From the issues of Stamps of India Collectors Companion

Part 12, Issue # 69 - June 13, 2002  

In this issue we take up the matters raised by Shakil Ahmed and present some of the incidents that have taken place in the recent past during various exhibitions. However in the current philatelic scenario it could have been just about anybody, anywhere in India. For the record Shakil Ahmed is a philatelist from Cuttack, Orissa who participated in ORPEX state level exhibition organized by India Post in April 26-28, 2002 at Bhubaneswar. He was unhappy with the Large Silver medal awarded by the Jury as he had participated with the same exhibit at the International at Nepal and at the National exhibition held at Nashik in 2001 and received a Silver-Bronze and Silver respectively.

As he was not satisfied and wanted a reappraisal he immediately wrote on April 28, 2002 to the Chief Postmaster General of Orissa Circle who was also the Chairman of the Jury. Same day he raised this issue at the Regional Meeting of the Philatelic Congress of India (PCI) being held in Bhubaneswar and the President PCI who was also a Jury, and the Secretary of the exhibition was given a copy of his complaint.  

The exhibitors and Jury in India equate the medals in relation to the level of the exhibition. A Silver medal at the National is equivalent to Large Silver at State and to Silver Bronze at International level. According to this recipe he was given the right award and should not have been complaining.

He compares the case of other, more privileged, exhibitors who were awarded Silver medals in the national exhibition and were now adjudged worthy of Vermeil Medals with special prizes. He also appealed that care should be taken in selection of Jurors as well as outsiders interfering and influencing their working.

On April 30, 2002 he wrote another letter to the Chief Postmaster General of Orissa Circle in which Ahmed says that Dhananjay Desai one of the jury, went through the exhibit with him, after the results were announced and couldn?t explain satisfactorily the justification of the judgment. While in other cases, exhibits that were given higher markings, even with undesirable material were shown to Desai. The views of several other senior philatelists such as G Madan Mohan Das and Anil Suri who compared his exhibit with others were also favorable.

Ahmed also brings up the curious case of Omprakash Jagati who won Vermeil Medal with Chief Postmaster General Trophy in ORPEX-2002. Jagati is known for irregular and unpunished participation in the state level exhibitions at Orissa, Karnataka, and Gujarat. His exhibit was awarded Silver Bronze at 65 points at the last National in December 2001 where he participated from Karnataka. 

He also sites cases of exhibitors A. K. Dash, J. Jyoti who along with him all got Silver Medals at the National whereas in ORPEX Dash and Jyoti got Vermeil medals with special prizes but he was left out. 

Ahmed mentions the name of B K Sinha, PCI Secretary and Ajit Kumar Dash two local philatelists who freely intermixed with jury members and were instrumental in influencing the awards. Should we say contrary to norm or as is the norm the juries were not present when awards were declared on April 27, 2002 and mark sheets were not available with the exhibition office. He says ?had the Juries been present at the venue I could have got my doubts cleared by way of conversation at the spot which I could not avail due to their absence.?

Not finding any answers to his queries he wrote on May 2, 2002 to PCI members with copies, amongst others, to S. C. Dutta the Director General of India Post asking for necessary action.

He then received a response from none other than PCI President who wrote to him on May 29, 2002. Ahmed must be somebody personally very important to the PCI President, Sahadeva Sahoo, as there are scores of complaints, several of them of serious nature, pending with him for years that have not had the good fortune of any response whatsoever, not even an acknowledgement.

Ahmed in his point-to-point response to Sahoo on June 3, 2002 brings up the case of Moomin Sinha, the daughter of B K Sinha, PCI Secretary, whose participation in the last national brought a Silver Bronze. The same exhibit won a Vermeil with Special Prize at ORPEX.

