Know Dr. Markandey Rai

I was born in a middle class joint family in village Ujiar, in Ballia District of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India. We all brothers and sisters were brought up together in the same standard though my father died in an accident in May 1957 when I was a small boy. My father had four brothers and he was second in order of birth. Elder and the youngest brother were in Bihar police and younger brother next to my father was responsible for agriculture and to take care of the family in Ujiar. He was a great person and very impressive personality overall. He was a good guardian who taught us mathematics and disciplined us to be a good human being. He was a spiritual person and good wrestler-A holistic personality and an all rounder. All the training and human value were inculcated by him and in his superb guidance. Eldest brother whom we call Badaka Babuji was very humble and super human being with great vision. He had a dream of a very cultured and highly educated new generation. He worked hard and took all the pain as an elder brother to nurture the family and instill all ‘Sanskars’ in the young generation. He was above all the human weaknesses and symbol of love, passion and courage. He did a great sacrifice for the family.
My mother was a widow and she was the head of the family. All children were calling her Ma. She was a great lady with all wisdom and grace. She administered the family and cared for everybody till she left for her heavenly abode on 10th October 2009. Everybody had great confidence in her able guidance and respect for her day to day decisions. Nobody questioned her integrity and ability to manage the difficult situations including financial. With limited resources and sometime we passed through difficult days but she managed with courage and dignity. All who visited us were taken care and given best possible service. I was in New York that day when she left us alone and nobody can fill that gap. I immediately came to Nairobi took my wife and son and we all came to Ujiar for rituals. We organize a function to commemorate that day every year in our village Ujiar.
We grew together and it was very difficult time though we never felt demoralized. Our moral was very high. We were 12 brothers who grew up together, and even through difficult time, we never felt demoralized. We ate together, and studied together. We were four brothers of our own. Age difference was about two years among us. All were very studious and did well in our respective classes. We finished primary level education from Islamia School in our village Ujiar. Late Harun Shah was our headmaster and Bande Ali was a teacher. We studied in the mango orchard and sitting on the ground either on the old used jute bag brought from home or on the jute strip provided by district administration to the school. They were not enough and sometimes the headmaster at his home used it for other purposes also. That time we were writing on wooden slate with liquid chalk and pen made of straw or cane. I passed Primary (fifth class) and had to change my school for middle and high school.
I was admitted in the Junior High School in Bharauli, which was a Kilometer far from our village. We used to walk on foot in the morning to go to school and return in the evening back home. It was again a co-education school and boys and girls were in the same class. I was good looking and studious and was Centre for attraction for teachers and girls especially. In addition to that our guardians were highly respected person, well known to the school and were in the management committee of the school. He was a donor of raw material for roofing and otherwise every year. All people respected him for his virtue and generosity. I enjoyed that relation and teachers were treating me as family member or at least close to them. I was in this school for three years and passed 8th Standard. I moved to another school for High School at village Sohaon, Ballia.
It was a great feeling to go to new school named Seva Sangh Inter College, Sohaon. I was admitted in 9th class and stayed for two years and passed matriculation, which was called High School Board by Uttar Pradesh (UP) Board. I passed in first class and my family was planning to support for higher education in science and I was sent to Varanasi. It was not easy for a boy from village to go to a city like Varanasi for admission. Though my elder brother was two years ahead and he was studying in the J. P. Mehta Inter College but he was also new and our family had bitter experience from a co-villager who was initially his local guardian. After a long struggle I was admitted in the Queen’s College, Varanasi, which was one of the best college in UP and all the students were admitted there who had obtained above high first class marks.
I took admission in the Banaras Hindu University and changed to Social Science but kept Mathematics and Statistics with Sociology. I did graduation somehow and admitted for master courses in Mathematics. Though I was not happy with my performance and Mathematics was not my preferred subject. I wanted to do Master’s Degree in Statistics, which was more attractive, and employment oriented. Secondly, I was more involved in social work and student politics than devoting time for my studies, which reflected on my performance in my Graduation Degree.
