Bhadaru, 127, determined to vote (With Image)May 3rd, 2009 - 1:08 pm ICT by IANS
By Vishal Gulati
Juggar (Himachal Pradesh), May 3 (IANS) He has seen kings, the British, Mahatma Gandhi and today’s politicians - and is not very impressed with the present lot. However, 127-year-old Bhadaru is determined to exercise his right to vote when Himachal Pradesh goes to the polls May 13.
“The best period was of the kings, because they took care of the common man. Now the government is selfish; it thinks about the rich,” Bhadaru said while speaking to IANS at his small wooden house in this hamlet up in the Himalayas, 60 km from state capital Shimla.
Age has made him partially blind and deaf but has not diminished any of his verve.
“My eyesight is failing, my body is frail, but I will exercise my franchise this time too,” said Bhadaru, who goes by one name.
He was among independent India’s first voters in the 1952 elections to the first Lok Sabha. “I still have some memories of the first elections held in independent India. At that time, I voted for the party of Jawaharlal Nehru,” he said.
“Sadly, corruption has now become a way of life. The freedom fighters and revolutionaries had never thought that politicians would practise money-politics. Parties hardly approach the people with genuine policies nowadays.”
Lying on a cot in front of his house, Bhadaru reminisced: “The best period was of the kings because they took care of the common man.” Local kings had limited autonomy in British-ruled India.
“Now the government is selfish, it thinks only about the rich. And why do we have to have election every five years? What good does it do?
“Look, this village is still not connected by a metalled road. We are still living in the same conditions as over a century ago.”
Bhadaru recalled the days of the British Raj, when Shimla was the summer capital of India.
“We used to tell the Sahibs ‘go back, we don’t need you’. I have seen Mahatma Gandhi in Shimla a number of times. He told the British to leave the country. His statue is still there.” Mahatma Gandhi visited Shimla a number of times for meetings with the British authorities.
“At that time Shimla was a small town, with just a few shops and buildings. Now it’s a concrete jungle.”
Bhadaru spoke at length of the current state of affairs in his village.
“Now villagers are having to fight for water. All the water channels in the village have dried up. The heat is increasing. The hills are bare. This season (winter) there has been no rain at all. I have never seen such a drought throughout my life.”
“Hamein bhi pariyavaran ke liye awaaz uthanee chahiye (We should also raise our voice for the environment),” he said while taking a deep drag at his hookah.
Does Bhadaru remember his father’s name? He responded immediately: “Karamu. I have lost my wife long back (he did not remember the year), but the third and fourth generation of my younger brother’s family is taking care of me.”
Reena Devi, a relative, said Bhadaru has not been able to move in the last few years and spends most of the day in his room.
“Bhadaru, 127, son of Karamu, will exercise his franchise at polling station number 35 in the Kasumpti constituency (no. 62) on May 13. His voter number is 226,” the state’s chief electoral officer Anil Khachi said.
It is part of the Shimla Lok Sabha constituency, where the frontrunners in this poll are Virender Kashyap of the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party and the sitting MP, Dhani Ram Shandil of the Congress.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Tags: autonomy, british raj, capital of india, common man, cot, eyesight, freedom fighters, gulati, hamlet, himalayas, independent india, jawaharlal nehru, Lok Sabha, mahatma gandhi, money politics, politicians, revolutionaries, shimla, verve, way of life