Septuagenarian Sanatan Sardar at St Joseph’s Hospital in Bhilaipahadi. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Jamshedpur, March 3: Occasional recitals of tribal poetry and patriotic songs are the only consolation for tribal leader Sanatan Sardar, as he fights ailment and obscurity.
Bedridden at St Joseph’s Hospital in Bhilaipahadi along NH-33, the former Bihar minor irrigation minister is penniless and suffering from heart disease and fluctuating blood sugar levels.
Gone are the days when the popular tribal MLA and minister was held in high esteem by every political outfit and people of Potka, the Assembly constituency in East Singhbhum that he represented.
“Woh din ab gaye. Ab to mein apna din gin rahan hun. Abhi tak koi milne nahin aaya (Those days are past. Now, I am counting my last days. No one has come to meet me till now),” he said, voice trembling.
The 78-year-old was admitted to hospital with Rajya Sabha MP and Congress state president Pradeep Balmuchu’s help on February 13. Party functionaries gave Sardar Rs 3,000 before rushing him to hospital. But, that was it.
“Balmuchuji ne kaha hai ki paise ki chinta mat karo. Ilaj ka bhaar woh dekh lenge. Dekhiye kya hota hai (Balmuchuji told me not to worry about money. He will take care of my medical expenses. Let’s see what happens),” he sounded doubtful.
Sardar added that neither Potka BJP MLA Menka Sardar nor any other politician had come to see him.
“Aise samay mein log aate hain toh himmat badhta hain. Main kisise kuch maang thoda rahan hu. Bas dua maang rahan hu (You feel encouraged when people come to meet you. I am not asking for anything. I just want blessings),” Sardar said as his eyes moistened.
A minor irrigation minister from 1985-87 in undivided Bihar, he thrice represented Potka as Janata Dal (1977-82), BJP (1982-85) and Congress (1985-90) MLA. He went into political oblivion after Congress denied him a ticket in 1990.
Sardar sustains his family of eight — wife, two sons, two daughters and four grandchildren — with a meagre monthly pension of Rs 13,000 from the Bihar government.
“I get pension in my capacity as a former MLA. But, the amount is very less to meet the needs of my family. I don’t have money to even repair my mud house in Roladih village of Potka block. ” he said.
Sardar is the lone breadwinner in his family.
“Pata nahin sahi mein kitna pension milna chahiye. Bank se pucha toh pata chala ki Bihar sarkar se itna hi paisa aata hain (I don’t know what my actual pension amount should be. People at the bank said the Bihar government sends only Rs 13,000),” he said, adding that some argue the pension should be Rs 30,000.
The misdeeds of present-day politicians pain Sardar. “I never ran after money. I always worked with a sense of sacrifice,” he said.
His predicament notwithstanding, Sardar is optimistic about the state. “Jharkhand mein bahut saari sambhavnayein hain. Mujhe pura viswas hain ki yeh ek din pure desh mein awwal rajya ka darja prapt karega (Jharkhand has immense potential. I am confident that it will one day emerge as the best state in the nation),” he said.