I consulted my elder brother who was also doing Master in Mathematics from BHU, and we agreed that I should leave Varanasi and go to the university where I can get admission in Statistics without any time loss. My maternal uncle Prof. Haridwar Rai was Head of the Department of Political Science in Bhagalpur University and my elder brother had an occasion to meet with him and discussed about my wish. He invited me to Bhagalpur and assured for all sort of support in getting me admitted there. I left BHU and went to Bhagalpur. The academic session was a year behind and without any loss of time I was admitted in the same session, which was 1972-74 for the Master Degree course in 1973. I joined Honors course in Statistics also simultaneously in Marwari College since there was no under-graduate course in the university or in any other constituent college of Bhagalpur University. I did very well in both the examinations. However session was delayed more and I completed my Master Degree in 1976.
The question arose what to do next. I wanted to join some job and also to pursue my Ph. D. So I applied in a project in Zoology Department of the Bhagalpur University but I was not successful due to local politics. This left no other option except to move to Patna where my elder brother was posted in the Indian Post and Telecommunication Services of the Government of India and living with one of our maternal uncle who was elder brother of Prof. Haridwar Rai. I joined Ph. D. Course in Patna University and at the same time I was looking for a job. I got both. I was enrolled for my Ph. D. in the PG Department of Statistics, Patna University and also got a temporary job in the A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies. I moved in the hostel of the Institute and started working there. I had worked just for 20 days in the project then I got UGC scholarship for doing Ph. D. I consulted my maternal uncle Prof. Rai and he advised me to go for the scholarship for Ph.D. degree. I again moved to the Patna University campus but this time I decided to rent a flat and live together with my elder brother Mr. Sachida Nand Rai who was married and having a son but wife and boy were in village Ujiar and he was living with our maternal uncle Sri Ram Chandra Rai due of financial consideration mainly. His living was free and he was contributing for food only because there was joint kitchen and other inhabitants were also eating in the same kitchen and Mama ji was supporting in cooking food with one young boy Badri from Santhal Paragana. Manaji was also living single and was a social worker. His main income was from house rent by sub letting three rooms and cooking food for all inhabitants. He was very helpful person and using his contacts mainly in the teaching community of Patna University and other universities in Bihar also mainly in Political Science Department due to Prof. Rai’s contacts and relationship. However, he had very impressive personality and societal person. He was always willing to go to any politician or officers and present any case for a favour.
He was popular as Baba among Bhumihar students in Patna. He was found of good dress-Kurta Dhoti and polished Nagra shoes. He was found of good food also. Above all he was very hospitable. Friends and relatives from all part of India will freely come to him anytime and he will offer some food and shelter to them. He was member of one welfare committee of Patna Medical Hospital and he will bring some packet of milk and fruits for inhabitants with him. He was very generous to share whatever he had with all inhabitants and visitors. He was virtually treating himself as guardian of all who were living there. He died from Cancer and the place was left to the next door family who had bought that portion also secretly from the original owner of the house- a Bengali family. We negotiated and it was settled with some funds for Mamaji’s sons who were doing some informal work but not fully employed.
Time in Patna was filled with struggle and I moved several houses and busy in teaching, politics and social work. My Ph. D. work became secondary. However, I continued it parallel and with a lot of pressure. Same time there were some disputes and opposition from a group and an inquiry committee was investigating about anomaly in the appointment. It was indeed time for struggle and resources were limited. Only God was on my side and a bunch of trusted friends and well-wishers who never let me down. I crossed all the barriers and stumbling blocks. I secured my permanent position. Completed my Ph. D. thesis and submitted. With some delay in viva Voice examination I secured my Ph. D in 1982.
I have a Ph.D. in Statistics and have taught in many universities before joining UN-HABITAT in January 1992. I have written and published several academic and scientific papers as well as publications of UN books to my credit. I have widely traveled and attended several conferences of scientific as well as of political nature. I am life member and elected office bearer of several academic, cultural and social bodies in the world.
