Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lalu Prasad's Gift to Chhapra

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad presented his achievements in the Railway Budget on 26th February.

The Indian Railways in its ''historic'' profit-making binge has been ''kicking one 'Goal' after another (creating records) and every child in the country is today cheering 'Chak De railway, Prasad said in his budget speech.

''We have not only shown dreams but turned them into reality...... 'Mungeri Lal ke Haseen Sapne' (Mungeri Lal's sweet dreams) have been turned into reality and are being implemented,'' he said, amid laughter and applause from all sides.

As Prasad's speech progressed and was later disrupted by angry protests from members from several parties including Congress and supporting Left members, his daughters and a son-in-law witnessed his performance in rapt attention from the Speaker's Gallery.

Discussion with Sonia Gandhi

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition L K Advani were present in the House. Before delivering his two-hour long speech, Prasad was seen in discussion with Gandhi.

Prior to the disruptions, Prasad announced a train between Chhapra, his constituency, and Mathura, saying he could now go directly to the abode of Lord Krishna.

When some MPs complained that the translation system was not working, Prasad told them ''I will translate this for you'' and explained a Hindi couplet in English. ''We have sowed a tree and now it is my duty to ensure that fruits can grow,'' he said.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram, whose seat is adjacent to that of the Railway Minister on the front row, was seen sitting behind, apparently to make space for Prasad to deliver his budget address.

There will be a weekly train from Patna in Bihar to Vasco da Gama in Goa. The train will run on the Konkan railway tracks.

Gaya in Bihar, where Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment, will be linked with a weekly express train to Chennai in Tamil Nadu.

In the last budget, Prasad had announced setting up of a coach factory in his Lok Sabha constituency, Chhapra, introduction of Garib Rath (a no-frills air-conditioned train), besides increasing the frequency of 50-odd trains crossing Bihar in the last four years.

Earlier, Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister urged Lalu to accord top priority to implement all the pending projects in Bihar. He said the railway projects which were pending for the last four years, if implemented would benefit the people of the state.
"Usually, Lalu resorts to tricks and raise fares indirectly by altering the rules," Kumar charged and sarcastically remarked "Lalu gives from one hand, takes the benefits back from another."

Kumar, who himself had been the Railway minister during the NDA regime, said that it was only after some time people come to realise that they had been taken for a ride in the name of reduction of fare or freight cost.

On Lalu's promises to present attractive railway budget from the point of view of common man's interests, Kumar alleged that Lalu was making promises only to get approving thumping of desks on the floor of parliament.

Mauritius PM in Harigaon

The Prime Minister(PM)of Mauritius, 60-year-old Navinchandra Ramgoolam set foot on his native village, Harigaon, for the first time in his life. The entire hamlet as also thousands of people from neighbouring areas assembled to have a glimpse of the man whose grandfather had been taken to Mauritius over 130 years ago as an indentured labourer.

An emotional Ramgoolam, eyes welled and voice choked, said, "Man gadgad ho gayil, aankh me aansu bhar gayil" (I am extremely delighted and my eyes are tearful)," to the jubilant crowd, which had gathered near the pond named as Moheeth Sarovar, in the memory of his grandfather, Moheeth Ramgoolam.

Accompanied by wife, Veena Brizmohun, other family members and his entourage, Ramgoolam, serving his second term as PM of the island nation, paid homage to his ancestors. Greeting the villagers, he said, "Hamra aap se janam janam ka rishta ba. Main Bihar ka hoon. Bhojpuri parivar ka hoon. Dada ka kul yahi gaon me ba (I have been sharing relations with you for generations. I am a Bihari. I belong to Bhojpur. The descendents of my grandfather are living in this village." A helicopter carrying Ramgoolam descended on the helipad some three km from Harigaon. The moment he arrived on the dais, there was a roar of applause and cheering from the waiting crowd.

Looking around, Ramgoolam seemed overwhelmed and recalled with pride how his grandfather and other girmitiya labourers journeyed to and worked in Mauritius under trying conditions. "Hamar dada Bihar se Mauritius gaye to kuchh nahi tha.

Par apni shakti se, khoon se, pasina se itna kiya ke hum aaj is jagah par hain (When my grandfather sailed to Mauritius, there was nothing in Mauritius. It is because of his sweat and blood that I am holding this post)," he said.

He also taught a lesson to his villagers. "Always remember this and never think that your father has become weak," he told them and hoped that villagers and people of Bihar would prosper like Mauritius. He also reiterated his announcement to give US$ 2.5 lakh for the development of this village and scholorship to two Bihari students in the University of Mauritius before concluding his speech with "Jai Bihar, Jai Bharat, Jai Mauritius". The administration made elaborate arrangmeent right from Ara, the Bhojpur district headquarter, 15 km to the village. Harigaon presented a new look with villagers dressed in their fineries occupying each corner of the ground, with some carrying flags of India and Mauritius.

Earlier, Ramgoolam laid the foundation for upgradation of three projects: Moheeth Sarovar, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam high school and Navinchandra Ramgoolam hospital. CM Nitish Kumar said like Moheeth Ramgoolam, thousands of Biharis go to other places in search of job and they work hard wherever they go. "Biharis will not be at the mercy of anybody anywhere, whether it is Maharashtra of Assam." He called upon people to rise above caste, religion and region and work unitedly for the progress of Bihar.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mayawati in Patna

The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's rally in Patna at the historical Gandhi maidan is eying Bihar. Mayawati landed in a helicopter.

