ministers to former chief ministers, from turncoat politicians to would be party spokespersons, from activists to Maoists…but one evening an elderly gentleman came into our office to see me.
My colleague Manish Kumar introduced him to me as Sita Sharan Jha, the father-in-law of his elder brother Sanjay Jha.
Sanjay Jha worked with India Today then and for us television journalists who worked at a breathless speed doing Lives round the clock it really helped to crosscheck our facts with Sanjayji before going On AIR.
I was called the `Angrezi’ (English Journalist) waale patrakaar but we often did Lives in Hindi too so Sanjayji was always helpful when I wanted to get the right word to bash the Bihar politicians and criminals.
So recently when Sanjayji called me and informed me that his father-in-law has passed away it brought back memories.
In fact, Sita Sharan Jha dropped by at the NDTV office to see me on several occasions.
I did not know much about him but there was so much warmth when he talked to me and a sense of genuine happiness.
He knew my family well and told me how the Bihar Income Tax Commssioner called him once since my grandfather Shri Ramashray Prasad Choudhary refused to pay Income Tax to the Government of India in principle.
He wasn’t a tax evader but felt the Government of India was corrupt and so did not deserve to be paid a paisa from his hard-earned honest rupee.
So Sita Sharan Jha accompanied the Income Tax Commissioner to my hometown to see my grandfather.
He said, “I told Babusaheb that if he does not pay taxes then how can they run the Government?”
My grandfather asked the Income Tax Commissioner, “I will pay taxes if you tell me one thing the government of India has done for my town.”
The Income Tax Commissioner was at a loss for words because he was speaking to a man who built a co-educational High School in 1928, a co-ed degree college in 1963, a cinema house in 1947 (12 years before the town received any electricity), besides he built literally half the town.
All that governments did since independence was to nationalize the school and the college.
So my grandfather told Sita Sharan Jha, “I will pay the Income Tax because you are saying so but not because the Government of India wants me to.”
Sita Sharan Jha was born in Sitamarhi in 1936 and he was 78 when he passed away recently at Ranchi..he was suffering from throat cancer for a few months and he had told his near ones that he would not live long.
He had visited the four dhams Gangotri, Yamnotri , kedarnath and Badrinath recently.
He is survived by three sons and three daughters.
His eldest son Sushil Kumar Jha is an employee at the Bihar Legislative Council, while Aashish is the Chief Reporter at Dainik Jagran (Ranchi) and his youngest Basant Kumar Jha is Resident Editor of Dainik Bhaskar (Ranchi).
Basant Kumar Jha told me how his father had initially worked for the Birlas and Tata and in fact quit a Tata job where he was paid Rs.260 per month for a Reporters job at Searchlight where he was paid only Rs.135 a month.
So I asked him what his motivations were to become a journalist and Basant said he was shaken by the Indo-China war and how India was going through a real crisis in the sixties so he felt by being a journalist he could do more for his country.
After a year-and-a-half at Searchlight he joined The Indian Nation (owned by the Maharajah for Darbhanga) and it was a national newspaper coming out from Patna.
Sita Sharan Jha worked at the Indian Nation for 12 years and from Reporter he went on to become assistant editor..and later even associate editor.
When the newspaper closed down he worked hard behind the scenes and the newspaper attempted one last re-launch. But sadly the paper closed down finally.
It had a beautiful palatial building on Frazer Road, now converted into a shabby market.
Few know how closely Sita Sharan Jha worked with top Bihar politicians like Lalit Narayan Mishra and Jagannath Mishra.
Jagannath Mishra was a stringer at the Indian Nation when Sita Sharan Jha was a Reporter but when Dr. Jagannath Mishra became Chief Minister he would often ask Sitaji to write his public speeches.
Sita Sharan Jha would also help IAS officers prepare the State Budget sitting in the Chief Minister’s chamber.
Sanjayji recounted how once L.N. Mishra the then railway minister told railway officials that they must do anything the man siiting on the right side of him tells him to do….and when the meeting began Sita Sharan Jha was given the right seat.
Later L.N. Mishra asked him if he got any work done and Sita Sharan Jha replied how he got one railway engineer posted in some place.
L.N. Mishra (he was considered to be more powerful than Indira Gandhi) would make fun of him that Sita Sharan Jha was so honest that even if we gave him a bag on money he would drop it from his scooter on his way home.
He was so close to power yet so far from its trappings.
He never purchased any land in Patna in all these years as a journalist.
Even when he was not a Congress member he would sit through a Congress Working Committee meeting and would not be asked to leave but he never did anything wrong for the powers that be…
Not even the letter that Jagannath Mishra wrote to Laloo….(that was written by another Jha politician !)
Its no surprise that while Sita Sharan Jha passed away peacefully in Ranchi, his friend and colleague Bihar’s former chief minister Dr. Jagannath Mishra suffers in prison in Ranchi convicted in the fodder scam.