A Servant of the Poor

A few months ago, I had gone to the villages of Birbhum district, West Bengal on a recce trip for a documentary on people-centric development works carried under the aegis of the Gram Panchayats. Accompanying me were a couple of officials from the District Magistrate’s office, one of whom was also a cadre of the CPI (M).

Driving through the golden fields of ripe paddy the discussion turned to local politics. Pratap, our chauffeur, an ardent supporter of Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamool Congress, soon began a litany of accusations against the wrongdoings and incompetence of the Gram Panchayats, a majority of them being controlled by the CPI (M) for years at a stretch. The comrade kept his cool and made snide remarks about Mamata-di, which enraged Pratap even more. Suddenly he launched a personal tirade and asks how the comrade managed to acquire a house building grant under the Indira Abasan Yojana – a scheme reserved solely for people living below the poverty line. “Isn’t that blatant partisan politics and corruption?” thundered Pratap. Dilip-da, my comrade friend remained unfazed, a smug smile appearing on his face, “My dear Pratap,” he answered smoothly, “It is the poor who have given me the housing scheme as a gift for serving them for the last thirty years! Can I refuse their love and affection by citing petty rules and regulations?”

A couple of months later I had news from Birbhum. In Pratap’s village, the CPI (M) has been routed in the Panchayat elections bringing an end to three decades of serving the poor!

PS: I recall this incident in the context of the results of the elections to the Vidhan Sabha in the 5 states. To me they are a confirmation of the wise words Bob Marley, “You can fool some people sometimes / But you can’t fool all the people all the times”.

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  1. It gives me much comfort to know that the democratic system in our country – much maligned, abused and often under severe attack – does provide the opportunity to boot out the corrupt and the inefficient. The people too are conscious and very aware of what’s good for them.

  2. Isn’t it strange/surreal that the upper and middle class Indians twitter and rant about Section 49 O while the poor Bharatiyas quietly exercise their franchise rights to teach hard lessons to these ‘servants of the poor’?!! …

  3. Slowfade: Yes,indeed! The chasm between India and Bharat is scary! But I suppose ‘twittering’ is the way we, ‘the elites’, express our concerns, misgivings, anger, frustrations… et al. 

  4. Bingo! I’m beginning to think that all those twittering souls talking of compulsory military training, war and no votes should actually be sent for compulsory hard labour in the villages for 2 years. Reality check.

    That includes us 🙂

  5. I believe that is a Lincoln quote, not to nitpick too much. But I have heard my Dad say it a lot and I am not even sure he ever heard Marley. However, on a separate note, your visits to and blogging on rural Bengal is turning out to be a great teaching tool for me.

  6. Surupa: Could be Lincoln’s. But I always recall this quote in the context of Bob Marley’s song ‘Stand up for your Rights’- “You can fool some people sometimes / But you can’t fool all the people all the times/ Now we see the light/ Got to stand up for your rights/ Wake up Stand up for your rights”. Anyway happy to know the blogs are working as teaching tools…

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