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Issue No.: 561 | March 2014
 

Rambhau Mhalgi: An exceptional Aamdaar

M. B. Damania
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It has now become fashionable to ridicule politicians and to call them criminals. Such remarks may be justified considering that those in power have amassed fantastic amounts of money and a different set of criminal or taxation laws seem to apply to them. So, let me tell you some stories about a politician with whom I came into contact in 1977. As a member of the Lok Sabha, he was entitled to generous travel and daily allowances. Rambhau claimed only allowances which were a bare necessity. Coming by air from Delhi, he would walk to the bus stand and stand in the queue like any other passenger.
His meetings with citizen groups were like clock-work. He would announce the time of start and end of the meeting then keep punctually to time. He never carried notes nor was he accompanied by a secretary. He would guide discussions and give his opinion or instructions, point by point. Just before the end of a meeting, he would summarise the discussions. If the next meeting was after six months, he would recite this summary from memory and take up each point from where it had been left off at the previous meeting.

He taught us how to make representations to the government. He told us that as citizens of a free country, we had a right to proper service from government employees; so we should write directly to the department concerned. If there was no response, we should write to the government secretary. If still there was no satisfactory result, he would ask a question in parliament.

At that time, there was a severe shortage of electric power. Some industries in Thane had a quota of 10 units per month; which was not enough to burn one tube light. Company reports of Tata Power repeatedly reported that their application for expansion of Trombay generating unit was pending with the central government. We asked Rambhau why the expansion was not approved when we were starved of power. He said "Give me a note”. So we prepared a note for him, with excerpts from reports of companies and the Institution of Engineers. He asked a question in parliament: "Will the minister please state which applications for power generation are pending with the government and the status of each application.” At the next session, he got the reply: "All applications have been approved.” Today, members of parliament demand a minimum Rs. 100,000 for asking a question. With Rambhau, it was a matter of doing his duty. He never expected or took a single paisa.

On his own initiative, Rambhau made several petitions on subjects of public interest on which he felt strongly. He sent out regular reports to his constituency about what he was doing to deserve our confidence in voting for him. Perhaps there are other representatives who make similar reports; unfortunately, I do not know of any.

One day, he invited me to accompany him on a visit to the local state insurance office. I picked him up from a friend’s house (he never used the government guest house). He talked to people waiting in queues and listened to their problems. He talked to the clerks and asked them why they were not able to give good service within reasonable time. They explained their problems. He then met the office manager and introduced himself. He said he had some suggestions and requested the manager to note them. The manager said that whatever the Member of Parliament had to say, he should say to the state insurance head office in Delhi. Rambhau said that in that case, he would make his suggestions to the manager and ask in parliament what action was taken on his suggestions. The office manager was in a state of panic.

Sadly, Rambhau developed a malignant brain tumour. His party wanted to send him to USA for treatment and offered to pay all expenses. He said: "What will US doctors do, that our doctors cannot do?” He took whatever treatment was available at the Bombay Hospital. We asked him if he needed anything. He asked for a small television (at that time there was no TV in hospitals). He wanted us to bring an old discarded TV. However, we contributed for a small black-and-white set which he gratefully accepted. He passed away peacefully after a few days.

Do such politicians exist anymore?

M. B. DAMANIA is a small scale entrepreneur. He is an active member of the Thane Small Scale Industries Association and Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture.
minocheher@gmail.com
 
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