Sir Ernest Jackson
List of Holidays
"The mission of the society is to increase the demand for loans,
increasing the flow of deposits and controlling the ratio of working expenses to capital,
while continuing to help the member employee in times of sickness, deaths, mishaps,
and most importantly keeping the money lenders away from the weaker and uneducated sections of the society".
Extract from his speech in 1922
To an average Railway-man working in Western Railway, the name Sir Ernest Jackson would evoke a hazy response, but the mention of Jackson Co-operative Bank would bring million smiles all across. Born in 1876 in Britain. Sir Ernest Jackson set his foot on Indian soil in 1900, immediately after the completion of his Articleship, to join the East Indian Railways as Assitant Auditor. Very soon he got wedded to the Railway's macrocosm, albeit, he had a brief stint with Calcutta Port Trust where he was exposed to the issues of administration while working as Chief Auditor. A Chartered Accountant by degree, Sir Jackson, took over the responsibility of Chief Auditor of BB & CI Railway in 1911, a position correspondent to the present day Financial Adviser & Chief Accounts Officer. Needless to point out that BB&CI Railways was the precursor to Western Railway.
Ernest Jackson was a compassionate person by heart and was always concerned about the well being of workforce. Being brought up in Britain when it was transforming under the magic of Industrial Revolution, which saw the emergence of labour class, the values of co-operation was innate to him. Many co-operatives had sprung up all across to cater to different needs of different strata of society. Therefore, it was natural for a person of this socio-cultural upbringing and with fine grounding in the nuances of finance, to campaign for the formation of credit co-operatives in India in early 20th century that was awakening due to multiple reasons. As a result within few years of enactment of Co-operative Act in 1904, the first credit cooperative society in India was formed at Calcutta Port Trust under the guidance and leadership of Ernest Jackson. Such was the fame of this credit co-operative that financiers and economists from different parts of the world including Italy, Japan and Hong Kong came to study this institution and established similar institution which exist even today at a much larger scale of operations.
A Kindhearted person, Mr. Jackson, firmly believed in collaboration between a lender and a borrower, by cultivating the habit of thrift, as a means to assist in times of financial turbulence, in an era when the concept banking was almost unheard of to large sections of society. He carried forward the purpose of Credit Co-operative Society to the Railway set up with the same missionary zeal and enthusiasm. As a result of his unflinching passion, was born the Credit Co-operative Society of BB&CI Raiway; in 1912, a first of its kind in the railway setup of India. By the end of this decade, its membership swelled to 50,000 an indicator of the impact of this institution in the lives of railway-men.
His clarity of thought on the mission of this society manifest in these lines of his speech in 1922 "increasing the demand for loans, increasing the flow of deposits and controlling the ratio of working expenses to capital, while continuing to help the member employee in times of sickness, deaths, mishaps, and most importantly keeping the money lenders away from the weaker and uneducated sections of the society". Evidently, it gives an indication of the razorsharp focus of the organizational insight of a leader with deep sense of commitment for establishing an immortal institution for the improvement of people. No wonder, the Credit Co-operative Society, which today has more than one and half lakh members, was named after this great legend in 1922. To many, Sir Jackson is rightly known as the "Father and sponsor of the Credit Co-operative Society" in India.
As the Head of Accounts Department of BB&CI Railway, he constituted the Staff Welfare Fund (SWF) to render financial and medical assistance to the lowest paid staff - an innovative concept that has replicated in many public as well as large private organizations. It would indeed be banal to point that this was the progenitor of what is now know as Staff Benefit Fund (SBF), which is more expansive in its magnitude. Yet, another display of his organizational capabilities as an outcome of his humane character.
During the First World War, he raised finances for the British Empire for war by organizing highly successful carnivals, fetes and exhibitions on a grand scale for which he was conferred the title of CIE - Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire. Before long, he earned the reputation of "Great Organizer". While continuing the work as the head of the Accounts, he organized the Red Cross Fete in 1922 at Bombay, which was recognized as financially successful.
