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“SoI has no answers to the basic points I raised”

– S. M. Mathur

I have read the letter of Brig. A.K. Sinha with some amusement commenting on my article on “Restrictions on Survey of India Maps: Logic and Rationale”. Instead of answering the main points raised in my articles about the various kinds of restrictions of Survey of India maps, the mighty brigadier has indulged in nit-picking and has chosen to call my article “worthless, and bordering on untruth with zero technical control.” I can not stoop so low as to describe the missive of the great brigadier in similar terms, but only wish to point out that any one who has a weak point, wishes to avoid the truth and is unable to grapple with the basic issues resorts to invective. Since I happen to be a civilian gentleman I can not stoop to low barrack level.

Before I deal with the points raised by the brigadier, I will ask him why he has not touched on the issues raised in my article about the various irrational restrictions imposed by SoI so that many of their maps are not available to the general public and there are all kinds of restrictions on depiction of details which enhance the value of maps? What I have brought out in my article is known to every one who has to use a map and all of them have been questioning the logic and rationale of restrictions on the SoI maps. As a matter fact, a large number of articles have appeared in several scientific and technical journals about this problem, and I am not alone in voicing my concern. Instead of trying to elucidate on the basic issues raised in my article he has cleverly tried to evade them by nit-picking on minor observations made by me. Anyway, I would reply to his points seriatim.

  1. Well, there may have been an exceptional civilian posted as the Surveyor General— I have myself given the example of Dr. Hari Narain—but the fact remains that essentially the post is occupied by an armed services officer as a reference to maps and publications would make it amply clear. Has the brigadier ever heard of the adage (is it a very difficult word?) that ‘one swallow does not a summer make?’ As far as I know, Dr. Hari Narain was not selected for the post by “open competition” by the Union Public Service Commission. I have a large number of Survey of India maps, but I seem to have missed the name of a civilian Surveyor General on them, except of the abovenamed. Will the brigadier care to explain why with very, very few exceptions the vast majority of Surveyors General are from the services? Does it imply that there are no competent civilians to head the department. A list of the Survey officers would clearly show that most high posts are occupied by military officers. Why is it that the permanent civilian surveyors and cartographers never reach the top senior posts in spite of possessing much greater experience, expertise and qualifications than the service officers who get posted on tenure in the Survey?
  2. The brigadier admits that the word “Order” appears on the books and pamphlets of the SoI. Since no other department uses the expression, except the SoI, ‘published by the ORDER’ of its departmental head, it supports my statement that the SoI acts as a government within government.
  3. Perhaps the good brigadier is unaware of the latest GPS technology, which gives greater accuracy. Evidently, the top brass is not expected to bother about such insignificant things as up-to-date knowledge. This is left to the lowly minions. Even assuming that the brigadier is right that the accuracy is + 100 metres, does it not make it a nonsense of restriction on the depiction of coordinates?
  4. I was referring to the natioinal grid, and not the arbitrary grid or mesh square which a map user may make for himself. By the rigmarole in this para, he has skirted the issue of the national grid. If such gridded toposheets are openly sold by the SoI, he may please inform me so that I may order some.
  5. The satellite data with the resolution of 10 cm may not be available to the common man, but it is available to a potential government agency abroad: so why is the feisty brigadier agitated about it? I must admire the fine sense of detail of the brigadier between a dot and a dot-like hut. Bravo!
  6. This is the most beautiful para penned by the gallant brigadier. Instead of attending to the main points of my article-for which he had obvisouly no answer and so he has assiduously chosen to ignore them-he has decided to guarrel with a few very, very minor points. Well, I am sure the Editor knows his job and can competently judge what articles and comments to publish. (Mr. Editor: Could you be kind enough to allow me to thank the honourable brigadier on your behalf for the advice given to you?) Since the Survey of India has no answers to the basic points raised in my article it is really pathetic to see that it has tried to confuse the issues by raising insignificant points in unbecoming language. Oh, how have the mighty fallen!

In the end I commend my article to the discerning readership of [email protected] and ask them to judge for themselves my article’s worth and that of the Brigadier’s angry and irrational (like the map restriction) outpouring.

S. M. Mathur
B-15, Alokpuri, Ravindrapalli,
Lucknow – 226016, Ph: 0522 341889