Chitragupta’s Apprenticeship at the EPA


Lord Chitragupta was bored in the Heavens. He was tired of keeping records of “paap” (bad deeds)” and “punya“(good deeds). There was nothing exciting in his job as most souls that arrived had a “punya deficit” and were sent to the “Naraka” (i.e. hell) with 100 lashes to begin with. Very few were sent to the heaven with a flower of welcome bouche.

So Chitragupta went to his master Yama (Dharma Raja) and asked for leave for two weeks. Yama was startled. “How can I grant you a leave? What will happen to the thousands of souls whose records you provide me every day to deliver the fair judgment? There is no replacement to you. I wish Lord Brahma thought about this earlier and given birth to two Chitraguptas with one as stand bye”

(Incidentally, those of you who don’t know – in ancient Indian mythology, Chitragupta, son of Brahma, is the scribe who records all actions of every human being. These records are reviewed by Yama for judging the soul after death.

It is said that Yama would become confused sometimes when dead souls would come to him, and would occasionally send the souls to either heaven or hell wrongly. Lord Brahma, determined to solve this problem sat in meditation for thousands of years. Finally, when he opened his eyes, Chitragupta stood before him. Chitragupta, sometimes referred to as the first man to use letters, is known to be incredibly meticulous, and with his pen and paper tracks every action (good or bad) of every sentient life form. These perfect and complete documents are referred to in mystical traditions as the “Akashic” records. Each year, Chitragupta is supposed to start his new book of accounts in the month of Chitiraj (April 14-May 15). The time had come to open the New Book. See

Chitragupta said “Not to worry. April-May is a season in India with least number of deaths because most travel abroad for vacations where the environment is less polluted (i.e. less chances to die). He then provided guidance to Yama on the judgment that he could use without seeing records e.g. A politician – should be sent to the hell right away with no hesitation; An IAS officer with more than 10 transfers in 2 years – a case to heaven as he must be too honest etc. Yama was surprised with Chitragupta’ insight and confidence. “And when I come back, I will check your judgments with actual records and “adjust”. I am sure there will be very few cases of reversals or changing the level of rewards and punishments”

Yama agreed. This should not be a problem to Indian souls as they are quite used to or familiar with Court’s changing judgments and stands, reversals in some cases especially on environmental clearance. He was not wrong.

“OK, I let you go but what will you do for the next two weeks?” He asked Chitragupta

‘I was thinking of doing something different. I thought of joining one of the Pollution Control Boards in India or Green Bench as an Apprentice and help in environment related records of “paap” and “punya”. Perhaps my meticulous record keeping could help the decision making bodies in India for making a sound environmental judgment”

“That’s an amazing idea” Yama said – “Tathastu” (God bless)

Chitragupta closed his eyes and with his divine powers appeared at newly constituted office of Environmental Protection Authority in Delhi. There was a long queue at the counter for filing application of a position of a clerk as a replacement for two weeks. This position was to keep records of consents, environmental clearances, quarterly monitoring reports, cess returns, environmental statements etc. and present these records to the judging committee as required.

When Chitragupta reached the counter after two hours of waiting and elbowing in the queue, the man at the counter asked. “Where are the attachments? Aadhar card, proof of residence, last three years of Income Tax returns?” Chitragupta had none of these and did not know anything about. Man at the counter glanced at the filled up form – under experience, it was written – over 10,000 years; more than 10 billion cases handled. “Is this some joke”? Chitragupta explained and ended saying that he was prepared to work for 2 weeks with no salary expectations.

