Monday, November 18, 2013

Siddu Gone Berserk ?

Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah has courted six schemes/controversies in his last six months as CM - Anna Bhagya, Shadi Bhagya, Superstition Prevention Bill, EducationalTour Facilities for only ahinda students,Udupi Srikrishna Temple Controversy and Cheap Liquor - some of the former  have potential of dividing the already divided society into an irreversible cleavage triggering serious animosity among different groups of people. That those schemes were already in his Budget presented recently does nothing to ease the situation. Yet, Sri Siddaramaiah as a person and as politicians holding power has been all along gladdened me with his sincerity, efficiency and sensitive heart towards the downtrodden. Just two incidence from my own experience bears this out for me, however tiny and insignificant they may appear to others.

The two meetings I had with Siddu were during my tenure as Registrar ( 1996-2000 ) of Bangalore University. Tumkur PG centre of the University was recently started,  it was hard pressed for accommodation and its own land, we could not begin equipping Labs and Libraries and hence left with allocated Rupees thirty Lakhs unspent. Our Ambedkar Centre building at Jnanabharati Campus was unfinished for short of funds. The thirty lakh unspent from Tumkur centre was utilised for completing Ambedkar Centre and accordingly wrote to the Government. We were in for shock. Government wrote back saying that it is construed as diversion of funds and is impermissible, the amount ( thirty lakh ) will be cut from the grant to University. We came to know that in the budget going for printing and to be presented in the Assembly next day, the same amount was cut. It was a big sum in 1997-98, the Vice Chancellor N R Shetty wanted me to meet the Finance Minister Siddaramaiah and request to restore the amount. It was a early morning, the Minister in his huge drawing room was sitting with his Banian and Dhoti with some fifty people sitting in semicircle in front of him. I was ushered in, I narrated my plea and requested him not only to restore the amount cut but to act in haste/immediately as it is being printed to be presented tomorrow. He just listened to me silently and I departed. To our very pleasant surprise, the amount was restored in the Budget next day. Perhaps, he was quick in seeing the honesty of our purpose and acted immediately without expecting any further plea or recommendation.

The second time was when the very old hostel building in the Central College Campus(known as Law College Hostel) collapsed at night during heavy rains. Fortunately, there were no students as it was vacation time for them, only a guest who was in the hostel got out with some very minor injuries. Yet, it was a tragedy and a huge loss. Of course, we ordered an enquiry to fix responsibility and take appropriate disciplinary action if need be. We approached the Government to inform and for restoration of building. There were host of questions raised against us as to why it has collapsed, who is responsible, what action we have taken, why it was not maintained properly, Engineer should be hauled up and so on. But, when we went to the Finance Minister Siddaramaiah, he listened our narration of the context and sequence of events and the first thing he asked was not why that happened or who is responsible or what disciplinary action is taken but "aa makkalu iga elliddaare?/where are those children residing now?" which none of the officials we met earlier asked us. We told him that there is nothing to worry on that front as we have housed them in the newly constructed hostel in the Jnanabharati Campus and have arranged buses for them to travel to City Campus for their Classes.

Both the instances show his immense humanitarian approach and his eagerness to help the needy. In the light of this, it is indeed surprising how could such a person could usher in programs that result in social tension and upheavals, especially his scheme of School Excursion, shaadi bhaagya and Superstion Prevention Bill. True, ahindas are socially, culturally, suppressed lot over generations and any civilised society must see that they are brought to main stream with special assistance but it cannot be at the cost of others. We cannot help development of needy people by hurting developed ones; it would create even more social tension and animosity against the people whom we want to help. Moreover, any assistance given to them must contribute to the development of them  rather than making them remain as they are.  Similarly, superstitions/prejudices are more a social malady than belonging to legal administration. Often, such beliefs are the very core, existence, of their being and without instilling alternatives it would be suicidal (and we would be committing homicide too) by uprooting it. Social awareness, the kind of activity initiated by people like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Dayananda Saraswati of Arya Samaj fame, should be the base to root out social evils including suffering resulting from superstitions. I am sure, Sri. Siddaramaiah, being such a seasoned politicians with his head and heart in right places would see the light soon and bring appropriate corrections to his schemes.