He also mentions that he had absolutely revised his exhibit and changed five better items in the exhibit shown in ORPEX-2002. ?This is a sheer partiality, if not manipulation. ...From the first reading of your letter I find as President of the PCI you are bent upon to find out faults with me over my letters, so as to say that you are all right and I am all wrong. ...I pointed out large scale partiality has taken place in judging the exhibits and awarding the prizes in as much as some exhibits were down graded and some exhibits were surprisingly given extraordinary scoring without sufficient cause which needs rectification.  But my request was not acceded to.  The members present could give no reply to me in the meeting there or by you even though you heard it.  The jury was surreptously left the meeting hall and remained outside until PCI Governing Council meeting was called upon...?

Ahmed clarifies that ?...My complaints are many fold as you can see from my letters and all those are aiming at correcting the incorrect ones and you cannot therefore throw the blame on me that had I received a higher medal I would not have gone into the inappropriate judging of exhibits...?

He feels so strongly about his stand that he is willing to take it to any forum and he goes on to ask the PCI President ?In case you are not satisfied kindly give me the address of F. I. A. P. and F. I. P. so that I will place the matter before them for a fair decision which will also be a guiding line for the PCI for judging the forthcoming exhibitions.?

Ahmed has since received response from many philatelists who have felt strongly enough to join their support to his cause.

However response times and the attitudes of the concerned senior philatelists have caused many budding philatelists to either take up arms against them or disgusted them so much as to give up philately.  This unfortunately is what the newcomers in philately in India can expect with certainty instead of encouragement and guidance.  

The Complete text of the Correspondence is posted on the website or 

Part 13, Issue # 70 - June 20, 2002

B K Sinha sent following response, almost immediately, on receiving the previous issue of this newsletter.

?Though I was on the Organising Committee of the ORPEX 2002 - and since the Philatelic Congress of India's Governing Council and Regional meeting coincided with the dates of the exhibition, I never had the time to even visit the exhibition after the frames were mounted - let alone 'interact and influence' the jury in any matter whatsoever. Needless to say sore losers always complain and every exhibition has a share of its dissatisfied exhibitors. What is now disturbing is the fact that these people have now a readymade forum to publish unsubstantiated facts and hearsay.

To straighten the facts which you have published: ?Ahmed in his point-to-point response to Sahoo on June 3, 2002 brings up the case of Moomin Sinha, the daughter of B K Sinha, PCI Secretary, whose participation in the last national brought a Silver Bronze. The same exhibit won a Vermeil with Special Prize at ORPEX.?

While the facts mentioned above are true - it has been twisted to meet the ends intended by Shakil Ahmed. The facts are:

1. Moomin's exhibit is of 4 frames and has won Large Silver at HONG KONG 2000 continental exhibition in the Youth Class.  

2. She had applied for 4 frames at EMPIREPEX but was allotted only 2 frames - therefore she was awarded a Silver Bronze - rather than withdrawing her exhibit and complaining, she graciously accepted whatever what was awarded to her.

3. At ORPEX 2002 she had displayed 4 frames and in the age group of 12-15 years. She was awarded a Vermeil + Special prize at this State Level exhibition. Do you consider it as 'manipulation'?

Shakil also mentions several points which are inconsistent with facts and reality - I do not wish to enter into a duel of words, either with him or in any forum, and therefore am not offering my comments. I only wish you could publish my point of view in your next letter.?

Sinha then sent following further comments, half an hour later:

?I wish that you contact the individuals concerned whenever you publish a complaint on a particular individual - and get his/her side of the facts ? this would add to the perspective of the story when published along side the main item.

Shakil has mentioned in his footnote 'copy to all PCI Members'. The two protagonists in the complaint ? A K Dash and myself have never received any letters ? I obtained them from Mr. Sahoo. He very conveniently avoids sending the letters to us.

He writes about scrapping the INPEX 2002. You have not dealt with that section of complaint. To be honest ? I too feel that the exhibition should be scrapped. It is too much of a hassle.

