Thursday, June 11, 2009

Despite aid, Kalavati remains a supplicant-TOI reports

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Despite aid, Kalavati remains a supplicant

11 Jun 2009, 0424 hrs IST, Shishir Arya, TNN

NAGPUR: Kalavati Bandurkar, who would once wait patiently at the Yavatmal highway for a bus to reach a neighbouring hamlet, flew down from Delhi to Nagpur on Wednesday. The woman Rahul Gandhi visited and then mentioned in the Parliament came out of the arrival terminal wearing a crumpled sari and slippers. Journalists eagerly waited for her even as they ignored a newly-elected member of parliament welcomed by a host of supporters.

An exhausted Kalavati complained of dizziness, probably result of the flight. She could hardly speak as scribes pounded her with questions. At the same time, the meek old Kalavati now had a tinge of arrogance as she demanded more.

Then a widow leading a hand-to-mouth existence, Kalavati's finances have improved manifold but she seems now caught in a different kind of vicious circle. She has now become a favourite of NGOs, keen to project her as the posterwoman of their cause. In some ways, she has become a welfare addict, more dependent on others than before. Back in her village Jalka, she has only earned ire and envy.

She was taken to Delhi by an organisation called Wada Na Todo, working for upliftment of the extremely poor, to speak on behalf of the underprivileged. A few months ago, Greenpeace chose her as its ambassador for championing the cause of renewable energy. Similarly Bindeshwar Pathak's Sulabh International announced a grant of Rs 33 lakh to her family of which Rs 6 lakh have been remitted so far.

At Delhi, she also hoped to meet Rahul Gandhi but could not as he had a busy schedule. But she spoke her heart out to the media, lamenting that she still did not have a proper house to live. "The politicians who met me after (Rahul's) visit had promised to take care of my children's education. They did not turn up later while the repeated visits to the block development officer (BDO) to get a house built did not yield any results." she said. "I also want a convent and a hospital in the village," she adds.

Kalavati also agrees that no one compels her to speak on behalf of other villagers. But the Delhi visit seems to have further alienated her from the rest of the village. "Villagers are of the view that she should stop asking for more. She has already received Rs 6 lakh from Sulabh and now a home is to be built for her. Some are planning to demand that the amount she would be getting from Sulabh be used for village's development as it was too much for her," said a fellow villager. "There are many others who are in equal distress as Kalavati and they are naturally getting envious of her," added another.

Kalavati though says she deserves what she is asking for because none other than Rahul Gandhi had visited her. "It was only then others came to my house, Congress leader Manikrao Thakre had assured to take care of my needs. He should keep his word now," she said. She added that out of the Rs 6 lakh she received, only half remains in the bank. When asked if that was that not enough, she broke down, saying "Rahul Gandhi gave me of his own will, I did not beg for any help."

She accepts that she would have been the same Kalavati if Rahul had not reached her house. But now things are changed, she adds.

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