A person of such magnificent caliber and steadfast concern for people, he rose to the position of "Agent" (1925 to 1932) of BB&CI Railways same as that of General Manager pf Present day Western Railways. His sound foundations in matters of finance and administration helped him to be in grip with the situation. During his term, BB&CI Railways made rapid advances in all spheres - Works programme or quadrupling of the suburban Railway or its electrification, in all areas of railway life, his tenure saw a great progress. While many would remember his achievements in respect of the construction of Mumbai Central Station or re-building of Bassien (Vasai) bridges, two things that catches imagination was the introduction of Frontier Mail by Sir Jackson on 1 st Sept. 1928. A firm believer in healthy competition, Sir Jackson conceived the idea of Frontier Mail to give GIP Railway (the then Central Railway) a run for its money, which had Punjab Ltd., running between Bombay VT and Peshawar. While the Punjab Mail Ltd., took several days, Frontier Mail was the last word of its time. It took 72 hours for 2335 km journey. On its return from Peshawar, the Churchgate Station building was lit to announce the safe arrival of passengers of Frontier mail. In the event, a new tradition of lighting of building was started in India.
His creative imagination also led to the introduction of a folder for the publicity of BB&CI Railways. It carried articles on places of tourist interests on the BB&CI network, their historical significance, local culture and customs. Best artists were employed to design the posters and it was widely distributed amongst the public. The folder also gave information of the work done in the immediate past to cope up with the problems of passengers and the works proposed to be taken up in near future. This novelty in organizational communication between service provider and the customer was unheard of, in the world of business in those days, indeed, an avant-garde of 'customer satisfaction'. In the process, this folder also opened up another innovative source of revenue for the railways through advertisements.
Ultimately all his efforts towards staff welfare and well-being culminated in the formation of Staff Committees in 1920s, functioning at GLO office as well as in the railway districts (Division). The General Staff Committee working at GLO office was the nodal committee. Sir Jackson believed that these committees would lead to 'Free access between the staff and the officer in order to engage the staff to take greater interest in the matters affecting their own welfare'. In the post World War - 1 period when the forces were acting against the British rule, Sir Jackson realized that staff problem and labour question had become increasingly important and received public attention not only in India, but was also capturing the imagination of the world. A firm believer of the philosophy that the real assets of BB & CI Railway were its 70,000 odd staff, he left no stone unturned in establishing the institution of mutual dialogue through these committees, so as to bring peace, progress and prosperity in the organization. One wouldn't disagree in the fact that these deeds of Sir Jackson laid the foundations of organized unions in railways.
Mr. Jackson was conferred "knighthood" in 1924 for his innumerable services. A doyen of Railway accounts, he chaired the IRCA in 1925 and 1927 wherein he contributed in the revision of station accounts, which still serve as an important basis of traffic accounting. Sir Jackson a great organizer with firm belief on the people had to face the distressing situations during his last few days. The Great Depression of 1929 engulfed the whole world as a storm. As the economy of Britain slumped, BB & CI Railways underwent severe financial crisis, thus leaving him in a paradoxical situation, where to keep the finances under control, only option left was retrenchment. It is indeed an irony that for a man who all through his life used most of energy for the well being of his people, had to face this situation. Production systems had come to grinding halt leading recession all across. Sir Ernest Jackson, however, due to his sincere and sympathetic approach, was able to face this challenge in a manner so as to assist the matters "that the blow will fall causing the least amount of hurt."
Sir Jackson's career is an inspiration not only to the accounting fraternity but to all the Railwaymen for his hard work, sincerity, innate belief in people, organizing skills to take up challenges and motivate people to complete challenging tasks. The existence of institutions created by him even after almost century, are a living testimony of outstanding leadership skills.
Compiled by Shri Sanjeeva Shivesh, I.R.A.S. , Dy. FA & CAO / F & B , Western Railway
Acknowledgement :- The author has relied upon various issues of BB & CI Magazine published between 1922 to 1932 and Annual Report of the Jackson Co-operative Credit Society of the Employees of the Western Railway Limited, for most of the information.