Monday, April 5, 2010

The Big Humble

The Big Humble

Being influential, well-connected, highly educated, quiet sought after and humble are certainly not two sides of same coin.

The “big” people in Punjab are considered most inaccessible and out of the world. For instance, how many common men and women have direct access to their area MLAs or even small time so-called leaders. Almost none!! It’s the middle men who hold meetings, “Jab kaam karvana ho.”

And that too not without exchange of those crispy bills bearing Gandhi’s picture. Amazing – how Bapu is exchanged for favors!! Even a small time ex-leader has gun-totting guards leaving me wondering what kind of threat these nearly pauper politicians have?

The MLAs and the politicians and officials posted equivalent to their ranks are entitled to a “crowd” of benefits clubbed together that person like me can’t even think of.

Besides being the mai-baap of respective constituencies, they are entitled to Rs 4000 salary per month, Rs 5000 compensatory allowance, Rs 500 daily allowance, office, sumptuary, water and power allowances add to Rs 25000, Rs 1.2 lakh per annum telephone bills, housing facilities, loans and much more.

But there are certainly exceptions in every field. One such is Dr G S Kalkat, the chairman of Punjab State Farmers’ Commission (PFSC), whose rank is equivalent to that of a cabinet minister but he draws a salary of Re 1 per month!!

“Re 1 per month??” is how I reacted when I learnt it.
“He draws this token money to get entitlement for using a taxi. If he doesn’t take that Rs 12 per year, he would end up spending for huge taxi bills from his own pocket,” told his associate who knows him for past 15 years.

For last six years, Dr Kalkat, once known to be close to Mrs Gandhi for his views on economy as agriculture commissioner in 1973-77 and now having proximity with one of greatest Indian economists Dr Manmohan Singh, arrives to the PFSC office daily at 9 am and has 3 to 4 hours of discussions on raising standard of small and marginal farmers of Punjab.
The discussions are then materialized into studies and further implemented through various government agencies working for farmers. A farmer among farmers, he has "friends" old enough to be his grandsons and share a kind of bond with them thats often seen in friends.

Just six months younger to chief minister Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal, he wields as much energy as the CM himself is known for. Frequent traveling, trips to various farm houses and constant interaction with farmers does little to exhaust his energy levels.

Perhaps this is why he is one of those few men whom Congress government appointed and continues to hold office in SAD-BJP regime. All the best Dr Kalkat.