You are part of the Organising Committee - would it be proper that we issue a letter that Shakil and Mr. Kanungo be taken off the organising committee since they say "the signatures are forged in the minutes book when the resolution was passed" (both at Nashik and the EIPA meetings?). Your comments on this.?

We thank Sinha for his prompt reactions and stand by our story on the basis of the documents provided to us. We did write that ?in the current philatelic scenario it could have been just about anybody, anywhere in India? and the story was not about Shakil Ahmed, the person, but through him, about how exhibitions are conducted and exhibitors treated.

As an individual, and as father Sinha has provided his side of the story that we have carried in full above. Now we would like him as an office bearer of the Philatelic Congress of India (PCI), to reveal the identity of person/s who overrule International Philatelic Federations (FIP) Regulations while holding national exhibitions in India. In this case who wrote the rules on number of frames to allot and on the age limits for the most important of all classes, Youth?

And what about other, more serious, cases Ahmed mentioned in his letters?

We would like to highlight the golden lines Ahmed could write even after all this ?had the Juries been present at the venue I could have got my doubts cleared by way of conversation at the spot which I could not avail due to their absence.?

And when he questioned them during PCI meeting the jury ?...left the meeting hall and remained outside until PCI Governing Council meeting was called upon...?

We will reiterate that this is high time that the PCI wakes up to reality, this however will require tough decisions to be taken transparently and with honesty. The change starts in the mind. The first step towards openness is change in the mindset of PCI officers. With the change in the mindset accountability of each individual would follow. Today most PCI officers behave as if they are accountable to no one, neither to governing council members nor to general body members.

We also feel that PCI most urgently needs the services of a relationship management expert not only to mend its fences with India Post, FIP, and FIAP but with its own membership as well.  

I am always surprised to read the remarks of the exhibitors, who participate at different level philatelic Exhibitions and feel many times insulted if their exhibits are not awarded the prizes or medals which they think they deserve. So for me it was very surprising to read the remarks of Mr. Shakil Ahmed, who got Large Silver at ORPEX, although he was awarded Silver bronze at International Exhibition in Nepal and Silver at National at Nashik.

I have no idea about the exhibiting practices in India. In India there are certain malpractices even in the field of philately. Personal likes and dislikes, mainly on the grounds of regional nature, if not on religious nature. This is unfortunately at all levels, in all states. It is a national tragedy.

Your exhibit can be down graded because this is decided by a Jury and not by a machine. I do not know if the Jury in India know the previous achievements and medals awarded to a particular exhibitor and if an Exhibitor?s Pass at all exists in India. If the Jury know this, the conflicts between the exhibitor and Jury could be avoided in majority of cases. Perhaps the Jury can refer to the application form of the exhibitor where (I take for granted that) such indications like medals achieved for that particular exhibit are shown.  

Also it is easy to judge a traditional or postal history exhibit than a thematic one. The personal knowledge of the Jury will surely play a big role. So nowadays the applicant has to provide information about the scare or rare items in his exhibit, literature used, publications by the exhibitor, if any. Since the Jury is not omniscient and may not know any thing about the subject being exhibited.

I am surprised that the regional or district level or national level exhibitions are held without giving appropriate earlier previous notice to the Indian philatelists. A National Level Exhibition here or anywhere in Europe requires at least four years for preparations. So I was taken with great surprise that after India had EMPIREPEX-INPEX at Nasik only last year, we will have National at Bhubaneshwar this year! I think that the frequency of such exhibition should be well taken into consideration and should not depend upon the whim of some person.  

We have also suggested the guidelines for conducting exhibitions and judging and Dr. Jagtap has made a very valid point. It is therefore important at any exhibition for the exhibitor to be able to interact with the Jury to get a better understanding on the decision making process and if a mark sheet can be provided, then we are sure it would reduce the number of unsatisfied exhibitors.  

[Dr. Jagtap has also written a very useful note on the system of philatelic exhibiting in Switzerland. It is available at]    


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