Law Kumar Mishra
Patna: Former editor of the Times of India, Dileep Padgaonkar, 72, died on November 25, 2016, at a private hospital at Pune where he was staying after his retirement. He was admitted to the hospital on Novemeber 18 following a heart attack. He developed kidney and and multi- organ failure later.
Padgaonkar, who was called Paddy by his colleagues in the paper, had his schooling at St Vincent High school and graduated from Ferguson College. Padddy had his Ph D from Paris University. He was one of the first Doctorates in the Times of India when Sameer Jain started his association with the paper. Soon more than half a dozen PhDs joined the organisation in editorial department.
Paddy had worked in the UNESCO at Bangkok and later at Paris as its Informattion O0fficer. He became TOI’s Paris correspondent also before shifting to Mumbai as paper’s associate editor in 1986. He was awarded the highest civilian award (Legion-d France) of France government for his contribution to Indo-French friendship. The UPA government had appointed him chairman of the three members interlocutors committee on Jammu and Kashmir affairs. He had friendly relations with the leaders of different separatist organisations also.
Paddy can be given credit for being the first editor to champion the cause of the management/owners say in the editorials and
authority of the managers on editors. He had openly advocated managers’s upper hand at an annual meet of correspondents in Mumbai in 1986 when TOI chairman Ashok Jain was present and Girilal Jain was Editor. Later, he had differences with the top managements on the issue and entire top editorial team including Padgaonkar quit the organisation in 1994 to be back a few years later. He had floated Kashir TV channel for the Kashmiris, an English newspaper in Dubai and Nepal and an English TV news channel-AAPCA from new Delhi which was joined by several TOI men and women from both management and editorials.
He was basically a reporter. He had told me in 1993 at annual correspondents’ meet, ” Go to Palamu, there is severe drought and Narsimha Rao is also going there next week. I too had started my career at Pune by covering drought there.” Palamu drought was covered in five parts. When Pandhana, a village in Badwani district of MP was rocked with series of tremors in 1998, T OI covered the story for one week with Pandhana dateline. Paddy sent me a note by courier with congratulations and said, “I will give an extracting assignment to you very soon. ” Within weeks of his note, I was sent to Srinagar(Kashmir) on December 8 1998 when Durbar, High Court, Legislature had shifted to Jammu and temperature was minus 11 degrees.
Like other editors,he too was exploited by non-performing assets in the editoral department. And, when Shekhar Bhatia took over as TOI editor, he was divested of power in editorial works and those `Chamchas’ who had benefitted from him also stopped visiting his chamber. He was against allowing paratroopers from News Bureau TOI to visit places where there were already active correspondents and in December 1992, he gave enough space to reports filed by Faizabad stringer M G Gupta.
Dileep Padgaonkar, like many others, was fond of Lalu Prasad during his first innings as Bihar CM. He came to Patna along with R K Laxman, visited Ganga river with Lalu and went to Gaushalas of CM who took him to a conducted tour of makeshift butter manufacturing units in New Market. A special supplement was published with cartoons by Lakshman in TOI.,
He was a dog lover too. I recall when his pet died at his Delhi residence, he got a call from his son. There were tears in Paddy’s
eyes. He told his PA-Vinay Sharma not to disturb him and left for his residence immediately. During Girilal jain’s period, even Ashok Jain used to take prior appointments with the editor before meeting Girirlalji (as he was called).The situation changed and during Paddy’s time, response managers started taking both space and time of its editor and paper with advertisements becoming second to hard news, advertisements appearing on masthead and sacroscant edit pages. Paddy was a great editor who treated his cub reporters with affection unlike contemporary editors or assistant editors who themselves are at the mercy of response and HR managers.