‘Prof’ Gandhi shares tea and more during candlelight village visit

September 24th, 2008 - 2:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Satial (Punjab), Sep 24 (IANS) They were told a professor writing a book wanted to meet them later in the night. A little while later walked in Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who stayed for several hours walking through this predominantly Dalit village, talking to groups of people and breaking bread with them. The scion of the Gandhi Nehru family reached this village in Hoshiarpur district, about 150 km from the capital Chandigarh, at about 9.30 p.m. Tuesday and stayed for three hours. Darkness greeted the Congress MP who moved around the village — with about 100 houses mostly belonging to Scheduled Caste families and considered one of the most backward in the state - with the help of torches and candlelight.

“He asked me to put on the light when he came to my house. I told him that the house did not have any electricity. He sat down with us in candlelight and discussed our problems,” Soma Devi told IANS.

Her plight must have rung a bell. In July this year, Gandhi had highlighted the similar lives of women in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha area in his speech during the trust vote in parliament.

Gandhi asked about Soma Devi’s family of five children, including three daughters, and why she was not sending them to school.

“I told him that a portion of the roof of my house collapsed in the recent flooding. I told him that poverty stopped me from sending my children to school,” said Soma Devi, after her first-ever encounter with a VIP.

There were others who walked a different path.

“I told him that I like studying and want to be a computer engineer,” said Class 8 student Rita.

Trying to get a feel of their lives, Gandhi asked a Class 5 student, Amrik, if the mid-day meal provided in the school was of good quality.

He asked another woman resident, Krishna Devi, about the problems villagers faced.

As the villagers gathered in the primary health centre to interact with Gandhi, political affiliations seemed to take a back seat.

“Though we are Akali Dal supporters, we welcomed the Congress leader,” said Balwinder Singh, whose wife is the village headwoman.

“People complained about loopholes in the NREGS (national rural employment guarantee scheme), lack of equal opportunities in education and poor housing under the Indira Awas Yojana Scheme,” said a close aide of the Congress leader.

The police in the district had no advance idea of the visit.

“We came to know about it only when he reached there,” a Punjab Police official here admitted.

Gandhi sat down with the villagers to discuss their problems over tea late into the night.

But for the villagers, many more rounds of tea followed as they discussed his visit into the early hours of the morning.

“We could not sleep the whole night after that. We all gathered and several rounds of tea to talk about his visit,” pointed out Mohinder Kaur.

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