Politicians today are generally looked down upon. We seem to have a stereotyped opinion of all of them and bracket them all together into one class of people – people whom the masses see as selfish, self-centered, power-hungry, corrupt and not concerned about either the common people or the Nation. We do not see them as fellow human beings with the ordinary failings that accompany us. We also do not see them as someone who would want to do good and participate in the process of Nation Building. I would like to share a few anecdotes of our positive experiences with some of the politicians that I have come in contact with in the course of my SVYM journey. These experiences have now convinced me that our politicians are no different from all of us. They too have their mixture of good and bad, and are capable of surprising us with their desire to do good.
It was 1985 and I had just heard of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Getting a copy of the application form and filling it was the easy part. After the application, I came to know that things do not move on their own and one needs to keep pushing the files at Delhi. Not knowing anyone, I turned to Ashokananda for guidance. He took me to the office of Srinivas Prasad, the then Member of Parliament representing the area. Meeting him was an experience in itself. There were hundreds of people milling all around his office in Saraswathipuram, Mysore. I also realized that he and Ashok were close friends and the respect and admiration for each other was mutual. Ashok introduced me and I was impressed with the humility, intent of support and open mindedness of this MP. He patiently heard me and then asked me for the copy of all the papers. He promised to personally follow up the application at Delhi and asked me to focus on the organization and its activities and not worry about this anymore. True to his word, he sustainedly followed up on the application till we received the orders a couple of months later.
Another person who impressed me with his decency was Veerappa Moily who was the Chief Minister of Karnataka during 1992-94. He was also the Minister for education, law and youth affairs between 1989 and 1992, during which I came into contact with him. I was interacting with him on issues concerning the youth and how to constructively engage them in nation-building activities. It was then that I saw the intellectual and scholastic side of his character. He would take serious note of all the issues that were being raised and try and understand different perspectives. I also had the privilege of providing inputs for the ‘Social Sector’ chapter that formed part of his report as the Chairman of the Administrative Reforms Commission. He wrote a book titled Kotta in Kannada (and now translated to many other Indian and foreign languages), where I was one of the principal characters working for tribal development under difficult circumstances. He has been one politician who continues to interact and seek inputs on various development issues.
Devegowda had called himself a career politician. I still remember my first meeting with him. It was the year 1994 and elections had just been held to the Karnataka Assembly and his party had won the elections. Veerappa Moily, who was the chief minister till then, had in his final week of office approved the allotment of 18 acres of land for SVYM at Hosahalli. We were awaiting formal orders which never seemed to come. It was then that a well-wisher in the Government told me that the file was being held up at the office of the new CM. It was routine for all key decisions taken by the previous Government to be reviewed by the new Government in power and ours was no exception. Our file had now to be reviewed and re-approved by the Chief Minister. It was then I met him formally for the first time. He not only assured me that he would have the orders issued but also promised to visit our project. True to his word, we received the formal orders within a few weeks.
Within the next few months, I met him again asking his help for the new hostel we were constructing at Hosahalli. He immediately called Mr Meenakshi Sundaram, his Principal Secretary and asked him to help us out. Again, within 3 days of our making the formal request, we were sanctioned Rs 10 lakh to build the hostel and this money was also immediately released through the Zilla Parishad, Mysore (now known as Zilla Panchayath). He visited Hosahalli in 1996 to inaugurate the Ganga Kalyana Yojana and I had gone to receive him at the Beechanahalli helipad. It was here that the local MLA N.Nagaraj (of his own party) was trying to convince him not to visit Hosahalli. Nagaraj was already reputed to be corrupt and we had many a skirmish in this regard. He was pretty upset with me and wanted to throw a spanner in the works. I was surprised at what the Chief Minister told him. He said, “I have come here on the invitation of the doctor and I am aware of his work. I don’t think I need the permission of the local MLA to visit this constituency or SVYM.” Saying this, he got into the official car and proceeded to Hosahalli. At the function, Swami Sureshananda also informed him that we were having problems with this MLA and Devegowda asked me for the details. It is to his credit that he publicly chided the MLA and instructed him to support us instead of creating impediments for the work that we were doing. One cannot imagine the Chief Ministers of today being so firm and stern with their MLAs. Today one finds our CMs dancing to the tunes of the MLAs only to ensure that they can hold on to their office. Subsequently when he was the Prime Minister of India, he personally instructed the Rural Development Secretary of the Government of India to visit our project in HD Kote and interact with us. He also instructed the Planning Commission to consult with me on issues of Rural and Tribal Development.
To be continued…