From the issues of Stamps of India Collectors Companion

Part 2, Issue # 59 - April 4, 2002 

The philatelic activities in India are well documented from 1872 onwards till 1940s when civil and military officers, and leading businessmen of British origin in India were the leaders in the field of philately.

The modern history of Indian philately can be said to have, a beginning with Jal Cooper who was the undisputed leader of philately in India since 1940s till his death in August 1972 and the last thirty years undoubtedly belonged to D N Jatia. With this the contributions of the other collectors / dealers are not being undermined but these two names do stand out in the history.

Interestingly Cooper who was a full time dealer, almost single-handedly did more to develop philately at grass roots than all the other dealers or collectors of his time. He wore many hats competently. He was fiercely independent and took stand against the philatelic establishment as well as faulty policies of the Government of India, while staying at the top of philatelic industry in India. His books that are like a bible of Indian philately are still in demand. He is acknowledged and respected all over the world even today.

Jatia, though a collector, had a larger turnover buying selling stamps, accessories, and literature than all the dealers of his time. He truly was a one-man industry however he operated it in a clandestine manner. For example Jatia represented David Feldman?s Auction House of Switzerland in India for over two decades, and was the main supplier of new issues to several large corporations like Franklin Mint of USA.

In December 1970 when India Post organized the first national Jatia with connivance of then Philatelic Officer at India Post HQ S P Chatterjea won two gold medals and from that time onwards Jatia and Chatterjea worked as a team till death do them part. The Philatelic Advisory Committee (PAC) of the Ministry used to have one philatelist each from North, South, East, and West recommended by the respective Post Masters General of the area. Chatterjea managed to impose Jatia in 1971 on the PAC as the fifth philatelist in the committee months after the original committee members were announced.

Realizing Chatterjea?s position of strength in India Post and the lucrative nature of philately the team continued to search for means of making money.  When Chatterjea manned India Post?s Sales Booth at Munich 1972 world philatelic exhibition Jatia received commission on the sale of stamps. This arrangement continued for next five years till Chatterjea remained in office.

In INDIPEX 73 world philatelic exhibition at New Delhi in 1973 Jatia used every means to wrangle the Grand Prize National and the Jury had to club several of his exhibits to be able to provide the award. On the basis of this achievement Jatia managed to get appointed as a jury at a world philatelic exhibition in France in 1975. And to consolidate his position in the same year he founded the Philatelic Congress of India (PCI) during the second national exhibition held by India Post.

PCI became a member of the International Philatelic Federation (FIP). Since 1986 ?voting? for 17 institutional seats and by 1992 ?voting? for 6 individual seats happened. Until then the elections for the 23 seats of the Governing Council use to take less than 20 seconds to conduct. The results of elections were, as they say, pre-decided.

Jatia was a law unto himself and above all laws. He was the decision maker remote controlling other PCI office bearers as puppets.  He remained President for 4 years till 1979 although the PCI constitution provides for a single term of 2 years. He then continued till 1982 as Immediate Past President on the Governing Council of PCI. A resolution was then passed that past presidents will permanently carry on in the Governing Council forever with full voting rights. This even though against all democratic norms, however failed to stir protest. Hypothetically a situation may arise when the past presidents may have majority in the Governing Council that has 23 elected members.

Jatia?s first priority was to consolidate. He wanted the numbers on his side and blind loyalty was instantly rewarded. Others did not matter even if elected on PCI Governing council and several persons left the hobby in sheer disgust. Several others, including those who were jurors when Jatia was the novice exhibitor, were unceremoniously dumped. Any one who dared challenge his authority or question any of his moves was dealt with severely and it was ensured that such persons couldn?t participate in philately in India.

Jatia had his share of good qualities as well; he fought in the Jury Rooms for even those Indian exhibitors that were not his camp followers. Because he knew that even Internationally his strength was in numbers. But he was only human and it was his actions or inactions that resulted in destruction of philately at grass roots. He greedily reaped the crop sowed by others but failed to sow any. When he appeared on national philatelic scene there were in excess of 250,000 First Day Covers serviced for every issue and it came down to 2,500 by the time he left this world.

After Jatia passed away in November 2000, serious attempts are being made to turn the PCI towards transparency and accountability that it is not at all accustomed to. Naturally such moves are being violently resisted by a small coterie of Jatia loyalists trying to imitate him in exercising absolute control and dispense favors for a price.  

Part 3, Issue # 60 - April 11, 2002

We begin this edition?s Views and Opinion with a short note from our end.  We would like to state that what has been presented here is not just our views and opinions but facts that are documented and are on record.  Also as editors we have always taken an objective view of what ever we have reported on, even though we have been part of Indian Philately for more than 25 years.

We are very glad to report that the earlier two columns have brought in very diverse responses and we produce below a selected few without any prejudice.

NAME WITHHELD AT SENDER?S REQUEST who also has been a victim
?...You have compared his dealings and behaviour with that of Mr. Jal Cooper. I never had the opportunity to know Mr. Jal Cooper, but I believe you cannot ever compare these two personalities with each other!?

?I am not surprised that fame and ambition have led to the deterioration of services and the organization.  Unfortunately prosperity has a way of destroying non-profit and service bodies...?

?You have maligned late Mr. D.N. Jatia and accused him of clandestine activities. You have taken advantage of the fact that he is not alive to repudite your accusations. I find your article in bad taste. It seems you have some hidden agenda!!!! We in Dubai have the highest regard for him. Please refrain from maligning the dead.?

One could probably write reams of paper on the contributions and misdeeds of D N Jatia but we are sure that putting the past under the rug would not benefit anyone.  Since the past is from where we build our future and cannot be ignored only because it is unpleasant.

We will be documenting in the forthcoming issues the contributions, the complaints and views of several philatelists and victims that are currently active on the Indian Philatelic scene and invite each one of these persons to contribute their response that we would be happy to carry in the newsletter.


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