I got a chance to go to Colombo for a UNDP funded programme to develop curriculum for agriculture statistics. Two persons were selected from India and one was myself. My stay in Colombo for one and half months gave me gateway to foreign assignments. I accepted to go to Tanzania first to teach in the University of Dar-Es’-Salam in the Department of Demography and Statistics in 1983. However, due to harsh living condition and my wife ill health we returned to Patna in less than one year. I was again offered assignment of teaching in Nairobi University, Nairobi Kenya in the year 1986 and I took long time to decide due to heavy pressure from family to not to go abroad and try to earn more through teaching in other coaching institutions or do tuition which was against my nature. I had some family responsibilities, which required more funds on a regular basis. Ultimately I decide to take another chance to go to Kenya so that I can support my family financially better. After a long conversation and arguments and completing the responsibility of marriage of my youngest brother Dr. Ramesh Chandra Rai who is currently professor of Political Science in the Bhagalpur University Bhagalpur, I decided to go to Nairobi in November 1987.
I landed on 4th November 1987 to Nairobi and started teaching in the Nairobi University in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the Chiromo campus of the university. However I had my bigger ambition to join UN or go to European countries or USA for better life and broader spectrum for service. I taught for four years in the Chiromo campus and tried hard to get better assignment but mostly regrets were in my lap. I resigned two times from the department to return to India but I had the fear that I have no saving and most of the household items are taken away either by the family members or friends which cannot be asked to return in our culture. Finally, I resigned and moved to the hotel for returning to Patna University India as a defeated solder and University had placed me in Milimani hotel next to my university flat in Mamalka near State house. I was walking with my wife in the evening on the State house road and we were discussing what to do upon returning to Patna. We did not have enough funds to sustain for a couple of months till our salary are paid and other formalities are regularized in the university office. It was shameful to ask loan from friends after returning from a foreign assignment, which has a general impression that you come with a fat bank balance. We had no savings because I had to send money regularly for the maintenance of the family members. We discussed that once more I should pay a courtesy call to Dr. Arcot Ramachandran, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat who was always very courteous and kind to give appointment and meet with me. That was the last day in hotel Milimani and next day we had flight to come to Delhi. I went to Gigiri, the UN Headquarter in Nairobi, which is the only UN headquarter in any developing country in the world. A very attractive and unique campus which is spread in miles radius. I asked for an appointment and that was granted by his secretary Ms. Kehar (Windi) at 11.00 am. I reached there and waiting in the library for her call to come and meet him. That time there were no mobile phones and I went after an hour and he was looking for me. I was very shy and respectful to him and told him that I am leaving tomorrow for India. I tried my best to get some assignments at UN and in the developed world but perhaps luck is not favourable and after four years of experimenting in Nairobi, now I have decided to go back to my motherland to serve again in the Patna University. He sharply reacted and asked that did I not receive any communication from Research and Development Division which he had instructed? I responded in negative and he asked his secretary (Windi) to connect to Guenter Karl and Petro Garau. Mr. Karl was the head of Statistics Programme and Garau was the head of Research and Development Division. This was tea break time and both were not available on their chair. He asked me to go down stairs and see them immediately and tell them that I have sent you. I followed his instructions and found Guenter Karl who was known to me since I had done consultancy for a month on “Graphical Presentation of Human Settlements Statistics” with him on instruction of Dr. Ramachandran. He was nervous to hear that I am coming from Dr. Ramachandran office and he has asked to see him and Mr. Garau. He assured to give all his support and I should not have gone to Dr. Ramachandran. Immediately he gave me a contract for one year with UN-Habitat in his programme. Same was the reaction of Mr. Garau when I met him that I should have come to him and not to Dr. Ramachandran. He was the gentleman who delayed this offer to me and wished to appoint an Italian girl who was working in New York Statistics Division. I gave my consent to join on 10th January 1992 and my office was organized and I started working from 20th January 1992 as an International Professional Civil Service Staff as Statistician in the Research and Development Division.
I worked in UN-Habitat till my retirement on 28th February 2014 when I became 62 years old on 1st February 2014. I worked on various positions including the President of the UN-Habitat Staff Association. Latter on when UNON was created, the Associations were merged to have one Staff Union at Nairobi Duty Station from 1999. I was elected the Vice President and then the President of the Nairobi Staff Union from 2001-2003. I was the Chairperson of the Joint Advisory Committee also which advises all the three heads of the agencies UNEP, UNON and UN-Habitat. I thoroughly enjoyed my working with UN-Habitat and did several challenging work beyond my purview also. I was instrumental in saving UN-Habitat in merging with UNEP in 1998 when the Advisory Committee appointed by the Secretary General under the Chairmanship of Dr. Klaus Topher recommended merging it with UNEP. I wrote a letter to SG and mobilized countries especially the Kenyan Ambassador to UN to intervene and block it. We won the battle and UN-Habitat remained independent programme of UN as part of the Secretariat at the same status as UNEP.
