Tuesday, 15 May 2012

2nd death anniversary Tributes to this man of all seasons---Bhairon Singh Shekhawat

“An humble farmer’s family in Village Khachariawas in Sikar district of Rajasthan was home to a child of destiny born on October 23, 1923.

The child of destiny was to be much esteemed Upa-Rashtrapati Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. He became Member of Rajasthan Legislative Assembly for a record number of times, the leader of opposition and the Chief Minister of Rajasthan for three terms (1977-1980, 1990-1992 and 1993-1998). He was elected to the office of the Vice President of India on August 19, 2002 and completed his full five year tenure. As Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has demonstrated how the affable temperament, wisdom and sense of humour of the Chairman
makes a world of difference to the quality of deliberations in Parliament. His principled perspective, his positive attitude, his innate humility, his impeccable integrity, his essential goodness and sense of dignity and honor, and his profound humanity put him in a class by itself. 

Shekhawat blazed many new trails and pioneered many proactive and innovative initiatives such as Antyodaya, Food for Work, to improve and ameliorate the condition of the poor, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged and the underprivileged. Welcoming Shri Shekhawat as Chairman of Rajya Sabah on November 20, 2002, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had said with an emotive and evocative poetic metaphor, “ you have risen from the soil of India to become the sandalwood `tilak ’ on its forehead ” . The then leader of opposition and now the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said, ” your public life, extending over half a century, is an epitome of wisdom, knowledge and experience, which we are very proud to say, will be a very important asset for us as we deliberate in this august House ” . Dr Bimal Jalan, Jaya Bachchan, Dinesh Trivedi, Najma Haptullah, Rahul Bajaj, Dr Gyan Prakash Pilania, Dr MS Gill, Dr PC Alexander, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Sharad Yadav, Manohar Joshi, Sitaram Yechury, Sushma Swaraj, Tariq Anwar, Dara Singh were among 31 MPs who offered felcitations in Rajaya Sabha on the completion of four years by Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as the Chairman of Rajaya Sabha on August 18, 2006)”.

As I left Jammu and Kashmir state in 2000 and shifted to Rajasthan for work in media—my editor once suggested me to pay a visit to Bhairon Singh Shekhawat who was then opposition leader in Rajasthan Assembly. I quickly followed the advice and the very next morning I was there at Shekhawat’s official residence. He welcomed me as if `we had known each other’. He offered me coffee and Rajasthani breakfast. Shekhawat
realized I was new in his state. He tried to help me professionally also. Though I had gone to pay him courtesy visit, but he offered me a `story’ too. He called his steno, directed him to send a reminder to then Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot about status of `right to information act’ in Rajasthan. Shekhawat signs the letter and gives me one of its copy as a proof.  
Since Shekhawat represented Bali assembly constituency in district Pali of Rajasthan, he immediately called one of the Sarpanch’s of Bali directing him to help me when ever I visit his village. This was my first meeting with Shekhawat. And many more meetings followed till he relinquished his post of Vice President of India in 2007 and even after. What impressed me most about Shekhawat was his simplicity, sense of humor, his great administrative acumen and above all his qualities of head and heart. After my transfer to Jodhpur in Rajasthan, whenever Bhairon Singh Shekhawat visited any part of Western Rajasthan, I would make it a point to meet him and we both including my media friend Rajesh Asnani would discuss issues of public concern with him. There were occasions when I was out of Rajasthan and Shekhawat’s close associate Megh Raj Lohia would inform about Bharion Singh’s presence in the township.

It was Bhairon Singh who introduced me to Manvindra Singh, son of then Union Minister Jaswant Singh in the house of a Rajasthan High Court Judge in Jodhpur. There was a time when Shekhawat discussed the prospects of joining electoral fray for the post of Vice President of India. “I want to be candidate of media. What do you say? ” , Shekhawat enquired from me during the conversation. As luck smiled on him, all went in his favor. He was elected as 11th Vice President of India. During his first visit to Marwar in Rajasthan as Vice President, I thought Bhairon Singh would have changed. But his position did not change him at all. During his first visit to Jodhpur as Vice President…he started enquiring about me in Circuit house. I am slightly late. He leaves for Umaid Bhavan Palace—but he has to be in the town for the whole day. However as I reached Circuit House, the cavalcade of the Vice President is leaving for Umaid Bhawan Palace. Bhairon Singh saw me. He got down from his car, we shook hands and he preferred to return to Circuit House. As I moved to Uttar Pradesh to cover its Eastern part (Purvanchal) from Banaras/Varanasi/Kashi, I thought my name would have faded from the memory of Upa-rashtrapati. Again I was wrong. See how! One day he had to visit Ballia, the Parliamentary constituency of former Prime Minister Chander Shekhar, his Air Force plane briefly touched down in Varanasi and he visists darshan at Kashi Vishwanath temple. When he was coming out of the temple, Shekhawat saw me in the crowd and to my surprise, he caught my hand and we spend good time enquiring about each other. Since I was new in Banaras, except a few media-persons, none would know me. This road-side meeting with Vice President of India spread like wild-fire, from common-man to security officials to top civil officers enquiring about me.