On one hand where RJD chief Lalu Prasad has hailed Mayawati's rally in the state, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan is not ready to allow any intrusions into his home turf. Paswan has said that Maya's magic will not work in Bihar.

The rally is meant to unite underprivileged and extremely poor people in the state to give "a befitting reply to those in the power putting hurdles in the way of their uplift".

The BSP's rally comes after opposition RJD and Lok Janshakti Party held rallies in October and November last year here seeking to highlight the alleged failure of the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar.

It was at the Gandhi Maidan that Jaiprakash Narayan had made the historic call for a “Total Revolution” in 1974.

When contacted, District Magistrate, Patna, B Rajendra said that the request for landing the chopper inside Gandhi Maidan was made citing the twin factors of “security” and “time.” “For security reasons and also to save time, the request for landing the UP Government chopper inside Gandhi Maidan was made and we granted it”, Rajendra said. He said that the UP Chief Minister will reach Patna airport by a state aircraft and then board a state chopper to land at the maidan.

CM Nitish Kumar strongly refuted the security factor and pointed out that convenience might have led her to decide to land in the maidan. “So far as security is concerned, I can say with authority that the state Government is competent to safeguard any VIP. But if somebody wants to land at the maidan for convenience, then what can we do”, said Kumar.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mauritius PM’s rural roots on radar

A little-known village in Bihar has found fame and is set for a facelift as it has been officially identified as the native place of former Mauritius prime minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. Harigaon in Bhojpur district, about 60 km from here, was like any other village in rural Bihar without roads, electricity connection and a health centre.

The Bihar government will now develop it as a model village with basic infrastructure and turn it into a historical place to attract tourists, particularly from Mauritius.

Ahead of Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam's visit to the village Feb 19, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with top officials went to the village Saturday, and announced a spate of measures including construction of roads, a hospital, a school and other basic facilities.

'Nitish Kumar visited Harigaon to take stock of the amenities available in the village before the Mauritius prime minister's visit,' a senior official of the Chief Minister's Office.

Nitish Kumar has invited Navinchandra Ramgoolam to visit his ancestors' village. Navinchandra Ramgoolam will also unveil a statue of Seewoosagur Ramgoolam in the heart of Patna.

Late Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was prime minister of Mauritius from 1961 to 1982. He is considered the father of the nation as he led his country to independence from Britain.

According to experts, his grandfather was one of the hundreds labourers from different villages across Bihar forcibly taken by the British to work in Malaysian sugarcane plantations in 1871.

A large number of people from Bihar travelled to various parts of the world, including Mauritius, in the 19th century to serve as indentured labourers - sometimes referred to as girmitiya - in sugarcane and rubber plantations.

Most of them were from districts like Bhojpur, Chapra, Gopalganj and East and West Champaran.

About 60 percent of the 1.2 million population of Mauritius is of Indian origin, a large number of them from Bihar with Bhojpuri as their mother tongue.

Before Nitish Kumar gets ready to receive the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, to unveil his father and predecessor, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam’s, statue — he better settle the controversy over the PM’s rural roots first.

Though the chief minister today clarified that according to the Prime Minister himself, Hargaon, in central Bihar’s Bhojpur district, is Ramgoolam family’s ancestral village, people from as many as three other villages in Sahabad district have staked their claim of being the “original” birthplace of the Ramgoolam family.

Nitish stressed that his office had received a communiqué from the Mauritius government that clearly stated that “Hargaon under Bihian paragana in Bhojpur district” was Ramgoolam’s ancestral village. However, villagers of Chhauttupur, especially one Deonarayan Ojha, yesterday sent a fax to the Mauritius Embassy at New
Delhi stating that Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was “the son of one Swayamvar Ojha who had been taken as a bonded labourer to the island nation in 1871 by the British”.

The document also has an “inquiry report” conducted by local civil officials appended with it. Also appended, is a report of a janata darbar that Buxar district magistrate organised to pronounce Chhauttupur as Seewoosagur Ramgoolam’s “original home” on November 18, 2007.

On the other hand, residents of Barka Singhanpura in Buxar are also claiming to know the Ramgoolam family. In 2007 they handed a packet of soil, from land where a deity worshipped by Ramgoolam’s family and the villagers is kept, to Nitish. The chief minister handed the packet of soil to Navinchandra Ramgoolam.

Then there is Keshopur in Buxar. Villagers there have staked their claim on the Ramgoolam family as well. They too have faxed letters to the Mauritius Embassy in New Delhi to support their claim.

Last year when the chief minister visited Mauritius, he had formally invited Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam to unveil the life-size statue of his father and Mauritius’s first Prime Minister in February 2008.

At that time, Navinchandra Ramgoolam reportedly showed keen interest to find out more of his family’s roots. Though Seewoosagur Ramgoolam never visited “his village”, his son wishes to do so.

And since he is ready to offer financial help to boost development in his ancestral land, it’s not going to hurt to be a part of the Ramgoolam root, either. Thus, claimants are not ready to step down.

“We are in touch with the Mauritius Embassy and will request Navinchandra to visit Chhauttupur and not go by false claims,” said Deonarayan Ojha.