Warm welcome for Mauritius PM in ancestral home

February 19th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Navinchandra Ramgoolam

Harigaon (Bihar), Feb 19 (IANS) A rousing and traditional welcome was given to Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam Tuesday at his ancestral village in Bihar’s Bhojpur district that was decked up like a bride by the enthusiastic residents and local administration. Ramgoolam, who reached here in the afternoon, a little later than scheduled, delivered a brief speech in Bhojpuri and expressed his gratitude to the waiting crowd at Harigaon, 70 km from Patna, where he laid foundation stones of many development projects.

Thousands of people from villages near and far had gathered here since morning to welcome the Mauritius PM. Elaborate security arrangements were also made to avoid any untoward incident.

As he reached his ancestral village, the visiting PM turned nostalgic and felt overwhelmed with the reception he got here. The crowd was equally happy to identify with Ramgoolam, son of the soil.

Earlier, the waiting villagers got restless when they were informed that Ramgoolam’s arrival was delayed by an hour.

Ramgoolam, accompanied by wife Veena, an official delegation and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, flew in by a special Indian Air Force helicopter.

As he touched down, Ramgoolam lost no time to wave back to the enthusiastic crowd as he was walking towards the beautifully decorated stage from the helipad.

He was welcomed in style with loud drumbeats and villagers shouting his praise. A group of women were singing Bhojpuri folk songs to welcome him while schoolchildren greeted him on the way from the helipad to the village.

Ranvijay Singh, who claims to be a relative of Ramgoolam, said: “The entire village is decorated like a bride. Children have put up colourful flags, dozens of colourful welcome gates have been erected.” Singh said the villagers’ dream was fulfilled as they were eagerly waiting for the Mauritius prime minister’s visit for nearly a month.

After the rousing public reception, Ramgoolam delivered a short speech in Bhojpuri and spent about three hours here, most of it laying foundation stones of various projects. He then flew back to Patna.

On Monday, the Mauritius PM had announced $250,000 for the development of roads and a hospital here.

“We are happy and excited that Navinchandra Ramgoolam visited Harigaon, his ancestral village. We are proud of him. After all, a son of the soil rose to become prime minister of Mauritius,” Dhaneshwar Mahto, 60, told IANS.

“It is no less than a festival for villagers here. After all, a grandson of this village, who became the Mauritius prime minister, visited to pay respects to his roots,” said Santosh Singh, a villager in his late 20s.

Till a month ago, Harigaon was like any other village in rural Bihar - without roads, electricity and a health centre. But it has been given a facelift after Nitish Kumar paid a visit here last month following its identification as the ancestral village of former Mauritius prime minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the father of Navinchandra.

Now, all the dusty lanes have been covered by concrete, solar lights installed, and the village pond beautified and named after the Mauritius prime minister’s grandfather Mohit Ramgoolam.

Mohit Ramgoolam was one of the hundreds of labourers forcibly taken by the British from Bihar to work in Mauritius sugarcane plantations in 1871. 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.

Ramgoolam, who arrived in Bihar Monday on a three-day visit, was overcome by emotion when he landed in Patna. The Mauritius prime minister touched the ground after alighting from the aircraft and smeared some mud on his forehead.

Nitish Kumar Monday said a single window system would be opened through which Mauritians of Bihari origin could search for their family roots in Bihar.

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