One day I visited his Delhi house in the evening. The moment I stepped inside the sprawling campus, his cavalcade is ready for some where. He was surprised to see me and politely whispered in my ear. “ Please wait inside my room, I am chief guest at a doctors conference in AIIMS. I will be right back in half an hour”, Bhairon Singh told me. I am seated comfortably inside with Rajasthani staffers taking care of me. The Vice President keeps his word, he is back in half an hour. He straight-away comes to the room where I was seated and we both shifted to another room. We both started discussing issues where as there was no end to the dishes served by the immaculately dressed Rajasthani staffers. The conversation ranged from Rajasthani to National politics, from
Subramaniam Swami to Chander Shekhar to Sonia Gandhi to Ashok Gehlot….
It was in that meeting, Bhairon Singh explained the urgency of attending medical conference which he had just returned. “My son in law Narpat Singh Rijvi has severe health problem. He has to be operated upon. Some foreign doctors have also come to attend the conference, so I made it a point to attend it and discuss the issue
with them”. After a pretty long time, I again visited him in Delhi.  That time he is ex-Vice President. The staff informs him about me. I am quickly taken inside his room where he is reading some book. Our meeting lasts for more than an hour. When I am about to leave, Bhairon Singh opens his almirah and searches for a book ` Bhairon Singh Shekhawat—Adding a glorious chapter in the history of Rajaya Sabha’ and gifted me one copy. The book is collection of speeches by Members of Parliament on his completion of 4th years as Chairman Rajaya Sabha. (Part of the text carried in foreword of this book is reproduced above…the foreward is written by LM Singhvi). It was during this meeting that Bhairon Singh confided to me that he was not feeling well. “I want to be politically active again. But I am faced with serious health problem. I can not eat solid food. I am on Dalia only’, he told me. He had returned from check up in Tata Institute Mumbai. It was during this meeting that Shekhawat appreciated Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan government in Madhya Pradesh.

Finally, Bhairon Singh had to be admitted in AIIMS as his health deteriorated. I once again, visited AIIMS where he was under-treatment. My hotelier friend Ajay Singh (former Chairman of Bal Bhawan, under Ministry of Human Resources Development, Govt of India) accompanied me. That was my last meeting with this undisputed mass
leader of his times and it was on May 15, 2010 that Bhairon Singh Shekhawat left for heavenly abode in Jaipur. My tribute to Shekhawatji, the man of all seasons—the only politician who has won every assembly election in Rajasthan since 1952 except in 1972. 

Bhairon Singh, you will remain deep in our hearts, mind and thoughts, your memories and thoughts are our precious possession. 
(Except part of foreword in the gifted book, the views expressed by the author are personal)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Corrupting the corrupt

Corrupting the corrupt

Why are we worried about fighting corruption? Is it so difficult a task not to achieve it? Are law makers, the administrators and we, the common people responsible for taking corruption to higher levels? These are some questions, which actually, we ourselves need to answer and seek answers from who so ever matters.
The common man is fed up with the malaise of corruption plaguing every walk of life. This malaise has seeped through every pore of our country’s socio-economic, bureaucratic and political fabric so much that common Indian has accepted it as a way of life. The corruption in corporate sector has also assumed enormous proportions. It is true that going is made tougher for the common people in the government offices, police stations top in harassment aimed at extorting money from the complainants. The people are compelled to succumb to the officials corrupt tactics. Innumerable rules and loopholes are cited just to make the complainant mentally prepared that if he/she does not grease their palms, solution to their problem was a distant dream. Correct!
This is again a hard fact that one who dared to object to such tactical delays from the officials in attending to the complaints, face harassments of very different nature. The situation has to some extent changed --courtesy Anna Hazare effect.
But, what about the corruption at higher levels. Is it not a fact that public functionaries and civil servants like class 1 officers feel their corruption is invisible because it is taking place in a quite different and secret form. This corruption may not involve common masses. But, they certainly are affected, indirectly, hitting them very hard.
A union minister, chief minister of a state, senior bureaucrats attend a private function organized by a private five state hospital or five star educational institute, a hotel, a media house, builder etc etc. The message sounds loud and clear to the local administration and people of that particular area. That, even if organizer of that private programme is of criminal background or in order to further his business interests plans to resort to criminal acts, corruption, harass patients, students, clients—violate established laws, the law enforcers should never dare to initiate action. This is quite visible in the society. In most such cases, such VIP visits are facilitated as a cover to their (organizers) misdeeds and at the same time as an attempt to build their reputation.
Even if the big wigs in government are keen to oblige the private parties, it should in any case not be in office hours and there should be complete ban on use of official machinery like red bacon fitted vehicles and involvement of local officers. See a true example of this kind of corruption::--
Imagine gravity of trauma a family is in, having lost their son while falling from a private hospital. The family’s charge is that the hospital charged them about Rs 45,000 for curing a viral fever and his behavior changed after the hospital allegedly injected him some `drugs’. The family members are of the view that he wanted to perform puja, which he was doing on upper story of the hospital when suddenly mobile of her wife started ringing. He left in a huff and his body later found on the ground.
The immediate police version: the victim broke the windowpane and jumped to death. No windowpane is broken, the cops say some thing on day one and change tone after change of guard. But, the family continues to suffer meekly and silently; their quest for knowing real cause of the death still remains.
After the family decided to reach to top cop of that district to request for investigation into the death—the cop (now transferred) assigns the probe to a specific set of cops with the aim to hush it up, which they did. Then came rude shock for the family when they knew that the top cop and the hospital owner were friends, hailing from the same state. This nexus became clear when some noticed that the same cop even after having been transferred has been frequent visitor to this hospital. The constructional fault, the well wishers and friends of the deceased believe was the result of fall of their loved one from the hospital, resulting into his pre-mature death. If the hospital, which charged hefty sum from the patient for his death goes scot free just because some top officials were there to protect it just to enjoy comforts, and favors from such private houses in return and the reason why they are worried when it comes to fighting corruption and the reason why Kolkatta AMRI catastrophe like situation are bound to happen. Since the rulers, as per a renowned journalist have failed to understand that the quest for equality is the dominant feature of the changing country like India.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)