I feel the UN campus as mine because I contributed in erecting a number of monumental structures such as Peace Park on UN logo with indigenous plant of coffee and tea; UNFCU Bank branch; Recreational Centre and others in the name of staff welfare and administration. UNON health Centre was a great achievement. Initially it was a small place with only one surgeon Dr. Mugere and no other facilities. When I visited UNECA office in Addis Ababa for a CCISUA Staff Assembly, I realized that there is a mini hospital there where various tests and other medicines including vaccinations are available. I demanded for the similar facilities and instead of a surgeon we should have GP doctor who can provide some medicine for simple sickness and can recommend specialist for special nature of treatment. After some resistance, management agreed that they include in the budget from the next biennium and it was approved by New York. Now Nairobi has a full-fledged health facility with a number of doctors and health practitioners. I feel very proud and happy to see three centers running and providing services to staff, which save time and resources and improve the quality of work for the staff. I insisted that no vendor or contractor who is providing services to UN office should exploit their employees/ workers including cleaning company, security companies, electric contractor and gardening firms. We introduced fair pack policy for any contractor even if it costs more to the UN. We should not allow exploitation in our campus. This is in a way human rights violation within the UN campus. We shall loose our moral values and have no right to address human rights violation in the world if we do not stop the same practice by contractors in our offices. Finally, we convinced our heads of agencies to give daily subsistence allowances to Interns who come from all over the world to work with us for some experience and get some credit in their studies.
As the President of UN-Habitat Staff Association and later as the President of the Nairobi Staff Union, I participated in many decision making processes including revitalization of UN-Habitat and made sure that job security in not negotiable unless there is serious violation of UN ideals and principles. I maintained throughout my period and took all risk and pain to be penalized by the management and bureaucracy including termination. I had to forgo my own benefits and career development for the sake of majority. However, God was always by my side and I retired honourably in February 2014 with all respect and love. I retired as Coordinator for the Inter Agency Coordination and Global Parliamentarians. I am proud UN Civil Servant and live my retired life in New Delhi India. One of the achievement I can be proud of, is that I organized the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) in December 2006 in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi which was opened by the President Dr. APJ Kalam and valedictory statement was to be given by the Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh which was delivered by Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission due to delay of his flight from Japan to New Delhi. India became the Chair and the secretariat was set up in the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. This first APMCHUD conference was attended by highest number of member countries including China and Pakistan at ministerial level with biggest delegation from China.
I am currently Senior advisor of UN-Habitat; Executive Director of Synergies Institute, Accra, Ghana; Peace Ambassador and member of the Global Leadership Advisory Council of the Global Peace Foundation; Deputy Director of IESEI, China and Advisor of Yuvsatta (Youth for Peace).
I am appointed Chairman of the BMO of NABET under Quality Council of India. I am also very active in the Indian Council of International Relations and member of the Executive Council. Last but not least I am Executive Director of Youth Vocational and leadership Programme in Raipur, Chhattisgarh under Sadafaldeo Foundation of Vihangam yoga.
The Executive Director of UN-Habitat has honoured me with a certificate of appreciation from UN-Habitat for my distinguished and dedicated services for more than 22 years. I have also been awarded ‘Hind Rattan Award’ in January 2006 in New Delhi on the eve of Indian Independence Day. Furthermore, I have been awarded Humanity Achievers Award in 2014 and 2015 for distinguished services and achievements. My biography has been published in Marques Who’s Who in the World in its 14th edition in 1997. Recently I have been elected President of the Global Peace and Development Service Alliance of the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) convention in March 2017 in Manila, Philippines.
I am enjoying life with my wife Mrs. Gaytri Rai in Delhi and my son Mr. Siddharth Rai who is an Aeronautical Science graduate and pilot with Ambry Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida USA.