We don’t know what finally worked, whether his vast experience or the offer to work for free, but Chitragupta was ushered to the cabin of the Member Secretary in the next one hour by Joint Chief Environmental Engineer (JCEE)

The proceedings were on. A committee of six experts was sitting. The Member Secretary (MS) took a look at Chitragupta and told JCEE “Theek lagta hai (looks alright)” ask him to join office in next two days – get him trained on records and get familiar with our filing system”. Chitragupta did not want to waste two days, especially walking around in the polluted air of Delhi. “Can I start working from right now?” – He asked.  “OK, MS said reluctantly, sit on this stool and just listen. Today, our JCEE is managing the records”

The case being heard was of M/s GoodEarth Chemicals Inc. This case was towards renewal of the consent to operate. The Environmental Consultant to the company wearing a black suit and a red tie, presented the records on all the environment related matters with all the earnest and elegancy. “We have been 24×7 compliant Sir. All parameters are well within the limits and in some cases even below the detectable limits. We have competent staff and a sophisticated laboratory that is NABL certified. We have been paying cess regularly. The energy and water consumption per ton of product is reducing every year at the rate of 5%”.The MS and the Committee members nodded and glanced at the records provided by the JCEE to countercheck “Good, looks OK – go ahead”.

“We are ISO 14001, OHSAH 18000 and SA 8000 compliant Sir. We were awarded as the best green company in India for the last year. We have started publishing Sustainability Report as per GRI Version 4.  And we practice CSR in both letter and spirit. ” The MD of the company got up and placed 7 copies of beautifully designed Sustainability Reports on the table “with our complements Sir”, he said in a husky voice.

The Committee was clearly pleased.

Chitragupta closed his eyes and with his divine powers looked at records that could NOT be seen by the Committee.   GoodEarth Chemicals wasn’t so good to the earth as it claimed. Pollution parameters on average were within limits, but there were many occasions of spikes and on contiguous basis, especially at night. Much of the COD was vaporized from the VOC release from the aeration tank where there were no stipulations. Much of the sludge generated was hazardous but was shown as non-hazardous by carefully reporting concentrations/kg below the thresholds. The 14001/18000/8000 certifications that were mentioned were obtained from “lax” and “easy to influence” certifiers, who charged least from the market. The Green award that was obtained was from an NGO that received grant from GoodEarths CSR budget!”

Chitragupta was therefore not comfortable with the records presented. He looked at the company representatives waiting outside in the lounge for their turn with his divine eyes. He saw that there were some genuine companies but looked more under stress and worried despite the good deeds done. There were more companies of the kind of GoodEarth who had a facade and were accompanied by Environmental Consultants. They did not have so worried faces. They looked confident.

After some ten such case hearings, Chitragupta stepped out with an excuse to go to the loo.He could not resist. He dialed Yama using the special mobile phone that was provided to him by the dead soul of late MD of one of the 2G scam telecom companies.

“My master” he said (breathing heavily). “The environmental records at EPA in India is a real mess. Most of the times, the records are neither complete nor trustworthy. The judgments made on this basis are going to be clearly wrong and unfair. I think I should stay here a bit longer to fix the problem by showing the Committee (and more so to the people) – what the real records are. Instead of rewarding and punishing souls after death (which I feel is too late!), we should start the process right upfront – and here on the earth itself”.

When Yama had picked up Chitragupta’s call, he was on his way to meet Lord Brahma to present his business plan for FY 2015-2016. “Let me add in my plan opening of an overseas office of environmental justice in India. But I cannot spare Chitragupta. I must put there a clone by asking Dr Joshua Lederberg, – who arrived with us in 2008.Let me put in my budget his consulting fees and couple of travels to Delhi”

Chitragupta returned to the heaven the very next day cancelling his 13 days remaining leave.

(Joshua Lederberg,  (May 23, 1925 – February 2, 2008)[ was an American molecular biologist known for his work in microbial genetics, artificial intelligence, and the United States space program. He was just 33 years old when he won the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering that bacteria can mate and exchange genes)


Cover image sourced from


  1. Dear Prasad
    This is true and you have put it rightly. While reading this, I feel you could write more and contribute to literature. I have not heard Asimov in Environment. Science fiction based on Environmental problems from you will be a gift to Environment.

  2. Respected Sir,
    Another brilliant article, although written under the veil of jest portrays the actual scenario in India.

  3. Dear Sir,
    I Appreciate your candid presentation of the present status of Environment management by companies. Hope this reaches the PMO and the CPCB to take a call on the practice being followed by certain companies.

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